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Sachem East Wins L.I. AA Title

When Massapequa’s Rachel Sieber came off the bench cold and nailed a trey to bring the Chiefs within three points, Sachem East’s contingent in Hofstra University’s gym went dead silent.

“I could feel the nerves and the vibe of the crowd at that point,” said Sachem junior forward Kathleen Everson. After watching their lead swing between five and ten points throughout the second half, the resilient Massapequa squad made it a 53-50 game with 50 seconds left to play. The stage was set for the comeback win of all comeback wins, but Everson’s mind was elsewhere.

“I never lost confidence in us. I trusted my teammates,” she said. She was right, and the Flaming Arrows pulled out the win for their first Long Island Championship since 2010.

The concept of trusting one’s teammates was the one that put another in the L.I. powerhouse’s gym, despite what the box score says. The highly touted junior tandem of Everson and point guard Katie Doherty scores the lion’s share of the points and absorbs most of the camera clicks, but when the pressure was on, the Flaming Arrows had no choice but to lean on teamwork when pitted against one of the deepest and most dangerous teams in the region.

“We have kids on this team who don’t care about getting their names in the paper,” said Sachem Head Coach Matt Brisson. “Everyone’s embraced their roles.”

Two of those role players would be senior twin forwards (and more obvious, twin sisters) Allie and Sammy Drake. When Massapequa’s resilience on offfense and relentlessness on defense forced someone other than Doherty or Everson to produce, the twin tandem answered the call. And accomplishing the little things typically utilizes the most energy while receiving the least recognition.

“The Drake sisters were the unsung heroes of this game,” said Coach Brisson. “They dig loose balls out, play defense and challenge people on the glass.”

That type of dirty work was needed every time Massapequa made a run, which was essentially every few possessions in the second half.  It took the Chiefs awhile to make the game a nail biter, though. In the first quarter, Doherty and Everson sparked an 8-0 Sachem run in 90 seconds, putting their team up 11 points. The Chiefs relied heavily on stingy defense to stay alive, but when their trademark depth and frequent rotations began to lend a hand in the second quarter, they made it a seven point game. The battle intensified when the spunky senior play of forward Lauren Van Buren brought the Chiefs within five in the third quarter. The guard play of Doherty and the inside work of Everson always provided an answer, but when Massapequa’s point production began to come from deeper and deeper down the bench, Sachem knew they wouldn’t just waltz out of Hofstra with a win.

“We knew they were a tough team,” said Doherty, who along with Everson scored 18 points.

Yes, both tough as in resilient and tough as in impossible to key in on any particular player. Sabrna Fregosi banked in a trey with the shot clock expiring to make it a 32-27 game. Sophomore Meghan McCabe - who was assigned the arduous task of guarding Doherty for much of the game – converted to make it 34-29. Van Buren, who continued to give Sachem all they could handle, made it a 44-39 game while hampered with four fouls. The Chiefs eventually cut it to four points before Sieber’s big shot, but while all eyes were on Doherty and Everson, the Drake sisters finally got some attention – they were sent to the line while Sachem was in the bonus. Sammy (who scored 10 points)sunk the pair that sunk Massapequa for good.

“We’ve all been playing together since we were little kids,” said Everson. “Everyone was prepared for this game. The Drake sisters play tough and work their butts off. Everyone on this team knows their role and we all contribute.”

The Flaming arrows were also able to get key stops and cause Massapequa to make mistakes late in the game. And that’s what Coach Brisson was hoping for.

“I knew [the key to the game] would be defense,” he said. “We had to negate their speed. We know Massapequa are a deep team and like to run, so we had to slow them down. Everyone embraced their roles tonight and all of these girls want to win. They’re special kids, and this is one of the most exciting groups of kids I’ve ever coached.”

Massapequa was led by Van Buren’s game high 22 points. Sachem East will vie for a state championship on Friday, March 15, when they head to Troy, NY.

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