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Lauren Hansen

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville girls basketball hosted the Commack Cougars where the Patriots led from opening tipoff and never looked back, winning, 59-40, in a League I matchup on senior night, Feb. 5.

The Patriots led by five points after 16 minutes of play before they turned up the heat and outscored the Cougars, 22-10, in the third quarter.

Ward Melville senior Lauren Hansen sat atop the Patriot scoring charts swishing three from the foul line, nine field goals and a triple along with seven rebounds for 24 points. Junior Jamie Agostino followed with four triples and two field goals good for 16. Junior Morgan Wenzler banked five field goals and a free throw for 11 points, and led her team in rebounds gathering 13.

With the win, Ward Melville improves to 13-2 for second place in league behind undefeated Longwood with one game left Feb. 7 at Sachem East before postseason play begins.

Ward Melville's Lauren Hansen carries the ball up the court while Commack's Casey Hearns follows close behind. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Former WNBA player, Commack graduate and current Ward Melville girls basketball coach Samantha Prahalis was frustrated and emotional on some calls the referee made while facing her alma mater Jan. 2. She received two technical fouls and was ejected in the middle of the fourth quarter in a 75-59 loss.

“I thought [the referees] missed a lot of calls,” Prahalis said. “If you let a few travels go, let a few backcourts go in a crucial time — we’re trying to come back, [and] there were a few big calls that I didn’t think were made.”

This is Prahalis’ first year as Ward Melville’s head coach. She was embarrassed that she was tossed, and said she has to do a better job of maintaining her composure.

Ward Melville’s head coach Samantha Prahalis, a former Commack star, coaches the Patirots from the sidelines. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I can’t put myself in a situation and get a technical, and then [to] get another one,” she said. “Lesson learned. I learned from it and we’ll learn from it as a group and we’ll move on.”

Ward Melville junior guard Lauren Hansen felt that Prahalis was in hostile territory facing her old team.

“I felt that the refs were just gunning for her,” she said. “It’s Commack environment.”

Commack assistant head coach Russ Tietjen was with Prahalias at Commack last year when she was an assistant. He is aware of her emotions on the court that translated to her emotions as a player at Commack.

“Sammy was a great player here and you can see her intensity as a coach is very similar to when she played,” Tietjen said of Prahalis. “She had a Ward Melville team who was ready to play; they played hard. That’s what good coaches do — they get their teams to play hard.”

Commack had several offensive weapons with four players scoring 16 points or more. Meanwhile, for Ward Melville, Hansen recorded 39 points and was the only player in double figures for the Patriots.

Junior guards Amanda McMahon and Katie Kelly lead the Cougars with 18 points each. Senior Casey Hearns recorded 17 and classmate Kim Shalhoub added 16. They combined for 69 of Commack’s 75 points.

“We have a group of great shooters and we like to push the tempo,” Tietjen said. “When you’re making your baskets, it looks good. It looked good today. The level of competitiveness in these girls is second to none.”

Kelly enjoyed going up against her former assistant head coach. She says it ramps up the competition.

“Sammy is a very good competitor and loves to win as much as we do,” Kelly said. “It just makes the atmosphere that much better to play in. It make us want to win even more.”

Kelly’s learned her game from former player and point guard Jillian Spagnuola who graduated in 2016, when the team went 22-1. Kelly is doing her best fill Spagnuola’s shoes.

Commack’s Katie Kelley looks to make a play up the court. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I learned everything from Jill,” Kelly said about her play style. “I learned how to run the point and organize the offense.”

After being down by at most 30, the Patriots went on a big run in the four quarter and cut the deficit to 12 after Prahalis was ejected. Senior forward Shannon Brazier said her coach ignited the spark.

“We just weren’t going to go down without a fight,” Brazier said. “We wanted to do it for coach and wanted to come back for her.”

Hansen’s scoring prowess is nothing new to her. Brazier says that’s always how her teammate plays. But the junior’s main focus is to face Commack again in Ward Melville territory.

“The loss brings us motivation to come back and go harder and beat them next time,” Hansen said. “We’ll bring a crowd next time, too.”

With Prahalis as the opposition to Commack, she enjoyed battling in her old stomping grounds.

“It felt good,” Prahalis said. “Ward Melville is my home now. I love Commack, I grew up there, but I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

Ward Melville’s next game is at Brentwood Jan. 5 at 4 p.m. The Patriots fall to 2-4 on the season with the loss while Commack improves to 7-1. The Cougars travel to William Floyd  Jan. 5. Tipoff is currently
scheduled for 4 p.m.

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Girls hoops will rely on speed, defense to remain zealous

Former Commack star point guard Samantha Prahalis, above playing for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, will be the head coach at Ward Melville this season. Photo from Facebook

By Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville is looking to maintain its competitive edge.

The back-to-back League I title-winning girls basketball team is readying for a new challenge following the loss of senior leaders Taylor Tripptree, Kiera Ramaliu and Hannah Lorenzen, with head coach Bruce Haller.

That’s where veteran Samantha Prahalis comes in. The former WNBA standout, who scored 2,372 points for Commack, the fifth-best total in Long Island girls basketball history, will lead her old high school’s rival team this season. After she steered Ohio State University to four straight NCAA tournaments from 2009 to 2012, she completed a two-year stint for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and played four years professionally in Europe. The 5-foot, 7-inch point guard said she was ready to return to her roots in New York, and decided it was time to give back.

Ward Melville’s Lauren Hansen moves the ball during a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

“It’s cool because I can tell them I’ve been in their shoes and I know what they’re going through,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be with a great district, have some great support and some great kids for my first year. I think the best part about coaching for me right now is helping these kids, and its pretty unique, because I can help them in a way maybe others can’t.”

The Patriots are looking forward to learning from Prahalis’ experiences. Ward Melville senior Shannon Brazier said the team’s style of play is already changing.

“She brings a whole new level of style of play and intensity that I think we were all excited to learn,” Brazier said. “Every single one of us have been working hard since the summer to get ready for the season, because it’s a pretty new team, losing most of our starters and getting a new coach, and we’re really proud of the progress we’ve been making, working together.”

Brazier said her coach wants her new team to have a defense that matches its offense.

“It’s no question that in the past we have had really strong shooters and a strong offense in general, but this year she’s been teaching us a lot more about defense and really focusing on this aspect of the game,” Brazier said. “Her emphasis on this side of the game has already started to greatly improve our skills. With a great number of our team graduating a lot of us had to step up and fill in those holes, and I think we’re all doing a good job at that.”

Prahalis agreed, adding she’ll be leaning on Brazier to command the Patriots this season.

“She’s vocal, and probably our best defensive player,” the coach said of one of her two remaining seniors. “She knows where to be, she has really good instincts.”

Ward Melville’s Shannon Brazier shoots from the free-throw line during a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

The team will continue to rely on its speed and hustle in grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers. With work on the defensive side of the ball, more offense should come.

The other two captains this season will be juniors Noelle Richardson and Lauren Hansen. Rounding out the roster will be juniors Bre Cohn and Lauren Walters, and underclassmen Molly Cronin, Jamie Agostino and Sarah Bucher.

“Lauren is not the most vocal person, but she leads by example,” Prahalis said of Hansen. “I’m asking a lot of her on all sides of the ball and, so far, she’s responded. She’s special — I don’t think a player like her comes around too often. The way she dribbles a ball, her shot, you have to see it to believe it.”

Hansen was one of Ward Melville’s leading scorers last season, Prahalis said, with 22.7 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore and will be big for the team this season if she can repeat these statistics. Prahalis added the now-junior standout has more than just a natural ability.

“She’s skillful, and I think that’s a testament to her work ethic,” the coach said. “You don’t wake up that way. You get that way by being in the gym and working hard.”

Hansen said she’s looking forward to seeing what she can take away from her coach.

“Coach has done everything that I aspire to do, so for me I hang on every word that she says,” said Hansen, who has received offers from Ohio State and the universities of Miami, Georgia and Pittsburgh. “Her experience is something we all look up to and her ability to relate to us as players I think is extremely beneficial to our relationship with her. We all really understand that if we’re going to do any damage this year it’s going to start on the defensive end. I think the girls, myself included, definitely have to step up big this year and mature quickly on the court, but so far they’ve done a great job of that and I think we can hold our own and make a statement this year against top talents on Long Island.”


Samantha Prahalis brings experience

A six-year varsity starter for Commack is calling Division I rival Ward Melville her new home court.

Samantha Prahalis, 27, accepted the coaching job for the Patriots in September after an extended basketball career that included playing for four years at Ohio State University, two years for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — as the sixth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft — and four years professionally in Europe.

“The professional experience was good — I got to play at every level, which is pretty rare, so I’m grateful for that,” said Prahalis, who averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 assists per game over four years at Ohio State, and holds the Big Ten’s career record with 901 assists. “But I’ve been traveling my whole life. I’m a big family person, and I don’t like being overseas for seven months out of the year.”

Previous head coach Bruce Haller stepped down citing scheduling conflicts as a professor at Molloy College.

“I just felt like I’d been through a ton in my career on and off the court that I can help other players who are coming up,” Prahalis said of throwing her hat in the ring. “I didn’t think I would want to coach when I was younger, but while I was overseas I realized I wanted to give it a try. I’m just as determined as I was as a player, but this time around its teaching my kids and helping them and the team succeed. This new chapter of coaching is special to me.”

Ward Melville athletic director Pete Melore said more than just Prahalis’ résumé stood out to him during the interview.

“She never talked about how good she was at basketball,” he said. “What impressed me the most is her humility. It was all about paying it forward.”

He said while Haller was outstanding, he’s hoping Prahalis’ experience playing for multiple coaches at different levels will help her be successful at the helm.

“I think she’s patient, she runs a good practice, but you can see that competitive fire there from when she was a player,” Melore said. “There’s a good knowledge base and she learned a lot overseas. Her goal getting into coaching is all about her giving back to the kids the same positive experience she had as a player.”

Sixth-grader Julia Greek holds up a championship certificate. Photo from Paul Greek

A sixth-grader from Stony Brook is making a name for herself on the basketball court.

Julia Greek, the W.S. Mount Elementary 11-year-old can be seen shooting hoops whenever she gets a chance. She dribbles around the house, on the way home from the bus stop, outside of her Stony Brook home and on her Catholic Youth Organization and Amateur Athletic Union teams. All of that practice is certainly paying off.

“I saw her play for the first time in the fourth grade and I was immediately impressed with her skill level, passion for the game and knowledge,” AAU Director Rob Pavinelli said. “She loves the game beyond the prize. It’s not just about winning and scoring. She was well beyond her years in all aspects of the game.”

“Right off the bat it was clear to see what different level she was playing at compared to virtually every other kid we come across.”

—Alex Gayer

As a member of the CYO team, she helped the girls win the championship last year after going undefeated. She scored the most points in the AAU circuit for her age group as a fifth-grader, and was named one of the top point guards in all of Long Island, voted on by the AAU coaches and referees. She earned a scholarship two years in a row for free entrance to a Stony Brook basketball camp when she was 9 years old, after winning knockout, dribbling and free-throw shooting contests. She finished her last AAU season as the leading scorer with 179 points — the next closest to her had 60. She also was a finalist in the Mother Teresa New York State Council Knights of Columbus free-throw shooting contest out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She’s competing this weekend to try to make a third straight appearance.

To Julia, her accomplishments are an added bonus, because she enjoys playing the game so much.

“I love the way that my teammates play with me, and how I can get them open and pass them the ball,” she said. “I’ve always loved to play. I love dribbling and shooting.”

Both are strong parts of her game out on the court.

“I was immediately struck by her,” Julia’s AAU Lightning coach Alex Gayer, said. “Right off the bat it was clear to see what different level she was playing at compared to virtually every other kid we come across. She does it all for us. She brings the ball up, breaks the press, she’s our best 3-point shooter and we have a talented group of girls.”

He said she was a major contributor to the team’s 20-0 record two seasons ago.

“I consider her and one other as the two best players I’ve seen on Long Island,” Gayer said. “What I take away most is she has such a passion for the game. She lives it. She’s there with a ball in her hand every day. She’s been very coachable. She never gives me a hard time on the court. She has continued to develop. She’s a leader on the team and on the court. Everyone looks up to her and when we need a big basket oftentimes she’s the one that provides it for us. She’s really just a pleasure to work with.”

Gayer called Julia the quintessential gym rat, despite the fact that she’s already better than most girls her age.

Julia Greek with her AAU Lightning team after it went undefeated and won the championship. Photo from Alex Gayer

“You can see she had this natural ability,” Julia’s father Paul Greek said. “As she got older we joined the Boys & Girls club and everyone was surprised by how good she was, even at 7 years old. She had such a knack for dribbling and shooting the basketball. Parents would come up to me after games asking me how old she was and telling me she’s unbelievable. She hasn’t even peaked. It just seems like she keeps getting better.”

Julia said she enjoys playing every chance she gets, and said she’s done a lot of work with her father, sneaking onto whatever court they can find to get in some practice time.

“My dad is very encouraging,” she said. “Sometimes he needs to work me hard, but I like that because I want to get better.”

She said she’s also taken a lot out of playing for two teams with different styles.

“Both teams are different, but I love the way they both operate,” she said. “I feel that my CYO team is more passing and trying to get open, and my AAU team is more driving to the basket and shooting. Every time I practice, I practice every side and angle of the hoop, and I love 3-pointers and that’s what I mostly practice. It’s my best shot.”

Julia has had the chance to practice with the Ward Melville girls’ varsity team. She looks up to the players.

“They teach me things that I don’t do,” she said, adding she looks up to sophomore Lauren Hansen and senior Taylor Tripptree. “[Hansen] practices extremely hard. I’ve seen her play and practice and I want to be like that. She’s amazing, she can hit from anywhere and drive by people. I know she’s working hard to do that so I’m trying to do that, too.”

Hansen said she sees a lot of talent in Julia despite her young age.

“She loves the game beyond the prize. It’s not just about winning and scoring. She was well beyond her years in all aspects of the game.”

—Rob Pavinelli

“She plays fearlessly,” she said. “In Julia I see a special talent that comes around every once in a while, and I truly believe if she works hard and buys into the process she can be great.”

Tripptree echoed her teammate.

“She already has developed serious skills,” Tripptree said. “During camps she always had to be put in the older groups because she’s so advanced for her age.”

The two said being looked up to by Julia reassures them that they’re doing the right things in working hard and setting an example for the younger talents as proof of what determination can lead to.

“Being looked at as a role model is truly an amazing honor and a blessing, because growing up I looked to older players to model my game off of, so to have younger players like Julia look up to me is incredibly humbling,” Hansen said. “With that said, I try to make sure I’m always pushing myself beyond my limits so players coming up know it takes a lot of work and sacrifice, and it’s definitely not easy to get where you want to be, but you can never be satisfied. Always be hungry.”

Gayer said he sees Julia’s talents taking her far.

“I think she would be one of the best shooters on a varsity team right now,” he said. “And she’s only in sixth grade.”

Julia said her goal once she gets some team practice in after seventh grade at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School next year is to make the varsity team in eighth grade.

“I feel like by the time I’m in eighth grade I’ll be better than I am now, and I want to focus on playing with different people and learning,” she said. “I’m working really hard now and trying to work as hard as I can to get there.”

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Hansen, Hudzik head girls and boys teams to victory

Lauren Hansen maintains possession during a previous game. File photo by Desirée Keegan

It was a winning weekend for Ward Melville.

First, the No. 2 girls’ basketball team trampled No. 18 North Babylon, with sophomore Lauren Hansen putting up a game-high 35 points in 20 minutes Feb. 17. The Patriots demolished North Babylon 93-24.

“Lauren played great like always and her putting up 35 points in 20 minutes is something really special,” said senior Taylor Tripptree, who finished with 15 points.

Taylor Tripptree dribbles around a defender during a prior matchup. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Hansen scored more than half of the team’s first-quarter points, banking 15 of the 24, while the Patriots held their opponent to just five points.

Twelve different Patriots managed to show up on the score sheet, including a few junior varsity players who got the call to join the varsity squad, which impressed the veteran Tripptree.

Junior Bre Cohn chipped in 12 points, which would have been enough to lead North Babylon in scoring.

But to Hansen, who made eight shots from beyond the arc, the first-round win is only the first step.

“We’re looking to win the whole thing,” she said. “We have to stay locked in each moment in practice and in preparation for the very next game.”

She said she liked the way her team bounced back from its 38-33 loss to Brentwood in the last regular season game.

“It was what we had to do,” Hansen said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible. I thought a lot about what I could’ve done better individually after the loss to Brentwood, and I let the loss soak in and the feeling of it, and I did a much better job in preparation before I even put the jersey on for game day. In practice, and out of it.”

She said her team will use the first-round win as motivation when it moves on to No. 7 Half Hollow Hills West for a home game Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

Mat Hudzik moves the ball up the court during a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“The game made a statement, showing that we are definitely on a mission,” Hansen said. “We call this a second season, and we’re focused on not dwelling on our accomplishments or obstacles in the regular season. Going into the second round I think it’s definitely time to amp our intensity up even more, and accomplish all that we have set out to do.”

The next day, the No. 6 boys’ basketball team hosted No. 11 East Islip and also made short work of its opponent, with the Patriots bouncing the Redmen out of the postseason with a 66-34 victory.

Ward Melville nearly doubled East Islip’s first-quarter score, leading 17-9 after eight minutes.

“I think we had a big first quarter because we were all excited to go out in front of our home crowd and win for them,” said senior Dom Pryor, who finished with a double-double on 14 points and 14 rebounds. “What really helped us get the win was our coaching staff making sure we were all prepared before the game even started. Coach made it specific that we were not doing anything different than we have all year, and that we just needed to play like we always do.”

Dom Pryor leaps up for the layup during a previous game. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Like the girls, the boys also put forth a total team effort with nine different scorers.

“I thought we all came together as a team and executed in all parts of the game,” Pryor said. “It’s always more comfortable when you have so many threats on offense, especially ones that are rarely off their game.”

Classmate Matt Hudzik liked what he was seeing from his teammate.

“Dom works really hard,” Hudzik said. “He is everywhere on the court, is really good at playing defense and grabbing rebounds and loose balls.”

Hudzik led all scorers with 21 points —18 on 3-pointers — and senior Alex Sobel banked six field goals and a free throw for 13 points.

“My outside shot was feeling good and my teammates just kept finding me on the wing,” Hudzik said. “Before the game, we just talked about everyone doing their job. If everyone on the team does what they are supposed to, we play to the best of our ability.”

Ward Melville will travel to No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East Feb. 21 for a 2 p.m. tipoff.

Pryor said he sees smooth sailing in Ward Melville’s future.

“I feel very confident in our next match up,” he said. “I don’t think any team can keep up with our offensive threats, and when we play defense like we did today, I don’t think there’s a team that can stop us.”

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Taylor Tripptree pushes her way to the rim amid a swarm of Brentwood players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kiera Ramaliu hangs on to the ball as she drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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.

Hannah Lorenzen maintains possession as she tries to make a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“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.

Lauren Hansen moves past a Brentwood opponent. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“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.”

Shannon Brazier leaps up to the rim for the score. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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.”

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Lauren Hansen drives around a Commack defender. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Patriots are in it to win it.

Taylor Tripptree leaps up to the rim for the score. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

Kiera Ramaliu at the free-throw line. Photo by Bill Landon

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.”

Hannah Lorenzen moves through traffic. Photo by Bill Landon

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.”

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Lauren Hansen drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hannah Lorenzen’s shot may not have been falling during warm-ups, but luckily that didn’t carry over into the game. During the first half of her Ward Melville girls’ basketball team’s matchup against Longwood, she was on fire, and it fueled a 57-39 comeback win Jan. 3 that keeps the Patriots atop the League I standings.

The senior scored 14 points in the first two quarters, and sophomore Lauren Hansen finished with a game-high 24 points, 19 of which were scored in the second half, for a balanced and potent offensive performance.

Hannah Lorenzen leaps to the board for a layup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but once I started hitting my shots I felt it,” Lorenzen said. “I think our defense wasn’t as great as it usually is. We were a little nervous, frazzled, but once we started playing our game we got back into our flow.”

After missing on all four of her attempts in the first quarter, Hansen opened up the scoring for the second quarter with a layup, reached to bank a layup while being fouled, and completed the three-point play to pull the Patriots closer, 20-14. After a Longwood score, Lorenzen swished a 3-pointer, two free throws and her second 3 to tie the game, 22-22.

She said head coach Bruce Haller told the team coming into the matchup that it needed to be fast and react quickly to play with Longwood.

“They fast break a lot and mark up then instead of when we get back, so we had to adjust to that,” Lorenzen said.

Longwood countered with a 3-point field goal of its own, but Lorenzen banked a layup with eight seconds left and her buzzer-beating third 3-pointer left Ward Melville just behind, 27-26.

“We had to slow down and take a deep breath, relax with our shots and be patient on defense,” Lorenzen said. “We had to play our game.”

Her Patriots did just that.

Senior Taylor Tripptree and Hansen teamed up to tally 14 of the Patriots’ total 16 points in the third quarter. At the end of the eight minutes, the Patriots edged ahead 42-37.

Lauren Hansen maneuvers around a Longwood opponent as she makes her way down the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we were hyped up because we wanted to win — we had jitters,” Hansen said of her team’s vibe in the first half, adding that she and the team needed to keep pushing despite missing points and being down. “I persevered, just kept shooting. I think it defines the culture of our team. Sometimes we start slow, but we always pick it up in the second half.”

She wasn’t kidding. Hansen scored 13 of her team’s 16 points in the final quarter, on two 3-pointers, a three-point play and two field goals.

“I think every game, every day we get better together, our chemistry gets better and better and we improve every single game,” she said.

With the win, Ward Melville remains No. 1 in League I, but instead of being in a three-way tie, the team is now tied with just Commack. The Patriots will face the Cougars on the road Jan. 10 at 5:45 p.m.

Tripptree said she was happy to see her team clean up its act against Longwood, but said the rushing and missed layups forced the team out of its comfort zone.

“We had to play at our pace — not let them change our game,” she said. “We didn’t let the bad calls or missed shots affect us. We just can’t be digging ourselves into holes we’re forced to dig out of. We stayed strong and kept each other up, though, and we realized this was our game.”

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Taylor Tripptree races ahead of the pack and drives the lane for the layup in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 10 players contributing to the score and more than half the points coming from three-pointers alone, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team had no problem cruising to a 56-18 win over William Floyd Tuesday.

“We worked well together,” junior guard Hannah Lorenzen said. “We really stepped up our defense, and we have a lot of shooting guards that can make threes; we did that pretty well today.”

Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots started the game off by scoring eight straight points, with senior forward Heidi Scarth scoring half of them. The team was stealing passes and forcing William Floyd turnovers, but the Colonials bounced back to score five straight points.

Ward Melville re-extended its lead by the end of the first quarter, with senior guard Kira Sells and junior guard and forward Taylor Tripptree knocking down a three-pointer apiece to give their team a commanding 14-5 lead.

“It’s definitely one of our strongest points to our game,” Sells said of scoring three-pointers. “I know I could do better. So I’m just working on getting better every game.”

Sells did do one better, though.

After Shannon Berry banked three field goals to swing the tempo of the game, Sells swished two more treys to help her team further its lead to 30-10 by halftime.

Lorenzen said her teammates did a good job of passing outside if they couldn’t enter the paint.

“It does help a lot, because if we can’t penetrate through the paint, we can kick it and depend on our shooting guards to make the threes, which helps us get ahead,” she said.

But Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said a team that wants to go up against the best-of-the-best in Suffolk County, like Brentwood, Longwood, Sachem East and the county-best Commack, would need to play with a more balanced attack.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The three is a great weapon, but if you fall too much in love with it and your three isn’t going in that particular game, now what? It’s all or nothing. That’s why we’re focusing on getting the ball inside a little more and getting some second shots. When those threes get missed, someone needs to be hitting the board from the weak side to get some putbacks.”

Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What did work for the team, though, was getting enough ahead that more bench players were able to see minutes.

“The kids work really hard in practice all the time and it’s nice to get them out on the court, get them some playing time and have them make some shots,” he said. “We have a very talented, deep group.”

Six of the 10 players that scored on that deep roster banked trifectas, and 31 of the team’s total points came from the five bench players that scored.

Bre Cohn and Maggie Zanone came off the bench in the fourth to score six points and three points, respectively, while stealing passes and dishing assists to close out the scoring for the game.

“We’re all close on and off the court,” Lorenzen said. “We have classes together, eat lunch together — so we’re all friends.”

Haller said his team has come a long way, making the decision to come together and step up to replace the injured freshman leading scorer from last year’s team: Lauren Hansen.

“They could have felt sorry for themselves,” he said. “Instead, a number of players are stepping up and taking over responsibilities or a bit of a different role that we didn’t anticipate them having in the preseason, and they’ve done a good job of it. Instead, they decided that they’re going to make a run for this thing.”