By Bill Landon
Northport’s girls basketball team was unable to keep up its streak of close games against former League II foe Half Hollow Hills East, as the Tigers fell 59-45 to the now League III Thunderbirds on the road Dec. 11.
Even so, Northport sophomore guard Danielle Pavinelli did what she could to counter Hills East’s leading point scorer Alexa Wallace, matching her with a game-high 21 points.
Northport head coach Rich Castellano said the result was not indicative of how the Tigers typically play, noting junior Hannah Stockman’s early foul trouble.
“Hannah [Stockman] … she’s our biggest scorer and our top 3-point shooter, and Shelby [Maldavir], our senior captain, I don’t think she hit one 3-pointer today,” Castellano said. “I think Kerry [Dennin] and Danielle [Pavinelli] — those two carried us for several long stretches.”
Pavinelli, who is following her sister Allie, a 2014 graduate, by committing to play lacrosse at the University of Florida next year, nailed two free throws to give Northport its first lead of the game, 6-5. But it was short lived, as the foul trouble led to a collection of free points for the Thunderbirds, which led 26-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Junior guard Iris Sovocchi attempted shift momentum Northport’s way, nailing back-t-back 3-pointers to close the deficit to 12 points both times, and Pavinelli added a three of her own, but it was Kerry Dennin that was able to break through. The sophomore forward drove the lane and wouldn’t be denied the scoring opportunity, as she added a bucket that brought the Tigers within 10, 32-22, at the break.
Dennin matched a Hills East 3-pointer with one of her own to start the scoring for the third as minutes ticked off the clock, but Northport was not able to chip away at the 10-point margin. The Thunderbirds diligently drove the baseline, drawing fouls as they continued to collect points from the charity stripe.
“This was not a normal games for us — we didn’t shoot well tonight,” said Castellano, who was recently inducted into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and begins his 39th year at the helm of the Northport program. “But I give [Half Hollow Hills East] credit; they did a great job on defense against us, they worked hard and they played better. They did what they had to do to win the game.”
Behind Pavinelli was Dennin with eight points and Sovocchi added six.
“We usually have a strong three-point game, but tonight we didn’t,” the head coach said despite the Tigers matching the Thunderbirds with six 3-pointers. “Our offense stalled a little, but Kerry Dennin played a great game for us tonight.”
Northport has two more nonleague contests, against Smithtown West and Massapequa, before opening league play hosting Bay Shore Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.