Mustangs are one win away from historic perfect season
By Desirée Keegan
Gabby Sartori turned in her strongest showing of the season at the right time.
Mount Sinai’s junior guard tallied 15 of her game-high 28 points in the third quarter to put the contest out of reach in her girls basketball team’s 56-25 win at Miller Place Feb. 2. She also finished with seven rebounds and five assists.
“I thought Gabby had an unbelievable game,” head coach Jeff Koutsantanou said of the starter who eclipsed 1,500 career points earlier this season. “Best of the year.”
After Mount Sinai raced to a 10-0 start, Miller Place’s Ally Tarantino amped up the intensity, scoring all 11 of her points in the first half to get her team back within striking distance. The Panthers closed within one point twice, the second time, coming on a Tarantino buzzer-beater to bring the halftime score to 19-18. Sartori, who was guarding senior Jess Iavaroni in the first half, holding her scoreless, switched her focus to Tarantino, keeping her off the stat sheet in the second.
The Mustangs used five forced turnovers to swing the momentum back in its favor to open the third. Sartoti said her team never counted itself out.
“You can’t lose hope,” she said. “You have to keep your head up, especially when people are looking up to you. Our coaches did a good job of keeping us composed, we didn’t read into things. When the game gets close, we embrace it. I have so much fun in a game like this.”
The Mustangs finished with seven total turnovers and outscored the Panthers 37-7 in the second half. Junior guard Brooke Cergol, who added seven points and four assists, said the team used halftime to get a better game plan in place.
“At halftime, we all listen to each other talk about what we should keep doing, and what we need to change, and coming out in the third quarter we went after it,” she said. “What I love about this team is we all give our maximum effort. We have been in close games before, and we know how to handle it.”
Even when Mount Sinai wasn’t forcing turnovers, heavy defensive pressure was enough to disrupt Miller Place’s offensive flow.
“We like creating transition opportunity off turnovers — we like getting steals — and if we don’t get a steal or we don’t force a turnover, they’re 15 seconds into the shot clock, at which point, they don’t have a lot of time to execute,” assistant coach John Mees said. “It manifested into some good results today.”
With one game left this season, Mount Sinai is one step closer to making history. Last year, the Mustangs were one win away from a perfect season, dropping the last match of the regular season to Shoreham-Wading River. Mount Sinai improved to 19-0 overall and 15-0 in League VI with its latest win, and will host Hampton Bays Feb. 8, at 5:45 p.m., with the hope of becoming the first Mustangs team to complete a perfect season.
Mees said the younger athletes in the district are already motivated to emulate what they see upperclassmen doing out on the court. Sartori said she already sees it in the girls who come to clinics and to watch games.
“These girls are so confident in their abilities that they have loftier goals than just 20 wins and being undefeated, and they’d rather take a loss and hold up that state championship trophy,” Mees said. “Where it’s most impactful is how it affects the younger girls in the community. They look up to these girls as heroines. When it’s written up in the paper ‘Mustangs go undefeated,’ it inspires the younger girls to want to play, and that makes our program stronger going forward.”
Even though the victory would be a cherry on top of an already great season for the upperclassmen on senior night, the girls said they already have a playoff mindset, looking to defend their Suffolk County title.
“We were talking about it happening, but have no idea how it’s going to feel, but we’re excited,” Sartori said. “To see where we are now and how far we’ve come, it shows the amount of hard work we put into this season. It’s all coming to fruition now.”