By Andrew Wroblewski
The Commack Cougars are Long Island’s Class ‘AA’ girls basketball champions for the second straight season.
The feat, head coach Denis Conroy said, is “rare, so we’re very proud of getting it done, especially against a team like Baldwin, a dynamo team.”
Commack defeated the Bruins 40-33 on Saturday at St. Joseph’s College in the Long Island championship game, which also served as the opening round of the state tournament. For the second straight season, Commack defeated Baldwin to clinch the title.
“There is a certain mental fatigue that comes with defending a title. I told them before the season that repeating is the hardest thing to do in a sport, and that we had a long road to go,” Conroy said.
That road consisted of a highly-competitive League I season – the league produced five Suffolk playoff teams – and some tough draws early in Suffolk’s playoff bracket, including a second-round matchup against League III co-champion Riverhead.
“I think that got us battle-ready,” Conroy said.
Baldwin (20-3) proved to be yet another battle for Commack (22-2) to endure. The Bruins came into the game averaging 64.5 points per game.
But Commack’s defense, which had allowed 39 points per game, stepped up once more to thwart the Bruins’ push. Commack held Baldwin to its worst offense night of the season in terms of total points scored.
On offense, the Cougars were led by Casey Hearns, a sophomore guard, who scored 13 points. Through Commack’s six playoff games, Hearns is averaging 10.7 points per game.
Conroy praised both Hearns and Leanne Corso, a senior forward, for their efforts.
“The way they’ve played down the stretch has been a revelation. They’re both excellent athletes, and really good players, but they’ve elevated their games almost to major star status,” Conroy said.
Through the playoffs, Hearns has only been bested in scoring by Jackie DelliSanti, who is averaging 19.3 points per game. Against Baldwin, DelliSanti, a senior, scored 10 points.
Commack is currently gearing up for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinals. The Cougars will face Ossining and were expected to travel upstate today to upstate Hudson Valley Community College where the game will be played on Friday at 8 p.m.
“They’ve been the best team in the state for the last three years,” Conroy said. “They have good size and two dynamic players in Aubrey Griffin and Shadeen Samuels. So we have to do the stuff that we’re good at. We have to defend them well and we have to have a team play to keep them from killing us on the glass.”
Conroy said the Cougars will also have to “take advantage of our quickness and our outside shooting to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”