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Mustangs fall short of back-to-back county titles with loss to Hauppauge

Brooke Cergol never counted her team out. With her Mount Sinai girls basketball team down from opening tipoff, the junior continued to let shots fly, scoring five of her team-high 13 points in the first half to try to keep her Mustangs in it. She went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line to end the first half, turning a 15-9 deficit into a one-possession game, but Mount Sinai couldn’t come any closer. The Mustangs’ undefeated season came to an end in a 51-40 Class A county final loss to No. 6 Hauppauge Feb. 23 at Farmingdale State College.

“Hitting those three free throws to get us back into the game felt amazing — it gave us hope, and we started playing more like how we usually play,” Cergol said. “Our strategy going in was to have a strong defensive position, get out on shooters and rebound. We tried to stay with that game plan as much as possible — sometimes it didn’t work the way we wanted to, but we definitely gave it everything we had.”

Cergol broke up another Hauppauge scoring streak to start the third and cut the deficit to 10, but the Eagles were soon at it again. Junior Gabby Sartori (11 points) was next to break up a scoring spurt, hitting her second 3-pointer of the game and two free throws. She continued to try drawing fouls while driving the lane, but was denied the opportunity in most cases. Lone senior starter Olivia Williams (eight points) capped off the eight minutes with a 3-point play to give her No.1-seeded team another shot in the arm.

“We knew we were still in it,” Cergol said. “We never got down on ourselves, and knew we just needed to play in the moment. We all pushed ourselves. Obviously, the game did not turn out the way we wanted, but each player left everything on the court, and that’s what I love about this team.”

Cergol scored on a layup and Sartori on an offensive rebound to trim Hauppauge’s lead to four, 32-28, but the Mustangs fell behind the rest of the way.

“I think the game was a good challenge for us,” Williams said, noting the loss of Margaret Kopcienski to injury in the third had a direct impact on the team. “I don’t think going down early got in our heads because we had been in similar situations before, but it took a while for us to get into the swing of things.”

Mount Sinai comes short of completing back-to-back county title-winning seasons, claiming the program’s first last year, but finished the regular season undefeated for the first time in school history. Williams is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of momentous seasons.

“Being out on the court as a senior was surreal to me because I have been a part of this program for so long,” she said. “I was motivated to give it my all every game knowing it was my last season, and being on this journey with my team has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Being a Mustang has taught me so much about not only athletics, but the importance of having good character and leadership. I’ve had the chance to develop great relationships with my teammates and coaches over the years and have made memories that I will cherish forever.”

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Olivia Williams fights for possession under the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The number 20 must be lucky for Olivia Williams.

In her senior year, still donning her number 20 jersey, the forward helped her team to a perfect, 20-0 regular season.

Holly McNair reaches for the rebound. Photo by Desirée Keegan

On Feb. 20, she had the game of her life, scoring a double-double on 11 points and 20 rebounds in a 69-52 Class A semifinal win over Sayville. The No. 1 seeded Mustangs will face No. 6 Hauppauge
Feb. 23 at Farmingdale State College at 5 p.m. to defend its Suffolk County crown after nabbing the first one in school history last year.

“I wanted to lay it all on the line, make sure we got back to the finals,” Williams said. “I couldn’t stop going. I didn’t even feel tired because I knew I had to keep fighting until the end.”

Five Mustangs fought for Mount Sinai’s first-quarter lead. While Sayville might have been expecting leading scorer Gabby Sartori to drive to the basket, Williams was first on the board on a free throw after a Sayville 3-pointer. Down 5-1, Sartori sent a long pass over to Brooke Cergol for the score, and Williams tied things at 5-5.
Margaret Kopcienski assisted next on junior Holly McNair’s field goal, to give the Mustangs a lead they’d never relinquish.

“We got into the paint really, we drove to the basket and passed the ball out to get the shot when we needed to,” McNair said. “We had so many good passes, and when we play together as a team, I think we’re unstoppable.”

Gabby Sartori leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Sartori did turn it on though, scoring eight of Mount Sinai’s 11 points in the second quarter and 11 of her team’s 14 in the third. Of her game-high 29 points, she scored 13 on free throws, going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe in the third quarter.

“I saw they were playing off me, and driving is my main purpose when I play,” said Sartori, who also had 10 assists and 10 rebounds to complete a triple-double. “When I see the foul coming I take it, because I know I’ve been working hard from that free-throw line to get the easy buckets.”

She said the crowd definitely got the team going.

“The energy, the fantastic atmosphere, I think we fed off that,” Sartori said. “That feeling from last year, I’ve never forgotten it, and I just can’t wait to feel it again.”

Margaret Kopcienski looks for the open girl. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Defense was the focus, and the game plan was to be aggressive as the Mustangs keyed in on Jenna Harclerode and Devin Dolan. Mount Sinai held the girls to 12 and eight points, respectively.

“We had to shut down those two girls because they really pick their team up,” McNair said.

Williams’ job was to defend against Dolan, and Mount Sinai head coach Jeff Koutsantanou thought his number 20 exceeded expectations.

“Olivia Williams was outstanding,” he said. “She took on an All-County player and she played the game of her life tonight — she out-rebounded her, she played her tough. She really did a great job. Without her strength, we might not have been as successful.”

Six Mustangs found themselves on the scoreboard, with Cergol adding the third double-double for her team on 11 points and 10 rebounds. McNair finished with eight points, Kopcienski added six and Casey Campo rounded out the scoring with four.

“We’re all really hyped up,” Williams said. “We knew we wanted to come out strong, we weren’t selfish, and we’re going to do it again. We’ve been wanting to take it game by game, but I’ve really been hoping for the chance to repeat history.”

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Alex Sober scored a career-high 31 points in Ward Melville’s quarterfinal loss. Photo by John Dielman

By Jim Ferchland

With their first league championship in 28 years, the Patriots’ magical season came to a close. It was a rematch for Ward Melville (17-5) against top dog Half Hollow Hills East (19-2) in the second round of the playoffs on Feb. 20. The Thunderbirds were responsible for ending the Patriots season in 2017. This year, it was the same outcome.

Senior and Quinnipiac University signee Savion Lewis racked up 40 points for Hills East. Meanwhile, senior Alex Sobel countered with a career-high 31 points for Ward Melville, but it wasn’t enough as they came up short 84-72 in the Class AA quarterfinal.

Ray Grabowski finished with 17 points in his final game with the Patriots. Photo by John Dielman

“I expected to win,” Sobel said. “I played well, but it just wasn’t enough. My career-high doesn’t even matter.”

The Patriots had difficulty taking care of the ball, turning it over 17 times, 12 of those coming in the first half.

“We knew that they would get a lot of points in transition,” Sobel said. “That’s what they did. If we didn’t turn the ball over as much, we would have won the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo, who brought his team to the postseason all three of his seasons, said it was tough to contain Lewis.

“Savion is the best player in the county,” he said. “He’s going to be voted on that. We knew he was going to get his points.”

Ward Melville Junior Ray Grabowski recorded 17 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Senior Brendan Martin finished his final game with 10 points, five assists and seven turnovers.

Junior guard Robert Soto had nine points, five rebounds and had six turnovers. Despite the loss, Grabowski said the team fought hard.

“I thought everyone played well,” Grabowski said. “I thought Sobel played a great game. It was just a very good team we were up against and there’s not much you can do.”

Ward Melville outscored Hills East in the fourth quarter, 25-22.

“It’s a playoff game in a great playoff atmosphere,” Piccirillo said. “We knew that it was going to be tough. It was either going to take a stop or a big shot to be made for it to swing our way and we just couldn’t get enough momentum to keep it in our direction.”

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Alex Sobel goes up the the rim. Photo by John Dielman

By Jim Ferchland

The big man on campus can stuff the stat sheet in a variety of ways.

Ray Grabowski drives to the basket. Photo by John Dielman

Ward Melville’s senior 6-foot, 8-inch Alex Sobel said he would be 100 percent ready for the playoffs following a quiet appearance in the Patriots’ win over Sachem East Feb. 9 – he wasn’t kidding.

Sobel came back in a big way Feb. 17 against Half Hollow Hills West, scoring 21 points, hauling in 10 rebounds and blocking six shots in a 66-50 win in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.

“I felt really good honestly,” Sobel said. “I feel healthy. Blocking shots is one of the best parts of my game. It definitely felt good to get back in my rhythm that I was in earlier in the season.”

Junior Ray Grabowski had the hot hand in the first half, putting up 16 of his 20 total points. Classmate Robert Soto finished with 11 points.

Grabowski said the crowd and his teammates got him going.

“I thought the defense was very good,” Grabowski said. “Me, Trevor [Cronin] and even Rob [Soto] — we all played very good on [Derek] Brower. Sobel was big in help defense. He had a lot of blocked shots. The momentum ­— if we keep playing this good, I think we can go as far as we want.”

Alex Sobel leaps for the ball at opening tipoff. Photo by John Dielman

Hills West’s dynamic senior backcourt of Derek Brower Jr. and Jeff Terry combined for 30 points. Brower Jr. led the Colts with 17 points, but Ward Melville’s head coach had a game plan to wear them out.

“If we chased him around and ran off screens and had to run all over to get open, eventually his legs would get tired and then his shot would go,” Alex Piccirillo said. “We tried to take away their first option.”

At halftime, the Patriots had a comfortable 43-21 lead, outscoring the Colts 18-8 in the second quarter. Even with the advantage, Piccirillo told his guys that the game wasn’t over.

“I told them there’s no time to step on the brake,” Piccirillo said. “[I wanted them to] just try to continue to move forward, run the floor and defend. Our defense will lead to any offensive opportunities that we want.”

Ward Melville’s Soto, who went a 4-for-4 from the foul line, said his strategy was to draw contact and keep attacking the rim.

“I felt pretty confident taking the ball to the bucket,” Soto said. “I didn’t really think anybody could stay with me, so I kept driving to the basket.”

Ward Melville senior guard Brendan Martin had four points, but had the ball in his hands most of the game. Piccirillo said the team wouldn’t be where it is now without their playmaker.

Alex Mazzone shoots above a block. Photo by John Dielman

“He’s our floor general,” Piccirillo said of Martin. “He takes care of everything for us. He gets us into our offense, he’s the first one to communicate; without him, we don’t get this far.”

In his final home game, Sobel said the result was drawn up as expected.

“In the first quarter, we were up and we never looked back,” he said. “We never really let the game get close — that’s how you want every game to go. It’s been a great four years.”

Ward Melville is set to play at Half Hollow Hills East Feb. 20 at 4:30 p.m. Hills East beat Ward Melville last year in the same round, 75-59.

“It’s the playoffs,” Piccirillo said. “Every team is good. It’s down to the final eight teams in Suffolk County. It’s going to be a battle, they have Savion Lewis, who’s the best player in the county. We know we have our hands full, but we have some pretty good players, too.”

Brendan Martin moves the ball. Photo by John Dielman

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Ward Melville senior Bre Cohn recorded a double-double on 11 points and 12 rebounds, adding five steals and two blocks to lead No. 12 Ward Melville to a 33-29 upset of No. 5 Eastport-South Manor in the first round of the Class AA playoffs Feb. 16.

Shannon Brazier had eights points nine rebounds, and Jamie Agostino and Noelle Richardson added six points each. Twelve of the team’s total points came off 3-pointers.

Ward Melville will face No. 4 Longwood on the road Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

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By Jim Ferchland

The league-title winning drought is finally over for the Ward Melville Patriots.

With a 64-51 win over Sachem East Feb. 9, the boys basketball team nabbed a share of the bragging rights for the first time since 1990.

With only five players scoring, Ward Melville was efficient enough to hold down Sachem East in its final regular season game. Brentwood played Longwood the same night and lost, 53-49, leaving the Indians, Lions and Patriots all tied at 11-3 in League I play. Ward Melville had the best overall record at 16-4.

“All we talk about is putting a dot up on the wall. At times this year, we didn’t know if it was going to happen. We came together and it all kinda fell into place.”

— Alex Piccirillo

“It’s all we’ve talked about in the offseason,” Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo said about winning the league title. “We’ve gone all spring, all summer, all fall; we’ve played 100 games. All we talk about is putting a dot up on the wall. At times this year, we didn’t know if it was going to happen. We came together and it all kinda fell into place.”

Senior Trevor Cronin, who averaged four to six points per game this year, finished Feb. 9 a game-high 18 points, 16 of them coming in the second half.

“If you’re going to leave him open, that’s what he’ll do to you,” Piccirillo said of Cronin. “He’s worked his tail off and got tremendously better. He just works hard and does whatever we ask him to do.”

For Cronin, who barely touched the ball two years ago as a sophomore on the junior varsity team, he wasn’t the only one reviving the game’s vitality.

“My teammates have been there for me all year,” Cronin said. “When they needed me to pick them up, I was there to pick them up today. It’s all about my teammates.”

In the collaborative effort, senior Brendan Martin poured in 16 points with a team-high four 3-pointers.  Junior Robert Soto contributed 15, and junior Ray Grabowski came through with a double-double on 11 points and 10 rebounds. Leading scorer Alex Sobel came back after missing three games with an ankle injury and scored four points.

Sobel said he felt a lot better being back on the court.

“It feels good,” Sobel said. “It wasn’t a very statistical game for me tonight, but it’s perfect because I have a week now to get ready for our next game. I expect to be 100 percent ready by the playoffs.”

Piccirillo said it was great to see Sobel back on the floor despite not putting up his usual numbers — he was averaging 16 points, 15 rebounds and almost five blocks a game this season prior to his injury.

“That’s what we want here for Ward Melville basketball — big team guys with everyone playing well together. That’s exactly what happened today.”

— Brendan Martin

“He blocks shots, he hinders guys from shooting layups,” the coach said. “He just changes the game.”

Sachem East seniors Ryan Panno and Ryan Sheehy combined for 30 points. Panno led with 18 points. Junior Ryan Kennedy had nine points off of three triples.

In a tale of two halves, the Patriots got scorching hot in the second, outscoring the Flaming Arrows 43-28 after being down 23-21 at halftime. Ward Melville went on a 12-2 run to conclude the third quarter. It was a big spark plug to finish strong.

“We started knocking down threes and getting stops,” Martin said. “Our stops led to early offense — big rebounds by Alex Sobel making blocked shots. We pushed the ball on the fast break and it got the home crowd fired up, too.”

Martin said Ward Melville strives to have every player contribute. He said he’s hoping having the team at full strength with help the Patriots get there this postseason.

“That’s what we want here for Ward Melville basketball — big team guys with everyone playing well together,” Martin said. “That’s exactly what happened today.”

Cronin enjoyed finishing the season with a league-clinching victory in front of family and friends.

“It feels great,” Cronin said of the win. “Hopefully, we can go far in the playoffs.”

No. 8-seeded Ward Melville hosts No. 9 Half Hollow Hills West Feb. 17 at 1 p.m.

This version has been updated to include who Ward Melville will be facing in the first round of playoffs.

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Northport's Danielle Pavinelli, on left, and Shea Cronin, on right, with Hannah Stockman after she scored her 1,000th career point. Photo by Emmet Hawkins

By Emmet Hawkins

Hannah Stockman knows how to score.

The junior knotted the game in the fourth quarter in epic fashion, recording her 1,000th career point with a move down low. After a brief stop in play to commemorate the milestone, she quickly got back in the swing of things, dropping another bucket to put the Tigers back on top against Central Islip and give them a lead they’d never relinquish. Stockman’s team-high 13 points helped the Tigers to a 41-37 win over the reigning Suffolk County champs Feb. 9. Northport finishes the season undefeated in League II (12-0).

Danielle Pavinelli shoots from the free-throw line. Photo by Emmet Hawkins

Stockman had one word to describe her accomplishment: “Incredible.” Although underclassmen stole the show on senior night, head coach Rich Castellano said his team is selfless. A share of the points proved that, with sophomore Kerry Dennin contributing nine points and junior Shea Cronin and sophomore Danielle Pavinelli adding eight points apiece.

“It is a team-first mentality, and these girls buy into the system,” Castellano said. “It’s about being unselfish and moving the ball around. I just tell them what to do, they’re the ones who execute it.”

In a back-and-forth defensive battle against her team’s rival,  guard Pavinelli showed the poise and leadership of a veteran player. She had a handful of assists and took charge in the fourth quarter to help secure the win. She prides herself on playing both sides of the ball and making her team better.

“I like to capitalize when I drive to the basket,” she said. “I’ve been playing with these girls a long time, so I’m comfortable giving up the ball.”

Central Islip guards Kaira Rodriguez and Naabea Assibey-Bonsu scored 16 and 11 points, respectively. Their efforts were not enough to overcome the scrappy hustle of guard Cronin or the clutch playmaking of Dennin, who grabbed 11 rebounds.

Unsure of who will be drawn in the first round of playoffs Feb. 16, Castellano said it doesn’t matter.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. :Whoever we get, we get. The game plan remains the same.”

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Someday other teams may be able to say they did it, but this Mount Sinai girls basketball team can say they did it first.

The Mustangs completed a perfect 20-0 regular season for the first time in school history with a 68-23 win against Hampton Bays at home on senior night Feb. 8.

Junior guard Gabby Sartori scored 21 points to lead Mount Sinai. She netted 17 points in the first half alone, going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the first quarter and banking 11 of 12 attempts from the charity stripe by halftime.

“I don’t think we quite know yet what we just did,” Sartori said, laughing. “I didn’t know how to react at first. It’s just so surreal right now. It’s been such a long season and to see it culminate in this is amazing.”

“I don’t think we quite know yet what we just did.”

— Gabby Sartori

Senior Kayla Repperger put Mount Sinai on the board first on the way to an early 14-4 lead after eight minutes. By halftime, the Mustangs extended the advantage to 37-9 after a monster second stanza, outscoring Hampton Bays 23-5.

After the last few games the Mustangs wanted to clean up their act. Eleven players scored in the total team win. Kylie Budke finished with nine points, Casey Campo added eight and Brooke Cergol contributed seven.

“I’m very happy for the girls, and very proud of them, because they worked so hard,” head coach Jeff Koutsantanou said. “They wanted to set the right tone heading into playoffs, so they came out with a new intensity tonight — they really wanted to prove to everybody they’re back. I always believed in this team and knew if they worked hard anything can happen. They earned this.”

Mount Sinai was a step ahead of Hampton Bays all game, getting in the passing lane and stealing the ball, converting transition opportunities into points.

“They have great instincts,” Koutsantanou said. “My girls have the ability to see things — that’s what we do best sometimes. Everyone was scoring, everyone was passing the ball, they played the way we’re capable of, and when they play like that the sky’s the limit.”

“They wanted to set the right tone heading into playoffs, so they came out with a new intensity tonight — they really wanted to prove to everybody they’re back.”

— Jeff Koutsantanou

Although going undefeated wasn’t the primary goal for this season — the Mustangs are focused on defending their Suffolk County title — as the unblemished season started to take form there was some fear of history repeating itself. Mount Sinai fell in a close last game of the 2016-17 season to Shoreham-Wading River.

“It was in the back of my mind — I was thinking about it all day,” Sartori said of the potential of losing in the last game. “But we played like a team today, got the job done early and that’s what really got us on top. It’s a sigh of relief.”

Senior captain Olivia Williams said this was just another step in the direction of her team’s ultimate goal.

“This historic run is something I’m going to remember forever,” she said. “We’re definitely going to have to put in extra work, but I feel confident that if we come together we can do it.”

The Mustangs will compete Feb. 17 in the Class A quarterfinals at home. The time is to be determined.

Sartori said even though every game presents a new challenge, she thinks her team has the talent to beat anyone.

“We’re not perfect right now,” she said. “Our record may show it, but we’re definitely going to face tougher competitors. I think we can’t dwell on this for long. We’ll celebrate for the time being, but we have to get back to work tomorrow. That’s what’s great about our team — we can shift gears quick. Playoffs are definitely going to be a different atmosphere and we need to be ready for it.”

This version was updated Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. with additional information.

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Mustangs are one win away from historic perfect season

Gabby Sartori drives the lane. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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.

Olivia Williams muscles her way to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“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.”

Casey Campo carries the ball into Miller Place’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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.

Brooke Cergol maintains possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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.”

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Robert Soto leaps up to the basket between two defenders. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Junior Ray Grabowski was attacking the basket at will, leading the charge for Ward Melville with 24 points.

Ray Grabowski reaches for the rim. Photo by Jim Ferchland

His counterparts Brendan Martin and Robert Soto each contributed 13 points in a comfortable 67-46 road win over Sachem North Feb. 6. The Patriots advance to 10-3 in League I while Sachem North falls to the very bottom of League I at 1-12. Ward Melville and Longwood sit in the No. 2 spot, one win behind Brentwood (11-2) in first place.

“League I is an absolute jungle,” Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo said. “Any time you can go on the road and win, it’s amazing. We work hard. We planned for this. That’s what we do.”

Grabowski said he felt pretty good with his offensive game. He made three 3-pointers and six field goals. He also made seven trips to the foul line.

“I was hitting shots when I was open,” Grabowski said. “I realized right away that I was bigger than every single one of those kids and took them to the hoop every single time.”

At the end of the first half, Ward Melville was up 24-18. The Patriots poured it in from outside the perimeter in the second half, knocking down seven 3-pointers. They outscored the Flaming arrows 43-28 in the final 16 minutes.

“We were able to push the ball more and gets the shots that we wanted,” Piccirillo said, noting his team eventually found the pace of play it’s accustomed to. “We did a much better job in the second half.”

Brendan Martin calls a play as he moves the ball into Sachem North territory. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Without 6-foot, 9-inch leading scorer Alex Sobel, out with an ankle injury since Jan. 26, the team hasn’t seemed to miss a beat, going 2-1 in the last three games.

“We just play the same way,” Piccirillo said. “It’s a team game. We continue to do what we do. We’re going to rebound, defend, box out and we’re going be physical.”

Ward Melville’s point guard Martin only scored two points in the first half, but found his sweet spot in the second, also knocking down three triples.

“My teammates and my coaches told me to keep on shooting it,” Martin said. “I came out and made three in a row, so it felt pretty good.”

Even with the team in good standing without Sobel, Martin said he hopes to be competing alongside his comrade again this season.

“Sobel is a Top 5 player in the county,” he said. “We miss him a lot, and hopefully we’ll have him back before the playoffs.”

Sachem North junior Bradley Anacreon lead the Flaming arrows with 15 points. He was the only player in double figures.

Ward Melville is scheduled to play at home against Sachem East Feb. 9 at 6:15 p.m.

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