When Ihnacinse Grady went down in pain with 7:14 left in the third quarter Tuesday, Copiague held a seven-point lead. Grady limped off with a left ankle sprain and Copiague coach Carole Olsen continually looked at Grady to get the OK to insert her back in the game.
It didn't happen until there was 3:58 left in the quarter, and by then the lead had dwindled to one point.
But Grady returned to pace the offense and defense and Copiague never relinquished the lead in a 44-34 home win over Huntington in a Suffolk League IV girls basketball game.
Grady had eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Mikaiya Moore had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and I'Asia O'Garro added 11 points for Copiague (9-3, 7-2).
More important than the stats is Grady's ability to handle pressure, run the offense and hit free throws.
Grady went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 38 seconds to preserve the lead. "Those are free throws you need to hit," she said. "It's something you practice every day."
Moore said Grady is "very important to this team. It's not about how many points she scores. She does a lot of little things to make us better."
Copiague led 21-14 when Grady departed. Huntington (10-3, 6-3) cut it to 26-25 on a pair of free throws by Joellen Ceide (11 points). Moore hit a three-pointer with five seconds left in the third quarter to push the Copiague lead to 31-26. Moore also hit a key jumper with 1:08 left in the game to make it 37-29.
Copiague, which has struggled on defense recently, succeeded in its goal of holding Huntington to less than 40 points.
"It was a sloppy game," Olsen said, "but there were some positive things. We tried a new defense and it worked well. I'm happy about the resilience they showed."
The win gives Copiague sole possession of first place over three teams, including Bellport, which Copiague visits Thursday. League IV has been tight all season, with the top five teams beating one another.
"We're in a tough league," Olsen said. "When teams play League IV teams in the playoffs, it won't be easy."