The clutch shot in the waning seconds. The big turnover to seal the win. The fans in a frenzy. The players, delirious, in a dogpile atop the three-point arc.
This had every bit the feel of a championship game.
It was only a semifinal, but Hauppauge earned its first trip to the Suffolk Class AA girls basketball final, upsetting top-seeded Sachem East Saturday to do so.
Lindsay Alfano's three-pointer gave the Eagles the lead with 42 seconds left. Sachem East was down only two with 3.2 seconds remaining but Stephanie Peragallo leaped to intercept an inbounds pass, securing a 47-45 victory for No. 4 Hauppauge at Farmingdale State -- an upset for the undefeated underdogs.
Hauppauge (21-0) emerged from League IV, but Sachem East (19-2) earned top billing by dominating League I and playing a tough non-league schedule.
"They were the team to beat and we knew what we'd be up against," said Alfano, who had 14 points and six steals. "But we overcame all that and found a way."
The Eagles found their way to the corners. With the score tied at 43, Julie Williams (17 points) drove inside, drew a double-team, then kicked out to Alfano, open in the left corner, for the go-ahead three. It was Hauppauge's eighth long ball, all from the wings. "The corner three is a big part of our offense," coach Jamie Edson said. "We're shooters."
For the Eagles, the fourth quarter was marked by mistakes and makeups. A 13-0 run to end the third helped build a 38-28 lead, but it dwindled gradually. Kathleen Everson's free throws tied it at 43 for Sachem East with 1:36 to go, making the final moments "more nerve-racking than usual," Edson said.
Alfano missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:24 left but made that moot with the three. Everson (11 points) was fouled with 31.6 remaining and sank both free throws to make it a one-point game.
Hauppauge turned it over but Williams stole it back with 10.4 seconds left and was fouled. She hit the first free throw for the final margin. Sachem East rebounded her miss, and Hauppauge stole it back, only to lose it out of bounds with 3.2 seconds left.
At that point it would've been a long shot -- literally -- for Sachem East, but it didn't matter as Peragallo read the inbounds pass and snagged it.
"I just wanted to make sure it didn't get over my head," said Peragallo, who had two points, seven rebounds and four steals. The senior is a lacrosse star rated the No. 2 defender in the nation by ESPN. In either sport, she's found ways to confound offenses. "We were a little nervous because Sachem had all the hype," she admitted, "but we used the 'underdog' role as fuel."
Lauren Descalzo had eight points and seven assists, Diana Poulin had 11 rebounds and Kasey Kephart eight rebounds for Hauppauge, which faces third-seeded Riverhead in the final at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Farmingdale State.
Meagan Doherty scored 15 points, Katie Doherty nine and Emily Carmel eight for Sachem East.
So how much more noise can Hauppauge make in the postseason? "If they play like this," Flaming Arrows coach Matt Brisson said, "they could win the whole thing."
Alas, the Eagles had begun to grow fond of the "no respect" angle. "We weren't expected to win," Peragallo said, "so this is pure bliss."