Westhampton guard Sandra Clarke takes the layup in for two...

Westhampton guard Sandra Clarke takes the layup in for two points against Bellport in the Suffolk Class AA basketball final, Sunday, March 3, 2024. Credit: George A Faella

When Sandra Clarke helped Westhampton defeat Comsewogue by 36 points in January, she said she wanted to send a message to the rest of Suffolk IV. Now Clarke has another message she wants people to hear, only this time it’s not limited to the league — it’s meant for the county and the rest of Long Island.

“We’re champions,” Clarke said with a wide smile. “Respect us. Now people know the proof is in the pudding.”

Clarke scored 19 points with 12 rebounds and seven steals as No. 2 Westhampton defeated No. 5 Bellport, 47-41, to lift its firstSuffolk Class AA plaque loudly and proudly at Suffolk Community College in Selden Sunday afternoon. Westhampton last won the Class A title in 2020.

“They’re warriors, they’re fighters, they’ve been hit with adversity all season long,” coach Katie Peters said. “They were just able to rise above. I’m just really happy for them.”

After a dominant 19-8 first quarter, Westhampton never ceded the lead in the championship game. That didn’t mean Bellport was out of the game, however, as the Clippers fought their way back as the Hurricanes led only 33-30 entering the fourth quarter.

Fortunately for Westhampton (21-2), that’s when Clarke played her best ball.

She answered a fast-break layup by Bellport’s Maddy Budris with a three-pointer at the top of the arc. With less than two minutes in the game, Clarke grabbed a steal and then snagged an offensive rebound to help Westhampton further chew the clock. She also hit six of eight free throws in the fourth quarter.

“I just knew that I had to lock in while the game was close,” Clarke said.

One of Clarke’s best plays came in the final minute of the game with sophomore forward Jasmine Taylor, who was just as impressive. Clarke received a pass and dribbled down the baseline before finding Taylor in the paint for the basket. 

“We were all just excited,” said Taylor, who logged a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “Nobody was asleep on the bus, we were ready.”

Bellport had scored 50 or more points in seven of its last eight games before Sunday, but physical defense by sisters Kate and Shannon Sweet as well as captain Sarah Gormley helped Westhampton log 13 steals to Bellport’s seven.

Senior center Autumn Simon led Bellport (16-7) with 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Freshman guard Mariah Battist added 10 points.

Westhampton will face the winner of Monday’s Nassau Class AA championship between Manhasset and East Meadow at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at SUNY Farmingdale.

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