The next time Kristine Best returns home to Commack, she wants to share a cherished victory with her family and friends.
For the third consecutive year, Best will compete in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. A junior guard for Marist College, her 19th-ranked team will challenge Iowa State Saturday at 11:15 a.m. The opening-round game in the East Regional is set for legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Folks in the Commack area can watch the televised duel and cheer on Best on ESPN2.
Best hopes 2011 March Madness is not a repeat of 2009 and 2010 March Sadness for Marist. "We have gone two years and lost," she said. "That is very upsetting. This year, I think, we have a good chance. I really do. All of us are stepping up."
Best has experienced plenty of team and personal success. She proved a standout point guard and three-time MVP for the Saint Anthony's High School varsity team. She scored more than 1,000 career points and was named the 2008 Long Island Girls' Player of the Year for the Catholic League. She also played soccer and lacrosse for the Friars.
Since Best moved up to the next level and relocated to Poughkeepsie, she's contributed to Marist's 85-14 combined record during her three college seasons. Her teams have won three straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships.
Best started 32 games as a sophomore, but this season she's a reserve guard. "I am pretty much a spark off the bench," Best said. "I try to bring energy to both ends of the court; try to run the offense and get the ball to the scorers."
The Red Foxes, who have not lost since December 4, own the nation's longest winning streak (26 games). Best's team shows a 30-2 record this season. Her pals at Marist call her "Midge."
At 5 feet 3 inches, Best is the shortest on the 15-player Marist roster.
When she gets ready for a game, Best touches a gift from her mother Maureen. "My Mom gave me a little cross. I keep it in my basketball bad," Best said. "It says 'Count Your Blessings.' Pretty much my parents have taught me that. I am fortunate and blessed to have what I have and to have my experiences."
Her mother and father Dave have often made the 230-mile round trip up to the Hudson Valley to see their only child play for Marist. "They are my biggest fans, my biggest supporters," said Best. "And they have helped get where I am today."
For her academics, Best is majoring in psychology and special education. She's working to become an elementary school teacher.
As a little kid, Best began playing in Commack CYO as a first-grader. She attended Wood Park Elementary School and Trinity Regional School in East Northport before excelling at Saint Anthony's.
Best said she knows the most well-known women's college player from Commack—Samantha Prahalis, the speedy, flamboyant, clever-passing point guard for Ohio State. "I played CYO basketball and soccer with her since the second grade," said Best.
Prahalis, who is third nationally in assists (averaging 6.6 per game), plays her NCAA opener Saturday afternoon at home, hosting Central Florida.
She gained fame, as many folks in Commack know, for being the two-time Long Island Girls' Player of the Year, and she scored 2,372 career points for the varsity Cougars.