The kids are all right.
Without a senior on its roster this season, the Walt Whitman girls basketball team has embraced its youth movement, spreading the ball around and working to stay focused from the opening whistle to the final horn. The Wildcats did just that on Thursday night, defeating Commack, 39-26, in Suffolk II.
“Since we don’t have a senior, we’re all able to take a leadership role and work together as a team,” said junior forward Jenna Stockfeder, who finished with nine points and 18 rebounds. “We were focused on taking care of the ball, not turning it over and dominating on the rebounds. We wanted to take smart shots.”
Whitman (4-0) jumped out to a 13-4 lead after the first quarter, highlighted by an 11-point run midway through. It was an offensive outburst that junior guard Dana McGowan, who finished with eight points, credited for giving the Wildcats “a spark for the rest of the game.”
“Once we had the lead, we couldn’t give it up,” McGowan said. “We had to keep playing.”
Following the early offensive push, Whitman struggled to find the basket in the second quarter, and Commack (4-1) did its best to rally coming out of the break. The Cougars went on a quick run of their own late in the third, capped by Deanna Pagliaro’s basket to make it 25-19 Whitman with 1:01 left.
The Wildcats never worried.
Instead, Stockfeder said Whitman focused on its next opportunity, scoring the final two baskets of the third, including Iris Hoffman’s final-second trey, before locking in on defense down the stretch.
“We kept our heads,” Stockfeder said. “We kept playing and if something bad happened, we had to move on to the next play.”
Whitman held Commack to seven fourth-quarter points, crashing the boards and limiting the Cougars to one-and-done possessions. The Wildcats didn’t allow a point in the final 2
“If you’re not going to put up 55 points, you have to play solid team defense, which I think we did,” coach Dan Trebour said. “I think both teams are better defensive teams than offensive teams, so we kind of knew it would be a game in the 30s.”
Trebour added that he was proud of the team’s recent play, and while it wasn’t a perfect game, the youthful Wildcats are working through their growing pains, looking to keep racking up the victories.
“It was a really great balance,” Trebour said. “We’re starting to polish some things up because we’re looking better now than we did a month ago.”