This was no ordinary league game. This one had the stakes, the pressure and the playoff atmosphere.
This one was a statement.
Host Ward Melville put together a 21-2 run between the third and fourth quarters Friday night en route to a 67-42 victory over two-time defending Long Island Class AA champion Commack and captured a share of the top spot in Suffolk League I. Each team is 11-1.
“Oh, yeah, it is a statement,” said 5-8 senior Taylor Tripptree, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. “We really just focused on this game the whole entire week in practice.”
Tripptree scored six points during the key stretch, which gave Ward Melville a 49-23 lead and ended when Commack’s Katie Kelly completed a three-point play with less than five minutes to play.
A corner three-pointer by Hannah Lorenzen (six points, eight rebounds) started the run. Possession after possession, the Patriots turned sound defense into aggressive offense, taking the ball to the basket or kicking it out to open shooters on the perimeter.
After shooting 38 percent (8-for-21) from three-point range against Commack, the Patriots have converted 168 three-pointers this season — tops on Long Island.
“Our three-pointers really were the key,” Lorenzen said. “We always get it inside, then kick it out because the defense collapses.”
“We basically try to shoot our open shots because we’re smaller, but we like to attack the basket,” Tripptree said. “We’re good at that; we’re really aggressive.”
Jillian Spagnuola’s 25 points — including 10 of Commack’s 14 first-half points — kept the Cougars afloat. Her scrappy defense limited Lauren Hansen to 17 points after she averaged 23.4 points in 14 previous games.
Commack won the first meeting on Jan. 10, but the Patriots answered with a home win that could reward them with a higher seed.
“The culture of our team is just to stay aggressive no matter what,” said Hansen, who added six rebounds, five steals and four assists. “We go back and forth with them, so coming into these games is big.”
It had the stakes and it had the pressure. And Ward Melville has made the statement.