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Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River's Jason Louser swims his way to a first-place Suffolk County finish in the 200-yard individual medley. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Because there’s no pool at Shoreham-Wading River, junior Jason Louser commutes over an hour to his practice pool in Eisenhower Park. That level of commitment paid off Saturday where the swimmer took a photo first in the 200-yard individual medley at the county championship, stopping the clock at 1 minute, 50.63 seconds, just two seconds ahead of second-place finisher David He of Ward Melville.

Northport’s Ethan Greenfield upset Ward Melville when he finished first in the 50-yard freestyle. Photo by Bill Landon

“It’s definitely good to see that all of the hard work has paid off — it gives me more confidence and a little less stress,” said Louser, who shaved nearly six seconds off his personal best at Hauppauge High School’s pool Feb. 15. “The pool in Eisenhower Park is an hour drive from where I live, so it’s a big commitment. Trying to get to practice and all of the meets at the same time it can be a little challenging.”

An upset came in the 50 freestyle, which pitted Northport’s Ethan Greenfield against Ward Melville’s Nick Bogush, who holds the fastest time in the county at this distance. Greenfield tripped the timer at 21.89, thirteen one hundredths of a second ahead of Bogush.

Northport head coach Drew Modrov said he wasn’t expecting that kind of performance from Greenfield.

“I was surprised,” he said. “Ethan came in as the underdog, and I think he was a little surprised [knowing the time differences between them]. He just showed up on race day and won it.”

Bogush said he felt fatigued going in, but credited his challenger’s changes.

“He was very swift,” Bogush said of Greenfield. “But I’m going to come back to states and do even better. I’ll give it my best. so we’ll see what happens.”

Ward Melville’s David He helped the Patriots take gold in the 400 and 200 relays. Photo by Bill Landon

Bogush came back with a vengeance though, earning a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay with teammates Kevin Xu, David He and Cameron Kubik. The team finished 31 hundreths of a second ahead of Northport’s relay, led by Greenfield. The Patriots finished the event in 1:27.03. Northport’s quartet also consisted of Zachary Papsco, Nicholas Millkey and Dylan Karpf.

“Every day in practice, I try to race other people who are specialist in their event, against freestylers and backstrokers, it gives me better reach,” He said. “I’m a 400 individual medley competitor in club swimming, so I have to train in every event every day.”

Ward Melville’s foursome also held off Northport in the 400 freestyle relay, with a best time of 3:11.87, nearly six seconds ahead of second place. The Patriot’s 200 medley team was edged out by Half Hollow Hills by 0.14 seconds.

Hauppauge’s Trenton Burr (100 backstroke, 51.26) and Jack Casey (100 breaststroke, 55.34) also came in first. Casey’s time was an All-American automatic standard.

The swimmers will compete in the state championships at a familiar venue for Louser, at Nassau County Aquatic Center March 2-3.

Northport's Isaiah Claiborne leads the 1,000-meter run pack. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Just when Kiera Hughes thought she couldn’t get any better, she did.

The Ward Melville condnior hurdler raced 55 meters in a blazing 8.5 seconds, finishing in the top spot at the state qualifier Feb. 12. Her time on the Suffolk County Community College Brentwood track marked her third personal best of the season and the second time she’s beaten her own school record.

Ward Melville hurdler Kiera Hughes beaming with joy following her new personal record and first-place finish. Photo by Bill Landon

“That’s a huge improvement,” she said, unable to control her excitement and glee. “I’m over the moon. I just wanted to go to states, that’s my main goal. I wanted to be the best I can be, and I was.”

She had knocked down the 2003 record (8.74) with a time of 8.63 and shaved that down to 8.6 at the league championship last month.

Her Patriots teammates finished second in 4×800 relay with a time of 9:33.38.

Ward Melville seniors Allyson Gaedje, Sam Rutt and Sam Sturgess, and sophomore Elizabeth Radke joined Hughes in qualifying to compete in the state championships at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island March 3.

Although the quartet competed in the 4×400 at the Millrose Games on Feb. 3 and Suffolk County championship Feb. 4, Ward Melville stretched the distance because head coach Tom Youngs said the group is strong at running longer distances, being that all four runners take part in the cross country season.

“We feel that we have a better chance of going after a state title in the 4×800 as opposed the 4×400,” Youngs said. “Last year we did the double at Millrose Games, but that spread our kids a little too thin, so we want to focus more on just a single event, which is what we did.”

Gaedje who runs the final leg in both relays, said there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Northport’s Dan O’Connor and Sean Ryan finish behind one another in the 3,200-meter run. Photo by Bill Landon

“I felt a little heavy throughout,” she said. “It wasn’t my best, but I’m happy that we made states and hopefully we can do better there.”

Northport swept the top two positions in the boy’s 3,200 run, where Dan O’Connor edged teammate Sean Ryan by just over a second, clocking in at 9:37.28. The Tigers placed first in the 4×800 relay led by seniors O’Connor, Claiborne brothers Isaiah and Elijah, and sophomore Thomas Fodor, who tripped the clock at 8:08.99. Elijah Claiborne finished first in the 1,600 with a time of 4:20.78, while his brother finished in the top spot in the 1,000 with a time of 2:32.45. Ward Melville’s Danny Ryan came in third in 2:36.31 in the 1,000, and his Patriots teammate Eric Zulkofske placed second in the 1,600 just hundredths of a second behind Claiborn with a 4:20.95 finish.

Untouchable in the boys high jump was Babylon’s Vladislav Cullinane, who cleared the bar at 6 feet, 9 inches, but Shoreham-Wading River senior Richard Casazza qualified for the states with a second-place jump of 6 feet, 6 inches, as did Kings Park’s Michael Perez, who cleanly cleared 6 feet, 2 inches.

Hauppauge’s Nick Crociata, the fastest returner from last season’s state championship 600 race, qualified with a 1:22.39 second victory at the event. Huntington’s Jonathan Smith finished the event in third place with a time of 1:23.08. Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei came in a close second in three events. He competed the 55 hurdles two hundredths of a second behind the first-place runner, crossing the line in 7.58, and .25 inches behind first in the long jump, with a leap of 21 feet, 9 inches. Wei finished the triple jump tied with Riverhead’s Kian martelli for second, with 43 feet, 10 inches.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee competes in the 1,000-meter run. Photo by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River phenom Katherine Lee was at the top of her field in the 1,000, finishing with ease. The senior dashed across the finish line in 2:52.58, the fastest time on Long Island this season, according to milesplit.com. Seven seconds behind her was freshman Kaitlyn Chandrika of Mount Sinai, who finished in 2:59.41, just getting past Gabby Schneider of Smithtown East, who crossed the finish line in 2:59.95.

Lee, who has yet to win an indoor state title, said the accolades are great, but to her, it’s all about getting ready for making a collegiate debut at Georgetown University.

“I’m looking for personal records — I just want to better myself, and if a state title comes with that it’s great,” she said. “I’m so excited about attending school in the fall that I have a countdown clock on my phone marked for Aug. 19.”

In her last appearance on the Suffolk indoor track, Lee reflected on all the memories she made over the last five years.

“Probably my fondest memory here is when we won the small school county championship,” she said. “So competing here is a bittersweet goodbye. The plan for this race was to go out hard and see what happens, and although I didn’t quite run the time I wanted in every sector, I’m in good shape. With someone on my back … I can go a little faster.”

This version corrects the spelling of the Claiborn brothers’ last name.

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Alan Dylan Smith reaches for the rim over the block. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s 10 shots from beyond the arc accounted for almost half of the boys basketball team’s total points in a must-win game against West Babylon Feb. 2. The 71-53 victory puts the Warriors one win away from making the postseason.

Patrick Billings battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite the scoring frenzy, with six 3-pointers scored in the first half, three from senior Tom McGuire alone, that wasn’t what impressed head coach Joel Sutherland the most.

“It was our intensity on the defensive end,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the best defensive effort we’ve had all season.”

From opening tipoff West Babylon faced surmounting pressure, struggling to clear the ball which led to minimal looks at the basket. After the first eight minutes, the Warriors had already taken a commanding 26-9 lead.

“We definitely prepped for them more than last time — this time we worked on our 1-3-1 [defense] and stopping them at half court,” McGuire said. “The coaches really got us ready and it showed.”

McGuire made his fourth and fifth 3-pointers in the third quarter, ending the eight minutes with eight of his game-high 19 points. Pat Billings, who scored five points in the third, finished with a double-double on 12 points and 21 rebounds. He said the pressure has been difficult to manage, but his Warriors are motivated, and are ready to battle it out Feb. 8 at home against Half Hollow Hills West. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

“It’s just coming down to the wire — we need to win two games and that was in our minds because we don’t want our season to end,” Billings said. “We’ll game plan, we’ll look at some film to see what they do best.”

Dylan Morris Gray lays up for two. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Rob Orzelowski, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second quarter, went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. He said he hopes his team can come into Thursday with the same preparedness so that he can keep playing with his Warriors.

“We were practicing a lot for this — we went over a lot of defenses and offenses, we were switching things up and it worked out today,” Orzelowski said. “We had chemistry, and the shots were falling tonight.”

Comsewogue improves to 10-9 overall and 5-6 in League IV. Half Hollow Hills West sits right above the Warriors in the standings at 7-4, with a 14-5 overall mark.

“We’ve got a tough one on Thursday, so we’re going to prepare for it,” Sutherland said. “[My team] executed in the half-court sets, the guys were rotating and playing together, they shared the ball offensively, it was a joy to see and it was just a total team win. [We have another winnable game ahead of us], and we’re going to come out and throw everything we have at them, and let the chips fall where they will.”

Ward Melville's Ivanna Zavala-Arbelaez, on left, was the only Patriot to top Newfield's Ally Hu. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The stakes were high for the Patriots Monday night.

The last time Ward Melville’s girls fencing team faced off against Newfield it won by a single point, which was too close for comfort for head coach Kyle Hempe. With an undefeated streak on the line, the Patriots showed they learned from their mistakes, making a statement with an 18-9 home win Jan. 22.

Ward Melville’s Julia Duffy swept her opponents, winning both of her épée bouts. Photo by Bill Landon

“They were really fired up at home,” Hempe said. “We know Newfield is the second best team in our league, and they were really coming for it. So we went out, we worked as hard as we could, won a little earlier than we thought we would and we’re happy about that.”

Early wins came in the form of all three weapons. Ward Melville (10-0, 6-0 League II) took the second two of three in each of the first rounds of sabre, foil and épée.

Ward Melville’s Lauren Cappello started things off for the Patriots, putting the first point in the win column. The junior swept her sabre matches, 5-1, 5-2 and 5-2. Fellow sabre specialist Bridget Becchina, a senior, did the same while outscoring her challengers 15-4.

”We knew what we were coming into — I don’t think any of us were too worried — we knew we would have to bring it in each bout,” Becchina said. “I had confidence in the team, we had confidence in ourselves, and knew they have to beat us. We go out there and we just fence, and that usually works.”

Newfield (9-3, 5-2) was toughest in foil. Senior Ally Hu, who finished the day 2-1, took home victories in her second (5-1) and third (5-0) appearances out on the strip.

“[She’s] their strongest fencer, so was very happy with Ivanna Zavala-Arbeleaz, to see her come out with a victory there,” Hempe said. “But Bridget and Lauren are always solid for us in sabre so I’m happy for them and their performances, too.”

Ward Melville’s Catherine Cao, on left, gets a touch her Newfield opponent. Photo by Bill Landon

Junior épéeist Catherine Cao and senior Julia Duffy also swept their Newfield challengers.

“I’m proud that we came out with the win,” Duffy said. “Newfield gave us a run for our money, but we lean on all of the hard work that we put in, and reap the rewards.”

Junior sabreist Olivia Calise, who had dropped her first two bouts, blanked her opponent, 5-0, in the meet-clinching matchup.

With three meets left before the postseason Hempe said he’s confident going down the stretch, especially since the Patriots won’t be matching up with the Wolverines over that span.

“We’re not as worried, but we’ll go full force,” he said. “We’re happy to be in the position that we’re in.”

Ward Melville is back in action facing Centereach (5-7, 2-5) today, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. Newfield will host Sayville today at 6 p.m.

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Patriots send some wrestlers upstate to compete, rest others in loss to Sachem East

Ward Melville's Chris Little battles for dominance. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s wrestling team looked to cap off its undefeated regular season with another win Jan. 12, but with key competitors away at Eastern States Classic, it was a tall order for the Patriots to fill, which fell to Sachem East 51-27 on their home mat.

“We knew it was going to be a little tight,” said Ward Melville head coach Garrett Schnettler, noting his five starters away at the tournament. “Once we got [beyond] 138 pounds we knew it was going to be tight.”

Eastern States Classic tournament

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz also competed.

Ward Melville senior 160-pounder Nabeel Ahmed struck first for his team, winning the opening match 10-6. The Patriots gathered additional points with a pair of Sachem East forfeits at 170 and 182 pounds, and senior Kevin Vera won his match 8-2 at 195 pounds to put his team out front 14-0.

From there, the Patriot lead slowly slipped away, with losses in the 220 and 285-pound weights classes before eighth-grader Christian Lievano started off the lighter weights with a pin at 2:39 over Sachem East’s John Tietjan at 99 pounds.

Sachem East got back in the win column at 106, 113 and 120 pounds to give the Flaming Arrows their first lead of the match, 26-24, and never looked back.

Ward Melville senior Ryan Mc Namara said the loss will have no effect on him or his teammates in preparation for the postseason, even if the win would have set a regular season record.

Ward Melville’s Kevin Vera tries to stay on top of his challenger to avoid letting up any points. Photo by Bill Landon

“Tonight’s loss isn’t going to phase us,” said Mc Namara, who was bumped from 170 to 185 so a junior varsity player could compete. Mc Namara won by forfeit. “We didn’t have as much experience, but they gave it their best. We’ll have everyone back in their spots in the lineup and we’ll give it our all [Wednesday].”

Ward Melville competes in the opening round of the newly created Suffolk County dual championship Jan. 17. Bracket information was not readily available for who the Patriots will compete against. Matches are currently scheduled to take place at 4 p.m.

“The guys at Eastern States, they’re doing pretty well,” said sophomore Dan Cassera, who was able to execute a pair of takedowns to pull away with a 9-6 win at 138 pounds. “We’re going to work hard [to get ready for Wednesday], put in a lot of practice, see what we did wrong and correct those things.”

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz were also away.

“We’re already looking forward,” Schnettler said following the loss. “We take it one match at a time, and now we’re getting ready for the next meet. The guys are focused. We could’ve made tonight’s match closer, but we thought long term — gave some guys the rest who needed it — because round one of the dual meet championship is way more important than us going undefeated in the league.”

Ward Melville’s Christian Lievano attempts to keep his challenger on the mat. Photo by Bill Landon

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Newfield's Ally Hu battles against Centereach's Kayley Otero. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Seniors Angela LoMastro and Ally Hu swept all three of their bouts to lead Newfield’s girls fencing team to a 17-10 nonleague win over crosstown rival Centereach Jan. 11.

LoMastro, a sabreist, blanked her first opponent in a 5-0 bout.

Newfield captain Angela LoMastro faces Centeach’s Gail Laurino. Photo by Bill Landon

“I had a lot of energy,” she said. “The last time we played Centereach I let them get a lot of touches on me, but I was able to shut that down today, so I was proud of that. It’s an important match — no one wants to get beat by Centereach.”

Centereach first-year head coach Kerin Boghosian said despite the loss she’s pleased with her team’s progress.

“I think some of the girls are a little disappointed with today’s loss because we performed better the first time we faced them, but it’s a great measuring stick because they have some great fencers on that squad,” Boghosian said. “I’m leaning on the girls to show me what they’re capable of.”

She said she’s been leaning primarily on foilists Jessica DeSena and Kayley Otero, who finished 2-1.

“Our foils have performed well for us — it’s a weapon we kind of depend on,”  Boghosian  said. “Some of our epeé fencers did a nice job today, too. Ayanna Hodge went 3-0, so she’s a bright spot. She learns from Abby Cornelia.”

Newfield epéeist and captain Grace Scura gets a touch on Centereach’s Ayanna Hodge. Photo by Bill Landon

Hodge won her bouts 5-4, 5-3 and 5-0.

LoMastro and Hu, also a foilist, swept their opponents 5-0, 5-2 and 5-3. Hu said she was happy with her shutout because she isn’t at full strength.

“To win against Centereach is so important — it brings up the school morale for more than just one sport,” she said. “I have fenced better than I did. I lacked in energy today.”

Centereach traveled to Lindenhurst Jan. 13 and outscored its nonleague opponent 18-9. The Cougars (3-4 overall, 1-4 in League I) travel to Half Hollow Hills East Jan. 16 for a 5:15 p.m. matchup. Newfield (7-2 overall, 4-1 in League II) hosts Brentwood Jan. 18 at 5 p.m.

“We are a tenacious athletic group — our kids don’t stop fighting,” Newfield  head coach Jessica Palmaccio said, before speaking specifically about captains LoMastro and Hu. “They really carried us today. I’m really proud of both of them.”

This version corrects the results of Centereach’s win over Lindenhurst.

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Mike Ruggieri grabs hold of his opponent’s leg to try and send him to the ground. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Mustangs took pinning down their opponents quite literally Tuesday.

Mount Sinai’s wrestling team made short work of visiting Southampton Jan. 9, scoring almost as many points from forfeits as it did wins in a 90-0 win, with all nine of the grapplers matchups resulting in pins in the first or second period.

Joe Sabella controls his unable-to-move opponent by wrapping his legs around him. Photo by Bill Landon

The fastest victory of the evening was from 160-pounder Joe Goodrich, a sophomore who had his hand raised just 28 seconds into his match. Junior Mike Ruggieri’s challenger at 285 didn’t fare much better, falling
victim to the Mustang in 33 seconds.

“We knew that [Southampton is] very young, and we had a pretty good chance to win with a good team this year, but we wanted to make sure that we’re still wrestling well,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong said. “We kept a couple of kids out of the match tonight because they’re not 100 percent, and we want to be at full strength for the start of the dual meet championships.”

Mount Sinai will compete in the Suffolk County individual championships Jan. 12 before the dual meet championships, which begin Jan. 17.

“The strength of our team is how close we all are — if one kid’s over[weight] we’ll all go in the gym, we’ll all run,” said senior Jake Croston, who won his 220-pound matchup due to a forfeit. “And if a kid wants to work on something that beat him in practice, we all stay after to help him work on that.”

Brendan Goodrich grabs his guy from behind to toss him to the mat. Photo by Bill Landon

Michael Zarif, who won his match by forfeit at 138 pounds, agreed with Croston about Mount Sinai’s ingredients for success.

“We’re working hard every day in practice — we just keep going, we never stop working toward the county title,” the senior said. “And that’s our goal, that’s what we’re working for this year. This is kind of a warm-up.”

Matt Campo, a 126-pound sophomore who eclipsed the 100-match win mark this season and placed third in the state last season, spent little time in the ring, but still topped his opponent with a pin at the 1:32 mark.

“[This win] gives me a lot of confidence going into the county competition — I feel I should have a good tournament,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing some good competition, get a win and go back to the states this year.”

Armstrong pointed to eighth-grader Joe Sabella as a standout in the gym for his level of dedication and unparalleled work ethic despite being the youngest in the group.

Antonio Palmiotto prepares to escape from his challenger. Photo by Bill Landon

“Joe has come up and helped fill the lineup and has been seeing success more lately due the fact of how hard he works every day,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of him sticking this out and finally seeing some success.”

The 113-pounder wasted no time pinning his challenger at 1:26 to bank six more points for his team.

“[I have to] just attack — I can’t play it safe when I don’t have the advantage,” the young competitor said. “When I had my legs [around him], that’s when I knew I had the advantage and he couldn’t get up.”

Junior Vin Valente came away with another fast pin at 152 pounds, winning in 1:06. According to Armstrong, Valente has made tremendous progress over last year and, as with all of his Mustangs, has high expectations for him this postseason.

“Vin has also improved so much from last season,” Armstrong said. “I hope to see him and the rest of my guys place high this year in the Division II county tournament.”

Smithtown East's Alexandra Nicholson battles between Huntington defenders. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

There were threes all over the place Monday night, and just like the three “c’s” in Katie Seccafico’s last name, it seemed the senior was calling for them.

Huntington’s Katie Seccafico shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

Seccafico banked three triples on her way to a game-high 13 points in Huntington’s 45-37 League III win over Smithtown East Jan. 8. She had eight assists and four steals to go along with it.

“We spent a lot of time preparing for the face guard,” Seccafico said. “We had good communication on defense and that really helped us dropping back, letting everyone know where we are on the court.”

The guard scored her first 3-pointer to cap off a 17-0 Blue Devils run to open the first quarter, and added another by the halftime break. Senior Alexandra Heuwetter nailed two of her own to help Huntington to a 26-14 lead.

“At first, it’s not what we expected we thought,” Heuwetter said. “We thought they would face guard us, but they didn’t, and that gave us a lot of open shots.”

Smithtown East senior point guard Ceili Williams (13 points) also made her presence known, drawing fouls while driving to the basket and going 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Even with her team making shot after shot to extend the advantage, as Huntington outscored Smithtown East 13-9 in the third, sophomore forward Riva Bergman said she was impressed with her team’s defensive effort.

Huntington’s Alexandra Heuwetter scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“I think we’re ready for any challenge,” she said. “We slowed the tempo, we ran our plays and we were able to knock down shots.”

Huntington senior Nicole Leslie, who had not seen action early in the season due to injury, was at full strength in the second half and battled in the paint to lead her team with six points in the third. She finished the game with 12 rebounds.

The Bulls had their work cut out for them in the final eight minutes of play, trailing by 16, but refused to go quietly. Freshman Paige Doherty drained a three to make it a 12- point game, and Williams added her own to draw within nine points in regulation, but it was as close as Smithtown East would come.

“They’re big, they’re athletic, they’re strong, but I just told them I’m very proud of how the battled back — they didn’t hang their heads and give up at 17-0,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We drew within nine points late, and if you get that next basket it’s a six or seven-point game and then you can do something.”

The seniors led the way for the Blue Devils, which move to 2-2 on the season to be even with Smithtown East, with Leslie and Heuwetter following close behind Seccafico with 11 points apiece. Huntington head coach Michael Kaplan has enjoyed seeing his team at full strength.

“Earlier in the year we had some injuries and sicknesses, so it was hard for us to practice at full strength, but we’re finally healthy,” he said. “We’re a young team considering we only have three seniors, and it helped that we shot well early on, but our three seniors really stepped up today — that really helped us.”

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Bulls come from behind in crosstown rival win

Smithtown West’s Chris Crespo leaps for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Defense was the difference-maker in a game of crosstown rivals Jan. 3.

Smithtown West held host Smithtown East to just 17 points through the first 16 minutes of play, and outscored the Bulls 31-14 in the second half to nab a 56-31 League II win.

“We always play hard — we’ve held our opponents to the least points in the county per game for the last two years,” said Smithtown West point guard Chris Crespo. “We play defense, and that’s how we win games.”

Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon scored a game-high 26 points. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon sparked the offense midway through the third quarter, draining his third 3-pointer of the game to put his team out front 32-18. Smithtown East struggled to contain the big man in the paint, where Crespo would consistently feed the 6-foot, 6-inch power forward, who battled his way to the rim time and time again.

“In this league you can’t sleep on any team though,” Gannon said despite his effort. “Anyone has a good shot at winning no matter who you play.”

The Crespo-Gannon combination was too much for East to contain, and Gannon banked 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes. Crespo finished with 11 points.

Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino wasn’t surprised at some points of the contest, saying he’s come to expect great things from Crespo and Gannon.

“Our point guard Chris [Crespo] is pretty good at getting the ball to the open player,” Agostino said. “He can find people, and he found Michael today and he was making shots.”

He said he thought the end results wasn’t indicative though of what his team is really made of.

“They’re very good, and they make you uncomfortable defensively — they throw you out of rhythm,” Agostino said. “We haven’t practiced for two days, and mentally you’re not out of rhythm, but physically you are, because you have to shoot every day.”

Smithtown East’s Chris Crespo guards against East’s Joe Neto. Photo by Bill Landon

Crespo still thought his challengers fought hard, saying he wasn’t surprised by the Bulls’ caliber of play, as both teams grew up together and know each other well.

“We know a lot of these guys, so you know what you’re getting, but when we play North Babylon or Copiague, it’s coach Agostino and coach [John] Tampori who do a fantastic job of prepping us before the game,” Crespo said. “[At]practice, they show us what to expect.”

Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling said his team’s performance was not what he’d hoped it’d be for this point in the season.  Atop the scoring chart was James Peters with nine points and John Cawley with six.

“We don’t ever expect to get out-worked, and we were severely out-worked by the other team tonight,” he said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re usually a hard-working, blue collar type of team, so it was disappointing to see that they worked so much harder than we did.”

Smithtown East will look to redeem the loss when the Bulls hit the road to face Huntington Jan. 5 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown West is scheduled to be back in action on its home court today, Jan. 4. A 4 p.m. tip-off time is scheduled.

“We play North Babylon on Thursday, so we have one day to prepare,” Gannon said. “We’ll practice hard and go out and play hard.”

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Madison Brady keeps a Deer Park opponent at a distance as she moves the ball up the court. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Erin Tucker and Hallie Simkins combined for three points from the free-throw line in the final seconds of Harborifelds’ girls basketball team’s 39-37 edging of Deer Park at the Northport invitational shootout Dec. 30, helping to cap off 2017 on a 6-0 undefeated streak in League V.

Hallie Simkins muscles her way to the rim with a Deer Park opponent at her hip reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

The Tornadoes haven’t missed a beat despite losing all five starters to graduation last year.

“This is a completely new team,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “And that was a good win for them.”

Early in the game points were hard to come by for both teams, as Deer Park took a 7-6 lead into the second stanza, which is where the Falcons’ 3-point game came alive. Three consecutive trifectas were scored before Harborfields could answer, giving Deer Park an 8-point lead, 16-8, with three minutes left in the first half.

Harborfields junior Celia Argiriou launched a long distance shot to net her first 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 16-13, but the Falcons outscored the Tornadoes 17-11 in the quarter to take a 24-17 advantage into the locker room.

“At halftime, our coach just told us 7 points is nothing — we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, we’ve got to play harder than them,” Tucker said. “That’s what went through everyone’s mind — do it for the team, and eventually, it will move in our direction. We played a zone coverage we literally put in three weeks ago, and we caused some turnovers that we were able to turn into points.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the forward battled in the paint and scored to make it a 1-point game. One the next possession, Simkins took matters into her own hands and banked two points of her own to give the Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter with 2:28 left.

Erin Tucker shoots uncontested. Photo by Bill Landon

“I just kept thinking, ‘We have the effort, we have the drive, but we just kept fighting and pushing them by doing what we know how,” said Simkins, who finished the third quarter with two consecutive buckets that cut the deficit to 31-26. “[We won because of] our mental toughness — we all really stayed headstrong on the court and we never gave in.”

With 12.6 seconds on the clock, Tucker went to the line shooting two and banked both of her free-throw shots to edge ahead by three. After a Falcons score, the Tornadoes kept their cool, and Simkins split the difference during her team’s final showing at the charity stripe to seal the deal.

Tucker and Simkins topped the scoring sheet with 11 points apiece. Freshman forward Madison Brady, who banked seven, said Lavey’s encouragement at halftime resonated with her and her teammates, who know the program’s positive playoff position its in year after year.

“Coach said we can come back, and we all agreed that we’re better than that first half, and we could come back,” Brady said. “We just have to battle it out every game the whole season to win our league, and hopefully make a run at a county championship.”

Harborfields looks to continue its positive trajectory in 2018 when it hosts Hauppauge Jan. 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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