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Bill Landon

Ward Melville's Kerry McKeever moves into Smithtown East's zone. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville jumped out to a five-goal lead early in the first half, and even after the Smithtown East girls’ lacrosse team battled back to trail by two, the Patriots fired back, securing a 17-11 victory to remain undefeated in Division I April 4.

Junior midfielder Shannon Brazier and teammate Kerry McKeever rattled off two early goals, while senior attack Kaitlin Thornton added one of her own for a 5-0 lead just six minutes in.

Smithtown East’s Isabella Costa maintains possession. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East sophomore attack Isabella Costa broke the ice for the Bulls when her shot found its mark for an unassisted goal seven minutes later.

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said her team had to press the entire game — knowing it had to after escaping the last matchup with a one-goal win.

With 12 minutes left in the first half, McKeever notched her hat trick goal for a 6-1 advantage.

“When we play together like we did at the beginning, we can close it out with a win, but we couldn’t be complacent,” McKeever said. “We worked together, we found the open cutter on transition; having turnovers on the ride starts the attack, so those were really big [because] it got us the ball back on offense.”

Costa teamed up with senior co-captain and attack Julia Smith, as each trailed two goals to trail 7-5 with just over nine minutes before the break.

The Bulls went a man down with four minutes left, but Ward Melville did too less than a minute later to even the teams. The loss didn’t affect the Patriots though, as Brazier scored her third goal, senior attack Kassidy Rogers-Healion buried her penalty shot and junior attack Kerri Thornton dished one off to sophomore Alexis Reinhardt, who put the team out front 10-5.

“Smithtown is definitely a great team — we play well together and we have a really deep bench, so there’s no deviation when we put subs in,” Brazier said. “We’ve all played together since we were young, so we mesh really well together.”

Ward Melville’s Shannon Brazier shoots the ball past Smithtown East goalkeeper Patricia Werker. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East senior co-captain Shannon Kavanagh’s stick spoke next, when a foul shot hit the back of the cage in the opening minute of the second half. But again, the Patriots didn’t let the scoring last for long, and went on another tare, scoring four consecutive goals before Costa countered, to cut the deficit to 14-7.

Smithtown East head coach Ann Naughton critiqued her team’s performance, saying it was below average.

“It’s obviously disappointing, and we’re going to have to learn from it,” she said. “Ward Melville came out and they wanted it more than we did. I always respect them — they’re a really good team so I’m not surprised by them at all.”

With just over nine minutes left, Ward Melville ran the clock before senior attack Hannah Lorenzen scored on a hand off for her fourth goal of the game.

“We know that they’re a good team, so we had to get on their hands when they were shooting so they couldn’t get off a great shot,” Lorenzen said. “And that helps our goalie [Samantha Tarpey], who was a big part of our win today.”

Tarpey had eight saves on the afternoon.

Smithtown East wouldn’t go quietly though, and with time running out found the net four more times.

“They always have potential — they’ve given us a run for our money in the past and I just told the girls don’t allow those quick goals to rattle you,” Kilkenny said. “Sometimes they get a couple of quick ones on you and the team will deflate, but the girls stayed on their game.”

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Erica Hickey gets a base hit. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s softball team continued its winning ways when the Warriors jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back, outscoring Islip 10-4 April 3 to improve to 3-0 this in League VIII.

Emily Whitman throws an Islip runner out at first sitting on the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors bats went to work from the opening pitch, and although Islip threatened in the bottom of the second, the team failed to capitalize with a runner on third. In the top of the third, Emily Whitman hit a homerun over the centerfield fence to put her team out front, 4-0.

“I thought they were stronger from last year even though they lost a lot of key players, but this year we came ready to win, and we did,” she said. “Our hitting — we were definitely all over that pitcher today.”

Islip broke the ice in the bottom of the third, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly, but couldn’t maintain the momentum, stranding two runners at the end of the inning.

Alyssa Bono’s bat cracked next, as she slammed her own first pitch past center field for a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we would have a good game against Islip — we lost twice to them last year when I was on JV so I knew this would be a hard game to win,” Bono said. “I thought we played well all around.”

Taylor Graves kept the inning alive when she ripped a double into deep right field, plating teammate Erica Hickey for a 6-1 advantage. Whitman kept the inning alive and smacked the ball through the gap in right center for a double that brought home Graves. Whitman took off to third base and narrowly beat the tag, looking to finish what she’d started. Julia Keller was up next, and patient at the plate. She found one she liked, and jumped on it, knocking a home run over center field for a 9-1 lead.

Alyssa Bono catches an infield popup. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought they’d come out a lot stronger,” Keller said of Islip. “We came in as the underdog, and we won. We’ll keep on hitting, but it’s our team bonding that wins games.”

Whitman took over on the mound for starting pitcher Alexa Murray in the bottom of the fifth, and retired the side in order.

Comsewogue went back to work threatening in the top of the sixth inning with runners on first and second, and as Murray stepped into the box, Graves was caught stealing to end the inning.

With their backs against the wall, Islip loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth following a pair of walks. Another walk sent home a run, a base hits scored two more to trail 9-4. With two outs, Islip drilled one right at Whitman, who was knocked down but able to stop the ball. Sitting on the ground from behind the mound, she made the throw to first in time for the out that ended the inning.

“Emily Whitman is unique — she’s one of the best players in the county and I’ll go to battle with her every time,” Comsewogue head coach Jason Surdi said. “When you have someone like Emily Whitman on your team, you have a chance to win every single game.”

Taylor Graves makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

With Patricia Kelly on second, Donna Scarth got the job done as she laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Kelly over to third, and Hickey finished it with a base hit that brought home another insurance one.

“This is a big win for this team — Islip is a perennial power, they’ve been in the county finals the past two years,” Surdi said. “I don’t know when the last time that Comsewogue has had a win against a county finalist — it could be 20-25 years so this is a big win for this program.”

With three outs left in the game, Islip would not answer as the Warriors handed the Buccaneers their first loss of the season.

“We’ve had a great start to the year,” Surdi said. “We have a lot of young players that have stepped up and right now we’re kicking on all cylinders.”

The team will play another powerhouse in Sayville April 5 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue will then travel to Rocky Point April 10 for a 10 a.m. matchup before hosting Miller Place at the same time April 12.

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By Bill Landon

Gillian Kenah’s focus may have shifted from defense during one game, to offense the next, but the senior showed she performs when the pressure is on.

“We gave Gill the responsibility last game of playing against their biggest threat, and she stepped up,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “Today, she didn’t have that same pressure on her, and she played a phenomenal game.”

That’s because instead of guarding, Kenah was under the boards mopping up when her teammates’ shots weren’t falling, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the second half to give her Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team the push it needed to outscore Haldane 43-30 in the Class C state regional final at SUNY Old Wetsbury March 9. The squad becomes the first basketball team in Royals history, boys’ or girls’, to punch a ticket to the Final Four.

“You dream for these things to happen, you don’t expect for these things to happen. We’ve put in so much hard work, we’ve been looking forward to this for years and we’re finally here.”

—Gillian Kenah

“It’s so incredible — it’s another dream come true,” said Kenah, who averaged 3.1 points per game heading into the matchup. “You dream for these things to happen, you don’t expect for these things to happen. We’ve put in so much hard work, we’ve been looking forward to this for years and we’re finally here.”

The heavy lifting first fell onto senior Courtney Lewis, who scored all seven of the team’s first-quarter points, although they were down 8-7 after eight minutes. Jillian Colucci, a three-point scoring threat who drew double coverage outside, was able to space the floor and create opportunities for her classmate Lewis.

Lewis still led a more balanced second-quarter attack, and with her second 3-pointer of the game, helped her team retake the lead, 15-14, and the Royals never looked back.

Port Jefferson’s defense was everywhere, using a zone defense that bottled up shooters and got deflections to upset Haldane’s rhythm. On the team’s last possession of the first half, Lewis picked off a pass and went end-to-end for a field goal that put the Royals up 21-16 heading to the locker room.

“We’ve been working on our defense all week leading up to Monday’s game — even yesterday and the day before it’s just defense, defense, defense,” said Colucci, who had six points and five assists. “If you can prevent the other team from scoring, you’re going to win the game.”

Kenah was also a factor on the other end of the court, grabbing 13 rebounds while converting those possession into six of her own points to help turn a five-point halftime lead into a nine-point advantage, 27-19, at the end of three quarters.

“It’s incredible this journey with these girls — it’s an amazing experience I can’t even describe the feeling and the emotions that I feel before every game, during every game and after every game,” Colucci said. “It’s just amazing.”

Lewis went to the line three times in the final stanza, going 4-for-6 from the line overall, and, although she missed a shot from beyond the arc soon after, Kenah was there to finish with another put-back.

“I can’t even tell you how much this means — wanting this win,” Lewis said. “We’ll celebrate this win tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be right back at it and practice 10 times harder.”

Rosen struggled to find the words the describe the season’s success.

“It’s excitement,” he said. “This scene, not only for the team, but the kids who traveled here, their passion to want to be here and support the girls it just goes to show you why Port Jeff is such an awesome place.”

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Mustangs will play Elmont in Class A Long Island championship March 11

Mount Sinai girls' basketball team captains Victoria Johnson, Veronica Venezia and Olivia Williams, along with their coaches, are presented the Section XI runner-up plaque. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Win or lose, Mount Sinai’s girls’ basketball team earned the right to represent Suffolk County in the Class A Long Island championship game. But first, Section XI bragging rights were on the line, and although the Mustangs led by as much as 12 points against Class AA winner Central Islip, the Buccaneers floored it in the final two minutes to come away with a 51-42 win.

Mount Sinai’s Gabriella Sartori battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

“This is a game where we said to ourselves this is a good look for us,” Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said. “[Central Islip] plays a similar style of basketball to [Nassau County’s] Elmont, with great defense. So we’ll go back to work, we’ll focus on getting back on defense and eliminating scoring the easy layups in transition. But I couldn’t be more proud of my girls and what they’ve accomplished this season.”

Central Islip jumped out to a 12-4 lead after five minutes of play at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus March 5, but the Mustangs scored four unanswered points to close the gap to four points, 12-8, at the end of the first quarter.

Senior center Veronica Venezia continued to do what she’s done all season, battling in the paint to score another putback, to pull within two before junior Olivia Williams followed with a putback of her own to tie the game, 12-12, with 2:46 left in the first half.

Mount Sinai sophomore Gabriella Sartori drove the lane and wasn’t taking no for an answer as she fought her way to the rim for the score that gave the Mustangs their first lead of the game. Despite Central Islip answering with a 3-pointer, Sartori followed it up with a baseline drive where she was fouled while scoring, and completed the three-point play. At halftime, Mount Sinai was up by three points,18-15.

Mount Sinai’s Vernoica Venezia and Olivia Williams reach for possession. Photo by Bill Landon

Sartori opened the second half like she finished the first, driving to the basket for back-to-back scores. Senior Victoria Johnson banked two points and Venezia also added a bucket from the paint. The referees called a tight game, and both teams traded points from the charity stripe. At the end of the eight minutes, Mount Sinai was still protecting a three-point lead, 36-33.

Central Islip scored back-to-back field goals to retake the lead for the first time since the opening quarter, but Venezia found the rim from down low to pull within one point, 42-41, but Mount Sinai would come no closer.

Central Islip edged ahead slowly, leaning on the shot clock, which forced Mount Sinai to foul. The Buccaneers continued to make each opportunity count, edging ahead point by point until time expired.

“Although we could’ve not fouled and lost by three or four, we were trying to go for the win and I’m proud of my girls,” Pappalardo said. “We can play with anybody and you can see that.”

Who goes home with the Long Island championship title will be decided March 11, when Mount Sinai takes on Elmont at SUNY Old Westbury at noon.

School district staff fight for bragging rights while raising money for booster club

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai school district faculty members were pitted against each other March 3 in the Battle of the Educators. Teachers laced up their sneakers and grabbed a ball, donning black shirts on the middle school side, and gray on the elementary/high school team, for the 16th annual basketball game that raises money for the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

Mount Sinai High School Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance Matt Dyroff, who is the event’s organizer, said the week of practice each team had leading up to the game paid off. In the first quarter, each team traded points until the black team hit a triple to retake the lead, 28-27, before going on a scoring frenzy to take a 10-point lead, 37-27, into the halftime break.

“We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause.”

—Matt Dyroff

“We’ve been practicing hard,” Dyroff said. “A couple of outdoor practices in the cold, but the teams got down to work — they buckled down and it was evident in the score tonight.”

Dyroff had a lot of help with the event from Mount Sinai Booster Club member Terese Lumley, the student council members who volunteered their time to help out, and Mount Sinai High School earth science teacher Roger Cardo, who took care of the play-by-play commentary.

With a $5 admission fee and $1 charge to compete in the halftime shooting contest, Dyroff said he hoped the event cold exceed last year’s $3,000 raised, and as students lined both sides of the court to take part in the shooting contest, it seemed the goal may very well be met.

“Each year we’re hoping to improve on the previous year, and preliminary amounts suggest that we’ve approached $4,000 tonight,” Dyroff said. “We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause. No matter what it is.”

Celebrity spectators, in the form of the first-time county championship girls’ basketball team, had fun watching their teachers take the court.

“It’s a fun time, and everyone comes together to watch the game,” senior point guard Victoria Johnson. “Everyone can joke around take trick shots. It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

“Everyone comes together to watch the game. … It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

—Victoria Johnson

There were no trick shots down the stretch though, as both teams battled through the final 25 minutes of play. The gray team shook off the first-half jitters and chipped away at the deficit to retake the lead, 62-61, with less than two minutes left in the game. The black team battled back to take a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds of the game, but the gray team had one last possession.

With the ball in hand, Mount Sinai boys’ basketball head coach Ryan McNeely took matters into his own hands when Dyroff inbounded him the ball, and McNelly let a three-point shot fly with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The ball rimmed out as the buzzer sounded, and with that, the middle school held on for a 67-64 win, to claim the championship trophy for the second year in a row.

Senior center Veronica Venezia said the event was a much-needed respite while she and her Mustangs team prepares for the Long Island championship against Nassau County’s Elmont March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury.

“It’s definitely a fun night watching everyone come out and play — all of the teachers and their families and a lot of people coming out to join our community,” she said. “It’s a good breather — especially because it’s a basketball game — it’s a great night watching our coaches play against each other.”

After the game, Dyroff weighed in on the girls’ unprecedented success this season.

“Going to the Long Island championship is tremendous,” he said. “The district and the community have been so supportive of it. The girls have put in so much time and it’s come to fruition. The off-season workouts, the summer leagues, the spring leagues, getting out to play — this group has progressed each year and to see it culminate in a county championship is huge.”

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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.”

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