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Suffolk Outlasts Nassau in Alzheimer's Classic
Jay Mumford

If there's anything in basketball it's hard to find an antidote for, it's speed. Suffolk County All-Stars Coach Debbie Brajevich was well-aware of how much of that attribute she had to spare, and she used it to stifle a Nassau team that held an early grip on the game.

“We have great guards and forwards with guard skills,” she said after she coached the Suffolk squad to an 84-79 win over Nassau at Molloy College on Saturday afternoon. “So we wanted to press and run.”

Suffolk had their hands full early on, as part of Nassau's Long Island Lutheran contingent (Lauren “Boogie” Brozoski and Paige Kriftcher) sizzled from the perimeter. Nassau's hot shooting was conflated with frequent trips to the line, blasting them out to a 22-10 lead. Brozoski's ankle-breaking quickness had it's match in the Suffolk back court, but when LuHi's floor general took a seat, Suffolk took advantage of the player rotation.

“When Boogie came out, we put pressure on some of their guards that weren't [as adept] handling the ball,” Coach Brajevich said.

The said pressure was the game-changer; the Nassau turnovers came in droves. Quick-handed defense from St. Anthony's Rebecca Musgrove (9 points), North Babylon's Charise Watson (10 points), and St. John The Baptist's Aliyah Smith frazzled Nassau's ball-handlers. Energy boosts in the paint from St. Anthony's Symone Kelly and Sachem East's Kathleen Everson (9 points) bolstered Suffolk's defense on the other end, and it wasn't long before they were at Nassau's doorstep. Musgrove turned one of her pick-pockets into a fast break lay-up to knot the game at 21 with 7:25 left in the half. Efforts from Kriftcher and Uniondale's Sakara Hester-Torres kept Nassau afloat and protected the lead at halftime (Nassau held a 39-36 advantage heading into the locker room), but the problem of Suffolk's back court speed had yet to be addressed beyond the equalizing efforts of Brozoski.

Nassau opened the second half with a press, but Suffolk decoded it and kept the game honest. They responded instead with shooting and a Kriftcher trey gave Nassau some breathing room, 43-38. Suffolk spent the lion's share of the second half playing catch-up and tying the score, but more defensive grit from Musgrove and a strong second half from Deer Park's Andrea Desvignes (who scored a team high 11 points, all in the second half) provided an extra spark. A bucket from the diminutive senior gave Suffolk their first lead of the half, 50-49, but they were entrenched in a dog fight from the mid point of the second half through the final horn.

The insertion of Brozoski – who, along with Kriftcher, earned game high scorer accolades with 17 points – gave Nassau a boost every time. Caffeinated shots of energy from Freeport's Sabrina Grayson and Uniondale's Aliyah McDonald also made an impact, but Suffolk's defense continued to disrupt Nassau's flow.

“Outside shooting kept [Nassau] in the game,” said Coach Brajevich. “But they couldn't get to the basket on us.”

The ebb and flow continued past the two minute mark, as Holy Trinity's Katie Poppe (11 points) nailed a jumper to even the score at 76 with 1:40 left. Kriftcher followed with a bucket to put Nassau up one, but their fuel would run out. A series of solid plays from Kelly and North Babylon's Brianna Jones and clutch free throw shooting from Riverhead's Jalyn Brown (10 points) sealed the deal. St. Anthony's Chastity Taylor also added 10 points in the win, making Suffolk's stat sheet balanced.

“These are 15 girls that never played together, but they bonded immediately and played tough,” Coach Brajevich noted. “[Nassau] outplayed us most of the game. I wondered how we got the lead with a minute left, but it's all about who has the most points and the end. [We were] sloppy, but effective.”

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