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Bill Landon

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Wildcats' 44-33 win earns them share of League VI title

 

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River was hungry for revenge, and junior Erin Triandafils used it to feed a six-point scoring streak off the bench in the fourth quarter, which led to a 44-33 Wildcats win over previously undefeated Mount Sinai.

“Mount Sinai is a good rival in every sport, and we finally beat them,” Triandafils said. “It was definitely very exciting. We were hoping to play great defense, get some baskets and just play our game.”

Licking their wounds from their only League VI loss of the season, the Wildcats wanted to avenge the Jan. 17 defeat in front of their home crowd Feb. 11.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adam Lievre said he suspected the last game of the regular season would be a key matchup between both teams, and have it set the tone for the postseason.

“Going into the year, we both would’ve figured that there was a good chance this was how it was going to go down,” Lievre said. “We knew who they lost due to graduation, but we brought everybody back, so we expected to be fighting for the top spot.”

Mount Sinai was protecting a 17-0 season and 13-0 league record, but the Mustangs couldn’t overcome its rival as the lead began to slip away in the second half.

Shoreham-Wading River’s defense had held Mount Sinai senior Victoria Johnson scoreless until she found the rim three times in the third quarter. Classmate Veronica Venezia scored from the paint, sophomore Holly McNair banked two points and so did sophomore Gabriella Sartori, as the Mustangs edged ahead 27-22 with just over four minutes left.

Shoreham-Wading River tied the game at 29-29, and senior Lindsey McKenna hit a buzzer-beater that gave her team the edge heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Senior Maria Smith said her team had been practicing for weeks with the matchup against Mount Sinai in mind.

“We just wanted revenge, and we finally got it,” Smith said. “I knew that we had momentum and we went into the huddle [and said] we have to keep this [lead]. We can’t lose it.”

That’s when Triandafils scored three straight times.

“Erin [Triandafils], she’s been groomed to play behind Maria [Smith], because they’re very similar in what they’re capable of doing,” Lievre said. “We took a chance and gave her a couple of minutes, and it worked out really well.”

Junior Mikayla Dwyer led Shoreham-Wading River with 10 points, Smith scored eight and seniors Mackenzie Zajac and Sophie Triandafils, Erin’s older sister, each added seven points.

Venezia was atop the scoreboard for Mount Sinai with eight points, Johnson was right behind with seven and McNair, Sartori and sophomore Brooke Cergol rounded out the scoring with six points each..

With the loss, Mount Sinai shares the league title with Shoreham-Wading River.

“At certain times of the season you’re going to have adversity, and this is something we’ll be dealing with when it comes to the playoffs,” Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said. “I thought this was a good game for us. I looked at this game as one with a playoff atmosphere. Adversity makes us better.”

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Mustangs will travel to Shoreham-Wading River Feb. 9 for 6 p.m. game

By Bill Landon

On the first day of practice before the start of the season, Mount Sinai senior Cristina Gulli said her team set goals to make it to the playoffs and go undefeated on the way there. And the girls’ basketball team is making that happen.

“We’ve worked very hard every day, so it’s amazing that we’re undefeated so far,” Gulli said. “And that hard work in practice has paid off.”

“We were definitely hoping for this level of success at the beginning of the season, but we knew it wasn’t going to come without a lot of hard work.”

—Victoria Johnson

Practice makes perfect, and the Mustangs remained perfect when the team made short work of visiting Southampton Feb. 6, defeating the Mariners 73-25. The win keeps the team at the top of the League VI leaderboard at 13-0 and gives Mount Sinai at least a share of the league title.

After the pregame ceremonies that acknowledged the accomplishments of the eight seniors on the squad, the Mustangs got to work, and after eight minutes of play, the final outcome was clear.

Mount Sinai took a 36-14 advantage into the halftime break.

Senior Victoria Johnson was at the core of the Mustangs’ offense. She led her team in scoring with 25 points and had six steals. Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo saw to it that every player got time on the court, and the Mustangs surged ahead 69-21 with the help of those off the bench.

“We were definitely hoping for this level of success at the beginning of the season, but we knew it wasn’t going to come without a lot of hard work,” Johnson said. “We’ve put the time in, a lot of time we went over our goals for the season and we worked on something different in every practice.”

Senior Veronica Venezia scored 14 points as she battled in the paint most of the game, something she’s done all season long. She also finished with 16 rebounds and six assists.

“It definitely feels great staying undefeated,” she said. “Me and Vic have been playing together since eighth grade — we gained confidence in every game.”

“We all bring positive influences, and it’s just great to share this wonderful occasion together.”

—Nicole Hurowitz

Senior guard Nicole Hurowitz said she’s glad to be a part of a special group of players— something she said she’ll remember for years to come.

“We help each other out and it’s pretty amazing being here with all these girls,” she said. “We all bring positive influences, and it’s just great to share this wonderful occasion together.”

Mount Sinai’s last win topped its program-best 15 wins in 2010, where the Mustangs ended with a 15-3 record and won the league title. The team is 17-0 overall with one game remaining in the regular season.

There is nothing regular about the final game before postseason play though, as the Mustangs will face their greatest threat to their flawless record: Shoreham Wading River.

During the last matchup on Jan. 17, Mount Sinai was able to hold on to a six-point lead — its narrowest margin of victory all year — to win 61-55.

Pappalardo understands the magnitude of the final game of regular season — on the road against the toughest challenger this year Feb. 9 at 6 p.m.

“We’re focused on Shoreham — they’re a great team, they have an awesome coach, they have great athletes ,” he said. “The sky’s the limit and I’m just happy for the girls. It took a long time and we’re finally here.”

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Lauren Hansen drives around a Commack defender. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Patriots are in it to win it.

Taylor Tripptree leaps up to the rim for the score. Photo by Bill Landon

Looking for redemption Feb. 3, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team outscored Commack at home, 62-47, to remain in contention for a share of the League I title.

The first time the two top-seeded teams faced off, on Jan. 10, Ward Melville led Commack heading into the fourth quarter, but lost the game by four points, 59-55. Senior Taylor Tripptree said she knew her Patriots needed to end the game strong in order to pull away with the win.

“In our last game against them our defense fell short in the fourth quarter,” she said. “So this time around we made sure to stay on them and not give up, because the fourth quarter is Commack’s game.”

And defense was the name of the game.

Four minutes in, the game was tied just 2-2 before Tripptree tripled to take a 5-2 advantage. After sophomore Lauren Hansen hit a three-pointer of her own and senior Kiera Ramaliu also posted a trifecta, Tripptree hit a buzzer-beating field goal to put her team ahead 13-8 at the end of eight minutes.

Kiera Ramaliu at the free-throw line. Photo by Bill Landon

The Patriots’ defense flexed its muscles in the second and third quarter, holding Commack to 6 and 7 points, respectively, while outscoring the Cougars 26-13 over the span.

“They got some shots, but we got the rebounds,” Hansen said.

Leading 39-21 heading into the final quarter, Ward Melville put on the full-court press to not give Commack the quarter that previously led to their demise.

Although Commack held the advantage in the final stanza, Ward Melville also put up big numbers, with the away team outscoring the Patriots 26-23 in the final eight minutes. Sophomore Bre Cohn hit a pair of back-to-back three-pointers, Hansen hit her second trey of the game and added a field goal and free-throw point, Ramaliu swished a field goal and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, and Tripptree banked two from the charity stripe to put the game out of reach.

Hansen led Ward Melville with 17 points, Tripptree had 14 and Ramaliu added 11.

“We were winning in the fourth quarter in that first game, but we didn’t play great defense,” Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said. “Today, I heard them say, ‘this is the quarter. This is their quarter. This was the quarter where they beat us last time,’ and they all knew it. I didn’t have to emphasize it, so they stepped up their defense.”

Hannah Lorenzen moves through traffic. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Hannah Lorenzen said her team worked harder every day in practice for the defeat over Commack.

“It feels good that all of our hard work paid off,” she said. “It was our defense and our rebounding — in practice we focused on boxing out and not allowing them to have second and third shots.”

With the win, the Ward Melville and Commack are 11-1 with two games left in the regular season.

“You like to challenge yourself against the best — they’re ranked No. 1 in Suffolk County,” Haller said of Commack. “The kids just stepped up and did what they had to do. They played great defense and I think that was the difference in the game.”

Alex Merhige blocks Rocky Point’s Jack Costa’s shot. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields seniors Alex Merhige and Shane Wagner led the way for the top-seeded Tornadoes who blew past host Rocky Point, 64-30, Jan. 31.

League V’s Rocky Point, at 1-9, was no match for Harborfields, which notched its 10th League V victory of the year, to improve to 10-1 with just three games left in the regular season.

Shane Wagner moves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields senior Kyle Stolba sparked the offense early with three straight 3-pointers, and Wagner added a trifecta of his own to lead the Tornadoes to a 29-11 lead after the first quarter.

Always a scoring threat, Rocky Point junior Alec Rinaldi was shut down by the  Tornadoes defense, and wouldn’t find the rim until the second period, where he banked a field goal and a 3-pointer to bring the score to 29-16. Despite holding off Rinaldi, the Tornadoes were limited in scoring.

Wagner tacked on a pair of field goals and another 3-pointer, and Stolba, Merhige and sophomore Pat Williamson hit for two, for a 35-20 lead into the locker room.

“Our goal was to increase the tempo of the game — speed it up as we pressed them the whole game —  and we got a lot of turnovers because of that,” Wagner said. “I thought we played well on defense and we held Rinaldi.”

Merhige said as long as his team plays solid defense and protects the ball, the scoring will come.

“I thought we moved the ball really well, we got some open threes,” Merhige said. “We were finding people on the fast break, we played good [defense and did well] rebounding.”

Rinaldi opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers, and was fouled driving the lane, netting a pair of free throws for all of the eight points the Eagles could muster in the third quarter. He finished the game with 13 points, and junior David Apperson added eight.

Ahead 56-28 going into the final eight minutes of play, Harborfields’ head coach John Tampori let his bench players take it from there. Sophomores Michael McDermott and Ryan Rittberger each banked two points, Williamson struck again and junior Luca Cordova hit a field goal for Harborfields’ final points in the contest.

Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi shoots while Harborfields’ Joe Kelly reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

Wagner led Harborfields with 14 points, Merhige finished with 12 and Stolba tacked on 11.

Tampori said he employed a different defensive strategy that he hadn’t used earlier in the season.

‘We threw a couple of new things out today — like we usually don’t press full court, but we did today because we thought we had an advantage there,” he said. “One of our goals is to be as best as we can be on defense. There’s always room for improvement.”

With the win, Harborfields is 15-2 overall, but is tied with Amityville at 10-1 in the league standings. The Tornadoes will host Miller Place today, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m.

“We shot the ball well tonight, so we got everyone in tonight, which is a great feeling,” Tampori said. “With three games left before the playoffs, we’ll focus on making good decisions with the basketball and playing good sound positional defense.”

Last season, Merhige was sidelined with an injury, and Harborfields won two playoff games to become the Suffolk County champion, before falling to Elmont in the Long Island title game, 41-32, after edging the team 61-60 earlier that season.

With a healthy Merhige back in the lineup, prospects for the postseason may be even brighter this time around.

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Shot put throwers Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse finished second and third, respectively, at a meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 29, both tossing over 50 feet. Photos by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue has never had a thrower capable of hurling a shot put over 50 feet, that is, until this winter boys’ track and field season. In fact, there are two Warriors —Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse — who have been breaking the school record meet after meet this year, and Jan. 29 was no different.

Reno Molina finished third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.87 seconds. Photo by Bill Landon

The seniors placed second and third at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Grosse had set a new school record with his toss of 50 feet, 11 inches, but it was short lived. Suarez sent his first shot put 50 feet, 8 inches, but came up moments after Grosse, and set a new record with his second toss of 50 feet, 11.25 inches.

After the last meet before the Suffolk County finals, the two remain ranked in the Top 15 throwers in the state.. Both will have their work cut out for them come then, because Kings Park’s Dan Byrne ruled the day with a toss that measured 56 feet, 9 inches.

“If I’m not throwing as well as I know I can, I’ll go off to the side and practice my form,” Suarez said. “I listen to what my coach is saying because I can’t look at myself, but he watches very closely.”

Comsewogue head coach Brad Posnanski said he knew the duo had the potential to throw as well as they have been, and said all season long the two have only pushed each other to work harder.

“Last year Billy Grosse threw 48 feet, 10 inches, and Andy Suarez had thrown 47 feet,” he recalled. “Earlier this season they both got better and better. Andy was the first to throw 50 feet, and then Billy threw 50 feet and we’ve never had that. They’re both great friends so to have two throwers over 50 feet is something pretty special.”

Travis Colon finished the 55-meter hurdles in 8.55 seconds for sixth place. Photo by Bill Landon

The meet, titled “Last Chance,” was an opportunity for the athletes to better their performance to gain a higher seed before the county championship, and other Warriors also made their presence known.

Coming back from a minor injury, sophomore Reno Molina clocked in a 6.87 seconds in the 55-meter dash to finish third behind Miller Place senior Bick Niemcyzk (6.85) and East Islip senior Andrew Moschetto (6.83). Sophomore Travis Colon took advantage of that opportunity, placing sixth overall in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.55. He’s already an All-League competitor after placing sixth in the League IV championship last year.

“Reno Molina is a pleasant surprise,” Posnanski said. “Where he is in the county speed-wise, and he has the best chance to make a statement in the counties next week. My hurdler [Travis Colon] has made tremendous improvements with his technique with hard work and just sticking with it.”

Posnanski said he has been impressed with his younger runners on the team, who’ve bettered their times all season long.

“I have such a young team, so I didn’t have any expectations,” the coach said.

But Matt Krieg, who placed ninth in the 1,000 in 2:56.55, caught his eye.

Matt Krieg finished ninth in the 1,000-meter in 2:56.55. Photo by Bill Landon

“He’s tough when he runs and he’s a competitor,” the head coach said of his Warrior. “He won the freshman championship meet this year.”

Sophomore Brandon Bailey clocked in at 1:39.96 in the 600, for 22nd overall.

The county championships are will be Feb. 4 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood at 10 a.m.

Grosse said he and his teammate will be ready.

“It’s all about repetition — we’ll get as many throws in as possible, lift some weights and then rest a day or two before the counties,” he said. “Andy was running and only began throwing this season, and having him around has been more important than anything, because without him, I wouldn’t be pushing myself the way I am.”

The big guns brought it home for Mount Sinai.

John Parente won by a major decision, 12-0, at 195 pounds, and Bobby Christ edged his opponent, 4-3, in the finals to propel Mount Sinai to a second-place finish behind Half Hollow Hills West at the Bob Armstrong wrestling tournament at Port Jefferson Jan. 21.

“I told them if you want to wrestle in the county tournament this is the last time to show us what you’ve got,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, who is also Bob’s son, said he told his team. “A freshman that just came up, Adam Shata, had a big win at 160 pound with a solid pin, so we have some freshmen that are really stepping up.”

Jahvan Brown at 138 pounds and Neil Esposito at 145 pounds, made some noise and, according to Armstrong, are wrestling well for this time of year despite their inexperience. Although neither made it to the finals, four other Mustangs did. The team had nine place in total.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season.”

—Robert Alberti

Northport finished with 168 points, just behind Mount Sinai, which finished with 174.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Tigers brought it home in the finals, as all three representing the blue-and-gold took home tournament titles.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season,” Northport head coach Robert Alberti said. Seven of his other wrestlers placed.

Junior Jake Borland, a 113-pounder, is currently ranked sixth in the county in his weight class. He topped Mount Sinai’s Matt Campo, 9-2, who is a returning county champion.

“We expect him to win every time he goes out,” Alberti said of his grappler. “It was a good test for him leading up to counties.”

Borland placed third in the Armstrong tournament last year, and brought his A-game this time around. He won his first match with a pin, and the next two by technical falls.

“I feel confident scoring points,” he said, adding that he knew he had to have a strong mentality and wrestle smart to win in the finals, using his fireman’s carry, duck under and high crotch to help him gain points.

Borland said he can see improvements in his game from last season.

“I got better at getting out on bottom, because last year I struggled with that,” he said. “Now I get right up. Right after [Campo] took me down I got out and took a shot, and I got him right to his back and scored. I got two for a takedown and three for back points and from there I started scoring.”

“[Kenny Cracchiola] wants to make an impact and he’s really done it. He’s beaten some really good guys and overall, matchup-to-matchup, he continues to be a dominant wrestler.”

—Garry Schnettler

At 132 pounds, junior Chris Esposito clinched the championship title with a 9-2 decision over Ward Melville’s Rafael Lievano, who is currently ranked third in the county. Esposito beat his opponent last weekend as well.

“That was a good statement for Chris to come out and beat the kid for a second time in a row,” Alberti said. “He’s showing the county that he’s here to wrestle, and he’s not going to be happy without winning.”

Esposito was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler after recording the most pins in the least amount of time. He pinned his first opponent in 20 seconds, his second in 59 and his third in 1:30, before sizing up his final foe. He said he came into the match knowing what he needed to do, and he wanted to prove that his win last weekend wasn’t a fluke.

“I knew the first time I wrestled him I didn’t wrestle as good as I could,” Esposito said. “Mentally, every time I go out to a match I’m calm, no matter what. I always want to score first, but even if I get scored on I never lose it; I remain calm and keep working.”

Billy Shaw was the final champion for Northport, who won 6-5 over Mount Sinai’s Joe Goodrich at 152 pounds. It was the grappler’s first tournament win.

“He had a tough match at North Babylon on Friday wrestling the No. 1-ranked kid in the county — he got beat up a little bit,” Alberti said. ”So for him to come out the next day and win his first tournament as a varsity wrestler is good for him. For him to turn around is a testament to his hard work.”

Ward Melville finished fourth with 136 points. In a unique and rare scenario, Kenny Cracchiola beat teammate Richie Munoz by a technical fall, 16-0.

Cracchiola went 4-0 on the day, winning three of his matches by technical falls and the other by a pin.

“I shoot single legs to take them down and on top I do a variety of different tilts for back points, which rack up points for me pretty quickly,” he said.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me.”

—Vin Miceli

Unfortunately, he had to use these moves against his teammate, but he said he liked seeing two Patriots make it to the finals in the same weight class.

Port Jefferson followed in fifth place with 126.5 points, and sent seven to the podium.

Vin Miceli edged Centereach’s Luis Fernandez, 6-4, and was named the Champion of Champions. He had two pins as he battled his way through the bracket.

He said he focused to be able to bring home the gold.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me,” he said. “I put in a lot of work in the off-season, so it really shows how much you can get out of the work you put in.”

Joey Evangelista edged Half Hollow Hills West’s Joe Costa, 3-0, for his title at 145 pounds. He pinned his first three opponents, but said his finals match was tough.

“My coaches have preached mentality is everything, so I’ve been working on strengthening that,” he said.

According to head coach Mike Maletta, the junior has been a finalist in every tournament this season, and won two.

“As long as they both stay aggressive and take smart shots and pushing the pace, they’re going to be real successful in three weeks when they’re up in Albany,” Maletta said of the possibility of the Royals competing for state titles. “The excitement is that some guys are starting to exceed expectations.”

Centereach finished in seventh with 93 points. Jett Tancsik outscored his Half Hollow Hills West opponent 9-4, for the 160-pound championship title.

Centereach head coach Ray Bruno said he was pleased with his team’s performance. He said the tournament is a good tune up to get ready for the Cougars’ matches in the League III tournament.

“This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive.”

— Matt Armstrong

Rounding out the scorers in the top 9 were No. 8 Harborfields with 88 points, and Comsewogue with 39.

According to Matt Armstrong, his father coached at Port Jefferson from 1969 to 1990, where they were league champions for eight years and won the New York State championship cup in 1986.

“They had some very successful teams here at the time,” he said. “It’s great to come back here as I see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. Many of the kid’s parents wrestled for my dad. This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive, it’s Mike Maletta who keeps it going, and he does a great job.”

Borland said his Northport team has exceeded his expectations, and he’s looking forward to rounding out the season with the final dual meet of the season Jan. 27 at Smithtown West at 6:45 p.m., before heading to Syosset for the Battle of the Belt tournament the next day.

“Coming into this year I thought we were going to be absolutely terrible,” he said. “I thought we were going to have three good kids and we were going to be that team that gets beat up on, but I realized we have a few freshmen that are going to make very good wrestlers. We’re a young team, but we’re doing damage.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Mount Sinai's girls' basketball team remains undefeated with a win over now previously undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Victoria Johnson vindicated her team.

Mount Sinia’s Victoria Johnson scores. Photo by Bill Landon

For those that thought the Mount Sinai girls’ basketball team may not be able to top visiting Shoreham-Wading River heading into overtime, the senior showed why Mount Sinai is becoming a powerhouse across all sports, helping win the battle of undefeated teams. The Mustangs outscored the Wildcats 61-55 Jan. 17, with Johnson scoring a game-high 21 points.

Mount Sinai’s defense also stole the show. The Mustangs’ press overwhelmed the Wildcats, helping the team break out to an early 11-2 lead, and stretching the advantage to 25-16 by the halftime break. The goal, according to Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo, was to defend Shoreham-Wading River senior Mackenzie Zajac.

“Our game plan was to try to hold Zajac to 10 points or less, which is a tall order,” he said. “Brooke [Cergol] played lights out tonight — she was amazing on defense from start to finish. She held Zajac to just seven points.”

On the opposite end of the court, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adam Lievre wasn’t pleased with how his team defended its end of the court.

“Our press in the first half didn’t work out very well, and we haven’t played a competitive game in a few weeks,” he said. “The level of competition took a major step up tonight, and we didn’t come out at tipoff ready to handle it, which put us in a hole.”

Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori defends against Shoreham-Wading River’s Mackenzie Zajac. Photo by Bill Landon

The Wildcats’ second half would be unlike the first though, learning from their mistakes. Senior Sam Higgins shifted the momentum of the game with a 3-pointer, followed several unanswered points, which was capped by a Maria Smith basket that made it a one-point game.

After a Shoreham-Wading River field goal, Johnson answered with a long distance three, but the Wildcats countered with a pair of Mikayla Dwyer free throws and a Higgins field goal to make it a two-point game.

Despite being held to seven points, Zajac made her points count, and on a field goal gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 41-10. But the Wildcats’ lead was short lived. Mount Sinai sophomore Holly McNair came off the bench and found the rim to retake the lead with 4:32 left in the final quarter.

“Gabby [Sartori] stepped up big to hit an amazing shot when we needed it most to put us up by two,” Pappalardo said. “[Veronica] Venezia played awesome in the post, scoring and rebounding along with Holly McNair who really helped us off the bench.”

Swapping points on both sides of the court with time running out, Dwyer stole the ball and broke to the basket to tie the game at 51-51 with 21 seconds left in regulation.

“They came out very strong in that second half — they were aggressive, they were trapping and we didn’t expect them to do that,” Venezia said of Shoreham-Wading River. “Our defense was strong today and we’re very excited. This is our best year so far.”

Mount Sinai’s Veronica Venezia battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Each team traded points to retie the game at 55-55 with 1:48 left in the first four-minute overtime session, but the Mustangs inched away. Sartori’s shot found its mark, followed by a Johnson field goal and pair of free throws by junior Olivia Williams to put the game away.

“Olivia was all over the place,” Pappalardo said, “rebounding and diving for loose balls showing outstanding hustle.”

Venezia followed Johnson in scoring with 14 points and Sartori tacked on 12. Dwyer lead the Wildcats with 12 points and Higgins banked 11.

With the win, the Mustangs are 11-0 overall and atop the League VI leaderboard at 7-0.

Sartori said both the undefeated matchup and her team’s success so far this season puts the Mustangs in uncharted territory.

“It was our first overtime — we had to talk to each other, and we were ready for this one,” she said. “We knew how much we wanted this, and getting this win, we’re very optimistic for the rest of the season.”

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Kevin Cryer-Hassett is fouled heading to the basket. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Northport boys’ basketball team stayed within striking distance, but couldn’t disrupt Lindenhurst’s rhythm in the last two minutes, falling 60-52 Jan. 15.

“I was proud of their effort,” Northport head coach Andrew D’Eloia said of his team. “We didn’t lose because of a lack of effort, we got beat by a team who hit some shots down the stretch.”

Vin DeCeglia scores on a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

After a slow start, Northport found its first lead of the game when junior Justin Carrano muscled his way to the rim to bring the score to 12-11 with two minutes left in the opening quarter.

Northport’s Kevin Cryer-Hassett and teammate Vin DeCeglia both scored from three-point land. The senior guards helped close out the quarter with the Tigers out front, 18-13.

With 4:49 left in the half, the Bull Dogs drained a pair of their own from long distance, as Shane Webster and Tyler Manger trimmed the deficit to 24-21.

Ryan Magnuson let his three-pointer fly to put Northport ahead 27-21. Sophomore Ian Melamerson’s shot found the rim next, and Cryer-Hassett tacked on two free-throw points for a 31-28 lead at halftime.

Lindenhurst made it a new game a minute into the second half when Manger hit his second three-pointer of the game to make it even at 31-31. Both teams traded points and Northport was able to hold the lead for most of the quarter.

Scoring twice from the paint, DeCeglia was fouled on his second basket, sending him to the charity stripe for a bonus point. He swished his opportunity for the three-point play, Carrano added three more and senior Connor Widmaier found the rim for a three-point lead.

Justin Carrano reaches for the rim through traffic. Photo by Bill Landon

Lindenhurst answered with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to make it a new game, tied 41-41, heading into the final eight minutes of play.

With 2:49 left in regulation, DeCeglia drove the lane and scored to retake the lead for his team, 49-48, but Lindenhurst answered right back scoring two and went to the free-throw line, converting a three-point play.

“Their best player, [Arthur] Brzozkas, scored 27 points and he made plays down the stretch and that was [the game changer],” D’Eloia said. “The ball went in for them and it didn’t for us, and that was really the difference.”

Northport ran into some foul trouble, and Lindenhurst spent quality time at the charity stripe, banking five of six free throws to edge ahead 56-49 with 29 seconds left in regulation.

Cryer-Hassett drained a three-pointer with 16 seconds left to make it a four-point game, but the Tigers didn’t come any closer.

DeCeglia led his team in scoring with 13 points, Cryer-Hassett followed with 11, and Carrano and Magnuson added 10 points each. With the loss Northport drops to 3-3 in League II and 5-6 overall, and will travel to face Walt Whitman on Jan. 17 at 4:30 p.m.

“Our guys left their heart out on the court,” D’Eloia said, “and that’s all you can ask for.”

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Rocky Point’s Madison Gennaro shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

For Rocky Point, one of the youngest players on the girls’ basketball team came through big.

Miller Place’s Kelli Ryan drives the lane while Rocky Point’s Nicole Taveras reaches to try to force a turnover. Photo by Bill Landon

In the final minute of the third quarter, the team trailed visiting Miller Place by 15 points, but the Eagles found a way to tie the game at 62-62 with 8.3 seconds on the clock, and Madison Gennaro swished a shot from the top of key to win the game Jan. 3, 64-62.

“I didn’t know if it was going in — I was just going north and south trying to get the foul,” Gennaro said. “We just had to get fouled and get fast-break layups.”

It was Rocky Point’s first League V victory in nearly a decade, according to head coach Scott Lindsay.

The first 22 minutes started out in Miller Place’s favor. Junior Ally Tarantino, on a give-and-go, fed the ball to eighth-grader Alexa Corbin for a layup that gave the Panthers a commanding 53-38 lead with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

But the Eagles refused to go quietly, and their defense presses and aggressiveness forced several turnovers that were converted into points.

Miller Place head coach Joe Read said his team has struggled to put together four solid quarters of play, and it happened again.

“We’ve done this before: We have a really good half, we look up, we get the ball up, we get the ball out, we get down and we sometimes stop doing that and we talked about that at halftime,” Read said. “[We needed] one or two footsteps more getting to the ball, and that was the difference.”

Rocky Point’s Megan O’Neil jumps up the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

Then Rocky Point went on an 8-0 run to draw within four points with 47 seconds left in regulation. Three seconds later, Gennaro went to the foul line and sank both to make it a 2-point game.

Miller Place junior Victoria Iavarone went to the stripe shooting two and split the difference to edge further ahead, 62-59.

With 36 seconds on the clock Rocky Point’s Clare Levy went to the charity stripe and nailed both to make it a 1-point game, prompting a Miller Place timeout.

After a Panther technical foul, Gennaro went back to the free-throw line, and missed the first, but banked the second to tie the game at 62-62.

“That’s the way we play — we’re constantly coming back from behind — this team is just tremendous,” Lindsay said. “That’s the way they’ve played since ninth grade. This team never, never gives up, so it’s a testament to them.”

With eight seconds left in regulation, Rocky Point inbounded the ball one final time, and after three quick passes, Gennaro let the winning shot fly.

The Eagles erupted in celebration, but the officials put 0:00.3 seconds back on the clock for the Panthers’ final possession, but it was barely enough time to inbound the ball.

Miller Place’s Ally Tarantino scores from under the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“We just don’t give up — we keep pushing and we knew we’d come back,” said Rocky Point’s Christina Ferrara. “We just kept chipping away at the lead and we found a way to come back.”

Gennaro led her team in scoring with 20 points and Levy added 16. Tarantino led all players with 27, and Kelli Ryan tacked on 13.

“We had way too many turnovers,” Ryan said of her team’s second-half performance. “We’ve got to communicate more and pass the ball better — not trying to force it.”

With the win, the Eagles are 4-4 overall and 1-2 in League V, while Miller Place drops to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in League V.

According to Lindsay, it was the Eagles’ first league win in nine years.

“What we need to do is to play with a bit more passion early so we’re not in this position where we spend so much energy coming back in these games,” he said. “But this win is a statement for us. It’s a new year and a new beginning, and we’ve written a new page.”

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