"This definitely feels much better than last year," said Sachem East basketball star Katie Doherty just moments after she and her teammates hoisted their Class AA Suffolk County Championship plaque.
She was referring to a tough loss in the semifinals last year against Hauppauge. "This year we came in, we didn't want to lose, we felt the sting of last year," Doherty said.
And they didn't lose. The Flaming Arrows jumped out in front early and stayed there, defeating the No. 1 seeded North Babylon Bulldogs 57-49 at Ward Melville High School Tuesday night.
Doherty was a big part of the victory, leading the team with 24 points on the night, including some big baskets late in the game when North Babylon shaved what was a 20-point lead down to just six with five minutes to go.
Sachem East went into the locker room up by five and stayed true to their playoff run this year, coming out in the second half and lighting it up. Back-to-back three-pointers from Emily Carmel and Katie Doherty helped open the lead to 20 before the Bulldogs went on a 21-7 run and made it interesting down the stretch. As the score narrowed, loud and raucous supporters in the Sachem stands got eerily quiet, but the team didn't seem phased.
"We have a more experienced team," Doherty said. "With experience comes mental toughness and we stayed up."
"That's talent on the other team," Sachem head coach Matt Brisson said of North Babylon. "They were the number-one seed, the kids just had to withstand their run, and they did and we were able to hold them."
The Lady Bulldogs were led by Brianna Jones, who had 15 points and Makeda Nicholas who put up 11. Brittany Hicks also tallied nine points for North Babylon.