Every time Sachem East was hit with a potential knockout blow from North Babylon's Bria Hartley, someone had an answer.
Hartley scored 51 points - a Long Island girls basketball playoff record and a career high - but No. 2 Sachem East's balanced attack produced a 72-69 victory over top-seeded North Babylon last night in the Suffolk Class AA championship game before 2,300 at Farmingdale State.
Boston College-bound Kristen Doherty had 24 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists, Caitlin Hopkins had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Kelsey Ferguson added 11 points and five steals for Sachem East. That was just enough to stave off a phenomenal performance by the UConn-bound Hartley, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter.
It was the third consecutive trip to the championship game for Sachem East and its first win in that span. Sachem East (18-3) will play Center Moriches at 1 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State for the Suffolk overall championship and then play Baldwin for the Long Island Class AA championship at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Farmingdale State.
"It feels better than I expected," Doherty said. "Bria played a phenomenal game. My team really stepped up."
Said Ferguson: "We just had to keep our composure. It was a huge team effort."
The game was billed as Doherty against Hartley; both were selected to be among the 20 players in the Nike WBCA All-Star Game. But Doherty had more help, although Hartley did all she could to carry her team to victory. She surpassed her previous high of 43 points registered in Monday's semifinals and finished with 1,978 career points.
Hartley hit a three-pointer with 1:10 left in the game to give North Babylon (18-3) a 68-67 lead. Sachem East's Stephanie Burrow scored off a pass from Hopkins to put the Flaming Arrows ahead 69-68 with 52 seconds left.
Hartley's free throw with 47 seconds left tied it at 69. But Doherty hit two free throws two seconds later to give the Flaming Arrows a 71-69 lead, and Hartley had the ball in her hands when the shot clock expired with 14 seconds left. Burrow's free throw with nine seconds left made it 72-69.
Sachem East led 26-12 midway through the second quarter, but North Babylon closed the half on an 18-5 run to pull within 31-30. Hartley scored 14 points in the spurt and had 16 points in the quarter.
Sachem East went on an 11-2 run to take a 43-34 lead with 4:11 left in the third quarter. Sachem East led 51-41 going into the fourth quarter.
"It's a magnificent performance by Bria," North Babylon coach Mike Petre said. "I feel bad for her. Her teammates didn't help her out enough."
It was the opposite for Sachem East. "The support on my team has been great," Doherty said. "If they play good defense on me, I trust that my teammate will hit a big shot. We just had to make sure when Hartley made a basket that we did."
Said Hopkins: "It took three years. It was an amazing game and it feels great to be one of the best teams on Long Island."