By Andrew Wroblewski
All season long, the Lady Cougars have been able to make adjustments. In becoming Suffolk County champions on Wednesday night with a 54-37 win over Huntington, however, the team had to make a few more adjustments than usual.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Commack’s top-scorer, Jackie DelliSanti hyperextended her knee and the coaching staff feared the injury might keep her on the bench – she got back onto the court.
“I had to keep pushing through it and not let it affect me,” she said.
On Tuesday, March 3, the girls prepared to play in the Suffolk County championship game against top-seeded Huntington, but that game was postponed due to weather and moved to the next day.
“Everyone was a little upset, but we knew that, no matter when the game was, we’d be ready to fight and win,” Chelsea Schultz, a senior center, said.
On Wednesday, March 4, the girls arrived at Ward Melville High School for the annual Suffolk County championship game and played in a gym located directly next to the school’s swimming pool. Needless to say, this created a more humid environment than the Lady Cougars are used to competing in, but they didn’t let it phase them.
“It’s like they’re growing orchids or something in here - it was a hot house,” Commack coach Denis Conroy said. “But we’ll play outside if we have to.”
Battling through it all, the 2014-2015 Cougars earned Commack’s first-ever Class AA girls basketball Suffolk County championship with that win over top-seeded Huntington (21-1), a team that hadn’t lost all season long.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” Glenn Lavey, assistant coach, said. “I knew these girls were special kids and really good players, but you never know until the lights come on against a team [Huntington] that was 41-1 over the last two years – you just don’t know how [Commack] would react.”
They reacted by starting the game on a 23-9 run and hitting 7 three-pointers over the 32-minute-long contest.
“Everyone stepped up big time,” Schultz said. “It helped that a lot of our shots were going in, [but] we played very well on defense, we broke their press easily, got a lot of outlets in the middle… we knew what we had to do and got the job done.”
Schultz led the Lady Cougars with 14 points – including 3 three-pointers.
Despite her injury, DelliSanti gritted her teeth and put up 11 points for Commack (21-1).
“We knew what to expect from them so we just had to keep moving the ball and get open shots,” she said.
Casey Hearns, a freshman guard, rounded out Commack’s leading scorers with an 11-point effort.
Now the Lady Cougars move on to the Long Island championship game, which is scheduled for March 13 at LIU Post against undefeated Baldwin (19-0); a game where Commack will assuredly have to make a few more of those patented adjustments.
“This is playoff basketball,” Conroy said. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Lady Cougars will also take on Suffolk’s small school champion, Harborfields (18-4) at Suffolk Community College Selden. That game is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday.