For the first time since 1988, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team is No. 1.
The Patriots pushed past Brentwood Tuesday, 50-35, to earn a share of the League I title with Commack, which was undefeated until outscored by Ward Melville a week ago, 52-35, to put the Patriots in a position to claim a piece of the prize.
“It is total elation,” senior center Heidi Scarth said of the title. “We had a game plan and we went out there and executed it, and that’s why we won this game. Getting this league championship title was one of our big goals. We’re all so excited and ready for playoffs.”
Ward Melville jumped out in front 13-0 in the first quarter, with Scarth and sophomore guard Kiera Ramaliu netting four points apiece. The team almost kept their opponent off the scoreboard, but with 16 seconds left, Brentwood sank a field goal to go into the second stanza down 11 points.
Junior guard Taylor Tripptree started the next eight minutes like she did the first, scoring the first two points, but Ward Melville’s defense lost its rhythm, which led five straight Brentwood points. Ramaliu and Tripptree had big blocks to keep the Lions contained, but the team ran into some trouble on the offensive end. Still, the Patriots were up 21-14 heading into the halftime break.
“We were a bit shaky in the second quarter, but we pulled it together,” Tripptree said.
The team was able to outscore its opponent in the third, but by a slim margin, 16-14, increasing the lead to 37-28 heading into the game’s final quarter.
“While we had a couple of rough spots, I think in the end they did what they had to do to win,” Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said. “Letting up 35 points against a playoff team like Brentwood is good defense, so we’re pleased. Now our girls are ready to give their best effort on Friday.”
Tripptree, who finished with a game-high 15 points, said it was Haller’s halftime talk that motivated the team to push harder in the third and fourth quarter.
“Coach told us to pick it up, and we all came together as a team,” she said.
Scarth, who netted nine points, said she agreed that team is a force when the current group of girls she plays with unites, like they did when they outscored Brentwood 13-7 in the fourth quarter for the win.
“I think that making that extra pass, looking for your teammates and non-selfish playing is what really made us league champs,” she said. “I think we have a really strong group of girls that play as a team.”
Scarth said her team is ready and prepared for the postseason. The Patriots are the No. 1 seed, and will host the winner of the No. 16 West Babylon/No. 17 Centereach outbracket matchup on Feb. 12, at 6 p.m.
Tripptree said Ward Melville’s 17-1 overall record shows how her team is always working to achieve its goals, and there’s more to be met.
“Getting to this moment is what our first goal was this season,” she said, “Now we will keep going farther, because we’re not done yet.”