Momentum has a way of building quietly, like a car coasting downhill. That was Kelly Bilodeau Monday night, a perfect microcosm of the Whitman girls basketball team’s impressive season.
The host Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure and Bilodeau displayed relentless determination around the ball as No. 8 Whitman pulled away from No. 9 Longwood, 52-36, in a Suffolk Class AA first round playoff game.
“Any time you keep a team to 36 points, you should be able to come out with the win,” said Whitman Coach Dan Trebour, whose team used three-quarter court pressure to slow Longwood.
Bilodeau, a junior guard and four-year starter, scored a career-high 27 points and added 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks as the Wildcats (13-6) won for the 11th time in 12 games.
“That was exciting,” Bilodeau said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I just came out to play my best. I did that…I must have eaten my Wheaties.”
All that momentum will be tested. The Wildcats hit the road to face top-seeded Sachem East (18-1) in a quarterfinal at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Sachem downed Half Hollow Hills East, 63-29, on Monday.
But for one night at least, Whitman could look back at its body of work – which includes a win over rival Northport for the first time in 12 seasons – and be proud. It’s doubly impressive when you consider Trebour’s lineup doesn’t have a senior starter.
“We had a lot of room for growth,” Trebour said. “When you start with Riverhead, Deer Park and Copiague, you start the season with tough games. It hardened us. Those experiences helped us grow.”
Whitman, winners of seven straight, never trailed against No. 9 Longwood (11-8). In-your-face defense contributed to the playoff win, including a pair of 30-second violations where Longwood never got a shot off.
The first came midway through the second quarter and was followed by a Hayley Mena three-pointer from the wing to put Whitman ahead 21-11. Bilodeau blocked Longwood’s Kiersten West (11 points) the next possession and ran down the loose ball before being fouled.
Bilodeau sank both foul shots to push the lead to 23-11 with 3:23 left in the half. Then Whitman slipped into a defensive posture and forced an errant pass, yet another turnover. It was that kind of game.
Longwood regrouped and closed the gap to 33-29 on a Nicole Gazzola three late in the third. But the Lions were slapped with their seventh foul not long after. Whitman put the game away at the foul line, shooting 18-for-25 on the night.
Whitman junior forward Essence Casey finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of my teammates,” Bilodeau said. “We’re looking forward to the next game.”
Suffolk Class AA Girls Basketball Playoffs
First Round @ Whitman
Teams...............1.....2.....3.....4 – F
Longwood.........9.....8...12.....7 – 36
Whitman...........13...12...13...14 – 52
L: Bowlay-Williams 1-0-2, Holmes 2-3-7, Ruiz 3-0-8, West 4-3-11, DeSouza 1-0-2, Gazzola 2-0-6. Totals: 13-6-36. W: Casey 3-6-12, Jemmott 2-2-6, Bilodeau 8-10-27, Olsen 2-0-4, Mena 1-0-3. Totals: 16-18-52. Three-pointers – L: 4 (Gazzola 2, Ruiz 2); W: 2 (Bilodeau, Mena).