By Bill Landon
The Patriots are in it to win it.
Looking for redemption Feb. 3, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team outscored Commack at home, 62-47, to remain in contention for a share of the League I title.
The first time the two top-seeded teams faced off, on Jan. 10, Ward Melville led Commack heading into the fourth quarter, but lost the game by four points, 59-55. Senior Taylor Tripptree said she knew her Patriots needed to end the game strong in order to pull away with the win.
“In our last game against them our defense fell short in the fourth quarter,” she said. “So this time around we made sure to stay on them and not give up, because the fourth quarter is Commack’s game.”
And defense was the name of the game.
Four minutes in, the game was tied just 2-2 before Tripptree tripled to take a 5-2 advantage. After sophomore Lauren Hansen hit a three-pointer of her own and senior Kiera Ramaliu also posted a trifecta, Tripptree hit a buzzer-beating field goal to put her team ahead 13-8 at the end of eight minutes.
The Patriots’ defense flexed its muscles in the second and third quarter, holding Commack to 6 and 7 points, respectively, while outscoring the Cougars 26-13 over the span.
“They got some shots, but we got the rebounds,” Hansen said.
Leading 39-21 heading into the final quarter, Ward Melville put on the full-court press to not give Commack the quarter that previously led to their demise.
Although Commack held the advantage in the final stanza, Ward Melville also put up big numbers, with the away team outscoring the Patriots 26-23 in the final eight minutes. Sophomore Bre Cohn hit a pair of back-to-back three-pointers, Hansen hit her second trey of the game and added a field goal and free-throw point, Ramaliu swished a field goal and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, and Tripptree banked two from the charity stripe to put the game out of reach.
Hansen led Ward Melville with 17 points, Tripptree had 14 and Ramaliu added 11.
“We were winning in the fourth quarter in that first game, but we didn’t play great defense,” Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said. “Today, I heard them say, ‘this is the quarter. This is their quarter. This was the quarter where they beat us last time,’ and they all knew it. I didn’t have to emphasize it, so they stepped up their defense.”
Senior Hannah Lorenzen said her team worked harder every day in practice for the defeat over Commack.
“It feels good that all of our hard work paid off,” she said. “It was our defense and our rebounding — in practice we focused on boxing out and not allowing them to have second and third shots.”
With the win, the Ward Melville and Commack are 11-1 with two games left in the regular season.
“You like to challenge yourself against the best — they’re ranked No. 1 in Suffolk County,” Haller said of Commack. “The kids just stepped up and did what they had to do. They played great defense and I think that was the difference in the game.”