A commonly used cliché in sports is that teams always have to “take one game at a time.”
The Patriots head coach Bruce Haller said he thought his team was too focused on senior day ceremonies and the postseason, causing the girls to lose sight of their Feb. 11 matchup against Brentwood. If Ward Melville had won, the Patriots would be sharing a piece of the League I title, would have a higher seed and earn a second-round home playoff game. The 38-33 loss changed everything.
“It shows you that we are certainly not so good that we can just show up and win a game,” he said. “They have to come and be ready to play. We dug ourselves a deep hole, we came back, and the kids deserve a lot of credit for that, but I think it took so much energy to come back that we just didn’t have a lot left at the end of the game.”
Ward Melville fell behind 15-3 by the end of the first quarter, with all the Patriots points coming off of free throws. By halftime, senior Taylor Tripptree, junior Shannon Brazier and sophomore Lauren Hansen helped close the deficit just slightly, to 23-13. Hansen led in scoring with five points.
“We started off very slow,” Tripptree said. “We’re so used to playing after school and we have a different routine, so it brought us down. We had a kind of off practice last night and we tried not to let that show today, but they also came out hard, and we weren’t expecting it.”
The team turned it around in the third, with senior Hannah Lorenzen scoring the opening points on a three-pointer, and after Brentwood countered with a three-point shot of its own, Ward Melville went on a 10-0 tear to tie the game. Hansen added a field goal before swishing back-to-back threes, and Brazier scored off a feed from Tripptree to make it 26-26.
“[Coming back] shows that they have the potential and they’re capable of doing it, but they can’t turn it on and off,” Haller said. “They can’t decide to just struggle a little bit or miss a couple of shots and get down on themselves for missing their shots and all of the sudden turn it on later in the game.”
Triptree scored the opening point of the fourth quarter with a free throw at the 6:57 mark that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, but a Brentwood bucket tied the game again, 29-29.
“We know not to give up,” Tripptree said. “We have to give 100 percent effort all the time. We are had workers.”
The two teams were knotted at 31 with less than five minutes left. Ward Melville fell behind 36-31, but two Lorenzen free-throws the Patriots within a single possession. Known for her three-point skills, Hansen attempted a shot with less than 30 seconds left, but just missed. The Patriots fouled on several straight Brentwood inbounds passes in an attempt to intercept the pass, but Brentwood was able to put the game away.
“I give Brentwood a lot of credit, they’re a playoff team,” Haller said. “They’re a very, very good team and we took them lightly. This was all on us.”
Despite the loss, the head coach said he thinks his team can go far.
“They’re great kids, they’re very good basketball players and I have confidence that they have the ability to make a deep run in the playoffs,” he said. “But if they come the way they came to play today they’ll be one and done in the playoffs.”
Tripptree said she also has confidence in her team’s ability to turn it around.
“We know we can’t let this bring us down,” she said. “Even if we have a bad practice, we know now we can’t let this bring us down or have it affect our game. We have to bring it — come hard every game — and we know we can pick it back up and put ourselves back in the game no matter how deep the hole is. We have to keep our heads up and expect anything in the playoffs.”