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Alex Herbst

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Tyler Ammirato races toward the rim on a steal. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Miller Place started off hot with a 24-18 lead over Amityville at the end of the first quarter, but it went downhill for the Panthers, which fell to Amityville 98-58 Jan. 8.

In the blink of an eye, the Warriors pushed the tempo and went on a 22-0 run to start the second quarter. Amityville was ahead of the Panthers 32-12 over the eight-minute span, and could not come back from being outscored 80-34 in the final three stanzas. Amityville improves to 9-1 on the season and 6-0 in League VI while the Panthers drop to 4-7 on the year and 3-4 in conference play.

Miller Place head coach Brian Sztabnick was content with how his team played in the first quarter, saying he thought there were three things his Panthers did well.

Daniel Berrios moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“No. 1 we switched defenses a lot so we can get them off guard, giving them different looks,” Sztabnick said about the positives in the first quarter. “No. 2, we hit shots, so that’s always going to help. No. 3, we took care of the basketball. We didn’t have many turnovers; we did everything in our game plan that we wanted to do.”

Senior Alex Herbst led Miller Place with 11 points, and sophomores Daniel Berrios and Thomas Cirrito added 10 each. Herbst was not pleased with the loss, mainly because he believes Amityville can be taken down.

“I’m frustrated because I feel like [Amityville] can be a beatable team,” Herbst said. “We showed that we can play with them in the first quarter, and then everything just dropped off.”

Four players scored in double-figures for the Warriors. Senior Joshua Serrano led Amityville with 24 points, and behind him was sophomore Divaahd Lucas with 20, senior Jayson Robinson with 18 and freshman Julius Goddard with 13.

Berrios was expecting a hostile environment playing in Amityville. He said he was amped up to compete.

“I was excited,” Berrios said about playing against Amityville. “I was expecting it to be crazy; I wanted that. I couldn’t wait to play in that atmosphere. I couldn’t wait to take it all in and play against them and against adversity.”

Despite the 40-point win, Amityville’s Gordon Thomas said he’s learned to always keep his foot on the gas pedal against any team. He added his team used the first quarter as motivation to bounce back.

Matthew Hirdt moves the ball into Amityville’s zone. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Never underestimate your opponent,” Thomas said. “In the first quarter, they were beating us. I said to my guys that you can’t put the switch on and off at any time. When you go out there, you have to be ready to play.”

Sztabnick understood Amityville was undefeated in League VI coming into this game, and for him, it wasn’t about winning, it was about testing to see if his Miller Place team can play with an undefeated one like Amityville.

“I wanted to see if we can maintain poise,” Sztabick said. “With a team like this that’s as talented as they are, highly-ranked as they are, you know they’ll be ready to go on a run especially on their home court.”

In the second quarter, Amityville was reckless with points off turnovers. Sztabnick said his team’s transition defense struggled to respond.

“With the way we started, we proved we can play with them,” he said. “One of the things we have to work on is maintaining that over a period of time. It’s one thing to do it for eight minutes in a quarter. After they went on a 22-0 run, we cut it to seven at one point, so we still fought back, but eventually their speed, size and athleticism was overpowering us.”

Miller Place looks to bounce back today, Jan. 11, against Hampton Bays. Tipoff is currently scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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Tyler Ammirato rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in Miller Place's first Suffolk County semifinal win in seven seasons. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was an accomplishment seven years in the making.

Miller Place’s football team had its postseason cut short in a semifinal appearance each of the last six seasons, but Friday night was different.

Anthony Seymour completed two of six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 72 yards on seven carries during Miller Place’s win. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite frigid temperatures and howling winds, two Miller Place interceptions and two Tyler Ammirato touchdowns drove the scoring in a 28-0 shutout of No. 3 Shoreham-Wading River in the Division IV semifinals Nov. 11.

Ammirato, a senior running back, showed how anxious he was to get back on the field after missing several games to injury. Rushing for 130 yards on 18 carries, he scored both first-half touchdowns, the second set up by an Alex Herbst interception at the Wildcats 40-yard line. He broke free for touchdown carries of 55 and 30 yards, and with kicker Cameron Hammer scoring on the extra-point kicks following each of the runs, the Panthers were up 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.

“It’s the best feeling for us as a program — we’ve been to the semifinals six years in a row and to break through is a dream come true for everyone out here,” Ammirato said of the win. “On Sunday we’ll watch film to prepare for Babylon. We lost to them the first time so we’ll watch that film to see what we did wrong, we’ll watch a couple of other games of them and we’ll just keep rolling.”

No. 2-seeded Miller Place will face No. 1 Babylon in the county final at Stony Brook University Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for this program — nobody realizes that this has been our swan song and to finally break through is a tribute to the kids because they believe in themselves,” said Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’re finally healthy with Tyler [Ammirato] coming back — that’s a big piece of the puzzle for a kid who last year scored 30 touchdowns.”

Miller Place head football coach Greg Murphy smiles as he embraces coaches following the Panthers’ semifinal victory. Photo by Bill Landon

But Murphy’s “tough group of kids” had other athletes rising to the occasion.

After a scoreless third, junior linebacker Rob Morales also came up with an interception after stepping in front of a screen pass. He covered 35 yards before scampering into the end zone. He also had 13 tackles.

“When the plays come you’ve just gotta make them,” Morales said. “I saw the ball, I caught it and I ran. This is big this school has never won a Long Island championship and this is a big stepping stone towards that goal.”

Shoreham-Wading River, three-time Long Island champion, had its season cut short when Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour threw deep to the right side of the end zone to Tom Nealis who never broke stride for a 25-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

“They left me one-on-one with the cornerback and I knew they were going to come to me with a fade, and I was open, just beat ‘em,” Nealis said. “I’ve been coming to these games since I was 5 years old and to know that broke this streak, and to do it beating Shoreham-Wading River for a second time this season, it feels great.”

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