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Class C

After first-round bye Mustangs face No. 5 Rocky Point today at home at 4 p.m.

The visiting Mustangs galloped onto the field like it was a playoff game — knowing they needed to win to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But Mattituck’s girls lacrosse team made them work for it.

With the game tied 8-8 heading into overtime, Mount Sinai sophomore Morgan Mitchell dished the ball to senior Gabby Sartori, who netted what would end up being the game winner with two minutes remaining. Mitchell had lent a helping hand all afternoon May 12, ending the 9-8 victory with a goal and five assists. A handful of them helped senior Camryn Harloff tally a hat trick, in a game that won Mount Sinai a share of the Division II title with Bayport-Blue Point (both 13-1).

Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff, on left in a previous game against Rocky Point, scored four goals in the Mustangs’ regular-season finale. File photo by Bill Landon

“I wasn’t really thinking about scoring, I just knew we had to get the job done whether it was me or someone else,” Harloff said. “It definitely feels nice to win the division, but that’s just one piece of the bigger picture — we want another state title.”

Mount Sinai has won three straight Class C crowns, and a large group on the current squad have consistently helped get there.

Senior Meaghan Tyrrell, who is second among all Suffolk scorers with 49 goals and 36 assists, said despite a shaky start against Mattituck, her teammates always know how to pull together in crucial contests.

“I believe draw controls led our team to victory, with Morgan [Mitchell] playing really well both on the draw circle and in the offensive zone,” said Tyrrell, who finished with a goal and two assists. Mitchell ended the game with six draw controls. “We play smart under pressure.”

Twin sisters, senior defenders Kirsten and Meaghan Scutaro, have also been fixtures.

“They hold us together like glue,” Harloff said. “The offense puts up the points we need, buy they are the key aspects to this team because defense is our foundation.”

Sartori and senior Jenny Markey added two goals each in the final regular-season game.

As the No. 1 seed, the Mustangs had a first-round bye, and will face neighboring Rocky Point, the No. 5 seed, at home today, May 22, at 4 p.m.

Harloff said she is anxious to try to make a run at her fourth and final state title.

“We definitely feel a target, but we don’t focus on that — we go day by day,” Harloff said. “We’re not going to be complacent, but we are confident.”

Class C finals victory is Mustangs' fourth in last five years

Rayna Sabella and Leah Nonnenmann celebrate the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team's third straight Class C state championship win. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

By Desirée Keegan

Head coach Al Bertolone is known for telling his team that all it needs is “five seconds of focus.”

These crucial moments of clarity are needed when his Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team is fighting for possession during the draw, but this weekend, his team had a lot more to offer than just five seconds. The Mustangs dominated their semifinal and state final opponents to end the weekend taking home the program’s third straight Class C state title.

During a 16-1 rout of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the semifinals, senior Rayna Sabella controlled the circle, winning 17 of 19 draws and scoring three goals off of her possession wins June 9 at SUNY Cortland.

Rayna Sabella maintains possession off the draw. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s all mental game — if you have the attitude from the very beginning that you are going to dominate every aspect of the field, and you try your absolute hardest, there’s no doubt you will be unstoppable,” Sabella said. “I just had to keep telling myself that this draw was mine, and that there was nothing stopping me. I knew it was a big part of the game and it was going to be one of the determining factors of the outcome.”

She was also quick to share credit for the title with her teammates.

“Winning the draws was something Emma [Tyrrell], Jenny [Markey] and I knew we had to focus on the entire game,” Sabella added of her teammates, who were relentless on the edge of the circle, waiting to grab a ground ball. “We could not let our guard down.”

Her teammates noted the 5-foot, 3-inch midfielder’s talents speak louder than her small stature.

“In my opinion, Rayna is the best girl to pick for the draw,” senior Leah Nonnenmann said. “At any given moment she’s ready for anything. No matter how much taller the girl is than her, she always comes up with the ball.”

Junior Meaghan Tyrrell, Emma’s older sister, had four goals and two assists, and senior Veronica Venezia and junior Camryn Harloff each chipped in two goals for Mount Sinai, which had a 23-10 shot advantage.

Meaghan Tyrrell evades defenders as she makes her way to the cage. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

The Mustangs opened on an 8-0 run before Sydney Plemenik scored the lone goal for Burnt Hills (12-8). Three goals from Tyrrell in the second half punctuated another 8-0 run for the final result.

Meaghan Tyrrell followed up her showing with five goals and three assists during the Mustangs’ 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in the state championship victory June 10. Each of the team’s eight seniors also made contributions while turning in a 10-1 run to blow open the game.

Generally a defense-first team, Mount Sinai (18-2), which outscored its foes 31-5 over the two days upstate, benefitted from an offense that was both relentless and efficient. The Mustangs scored 15 times on 18 shots on goal, showcasing their shooters’ accuracy.

“We play our best offense when we work together and settle into a set offense — moving the ball quick and looking for the perfect shot,” Tyrrell said. “I think this weekend we were able to do all those things successfully to help us score.”

She was also quick to put the focus back on her teammates despite her own performance.

Leah Nonnenmann moves the ball across the field. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s great to know that the team has faith in me to get them the ball so they can pass or shoot, but they move so well cutting and setting up screens, so they really make it easier for me,” she said. “Being on the field is great because you know you’re doing your part whether it be finishing, passing or winning draws. It feels so great to know I helped my team win another state championship.”

The title is not only the third straight for the Mustangs, but the fourth in the last five years.

“We let no one in our heads, we just played our own game and stay locked in the whole time,” said Nonnenmann, who finished the weekend with three goals and two assists, two goals coming in the finals. “We stay calm, we let everyone get settled, and when we feel we’re ready to attack, we go.”

The Mustangs can also strike quickly though, as Nonnenmann intercepted a goalkeeper’s pass and sent a shot sailing into the netting, and Sabella, who notched three goals and two assists over Honeoye Falls-Lima, scored a quick goal after coming down the alley on a draw win to put the Mustangs up 12-3.

For a Mount Sinai program that previously felt overlooked, it’s safe to say other teams can no longer look past a budding dynasty.

“There’s no better feeling than proving people wrong,” Nonnenmann said. “Since 2015 people thought Mount Sinai was going to fall off the map. Every year we’re the underdogs, but always coming up with the win. I’ve never seen a team more steely-eyed than us. We all play our hardest until the very last whistle, and we’re determined to do great things. I hope next year people don’t give Mount Sinai the short end of the stick, because we mean business when we step out onto the field.”

Sabella also looked to the future shortly after securing the state crown.

“The Mount Sinai legacy is not over yet,” she said. “And it won’t be any time soon.”

Mount Sinai’s girls lacrosse team’s 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in a state championship-victory June 10 helped the Mustangs bring home the program’s fourth state title in the last five years. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team finally met its match.

The Wildcats were tamed by a potent Cold Spring Harbor offense June 3, falling 16-7 in the Class C Long Island championship title game.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “To go 16-3 and win the Suffolk County championship is tough enough. Unfortunately, we met a juggernaut in Cold Spring Harbor. They played excellent.”

Chris Gray shoots and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each time the Wildcats made a mistake, whether not winning the faceoff, falling victim to a forced turnover or having a pass bounce out of bounds, the Seahawks capitalized on the opportunity.

“Every time we made a mistake they made us pay, and they made us pay not only in possession, but turning those possessions into goals,” Taylor said. “They’re a good team; they’re some of the best.”

Taylor thought the two teams matched up similarly, and they did. Senior Chris Gray, who just recently edged out Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone to become Suffolk County’s leading scorer with 90 goals and 25 assists, and Long Island’s top goal scorer, was a similar scoring threat that Cold Spring Harbor’s Taylor Strough was. Each team has lockdown defenders, and plenty of other offensive weapons.

“We’re both run-and-gun teams with so many guys that can score,” Taylor said. “The ball bounced their way a little more, and they made a lot less mistakes defensively. And our mistakes turned into big goals.”

Xavier Arline tries to push a Cold Spring Harbor defender out of the way to get a clear look at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Strough finished with four goals and two assists, while Gray led the Wildcats with three goals and two assists. Shoreham-Wading River, which edged out Garden City last year for the Class B Long Island title, also had contributions from senior Sean Haplin and freshman Xavier Arline, who added two goals each.

The Seahawks were up 4-0 before Gray scored unassisted on a dodge from behind the cage — the Wildcats’ only goal of the first quarter. He added another at the four-minute mark off a Joe Miller faceoff win, but Shoreham-Wading River was down 11-2 at the half.

After a 5-0 Cold Spring Harbor run that triggered a running clock with the team up 14-2, Arline scored twice, sandwiching a Haplin goal off a feed from Gray, to try and stop the bleeding. After a Seahawks tally, Gray completed his hat trick to help the Wildcats close within 10, 16-6. Haplin’s final goal came off another assist from Gray at 2:14, but neither team would score thereafter.

Kevin Cutinella makes his way to the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been special,” Taylor said of taking his seniors on the Long Island championship-bound journey two seasons in a row. “I’ve had three years with some extremely talented kids, and I may never see that kind of talent again like I have in Kevin Cutinella, Danny Cassidy, Chris Gray. I have 16 fabulous seniors that are great lacrosse players and even better kids. It’s hard to spend so much time with them and see them move on, but I wish them nothing but the best.”

Cutinella said he’s felt privileged to be coached by Taylor and his assistants.

“[They have] spent so much time developing a team that can perform at a championship level year in and year out,” Cutinella said. “As a team, we didn’t perform well and to the level that Cold Spring Harbor played up to, and ultimately the score spoke for itself. But Shoreham-Wading River has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m grateful we made it this far, and even more grateful to play with all the other players on my team. My teammates, these coaches have done a lot for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Mustangs threepeat as Class C crown-holders win 10-4 win over Wantagh

With a defensive unit like Mount Sinai’s, the girls’ lacrosse team knows it only needs a small cushion to rest easy. The Mustangs’ Class C Long Island championship game was a textbook example, as Hannah Van Middelem’s five stops sparked a potent offensive rush — led by Meaghan Tyrrell’s four goals and two assists — on the way to the team’s third straight Long Island crown. The feat was achieved with a 10-4 win over Wantagh June 4 at Adelphi University.

“I felt good because I know I have one of the best defenses in the country in front of me,” Van Middelem said. “And our offense really stepped up to help.”

The Mustangs’ defenders and offensive players see it a little differently.

Hannah Van Middelem makes a save. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“She’s a great goalie,” sophomore Morgan Mitchell said of Van Middelem. “She picks us up. When she makes those big saves and gives us another chance with the ball, we get pumped.”

The senior goalkeeper’s first save of the game following an opening draw win by Wantagh led to Tyrell’s first goal, and the junior attack put Mount Sinai ahead 2-1 minutes later. Senior Veronica Venezia tied the game, 3-3, off a feed from Mitchell. Van Middelem made another save before Mitchell and Venezia — who finished with three goals — scored on assists from Tyrrell in the final two minutes of the first half, for a 6-3 Mustangs lead.

At the 23:05 mark of the second half, Van Middelem intercepted a Wantagh pass across the front of the cage, and deflected a shot with 10:10 left to play during a six-minute span of Warriors possession, until they lost the ball after an attacker stepped in the crease.

“Hannah is always there to make a stop,” senior defender Emily Vengilio said. “She’s the best. When we have a breakdown on defense, I wouldn’t want anyone else in goal.”

Tyrrell, who led the team with 57 goals and 35 assists during the 2017 season, good for sixth on Suffolk County’s points leaderboard, added two more unassisted shots as she circled around the left side of the goal to put Mount Sinai up 8-3.

“You’re trying to shake off the defenders and get open for your teammates,” the junior said. “It’s kind of cool.”

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Draw wins and ground ball pickups by senior Rayna Sabella and Tyrrell’s younger sister Emma also helped the team jump out to its lead midway through the second half.

“Once we got the ground balls it led to great offensive opportunities,” Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Whenever a goalie makes a big save in a big moment it’s an intensity increaser. Our defense played confidently, and it showed on the field.”

Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone noted the difficulty in achieving the back-to-back-to-back championships.

“I’m really proud of the kids — they dug in there and the culture here is built to last,” he said. “This is the group that’s been in the mix since 2014, so we’ve had a lot of these kids around creating and sustaining the culture.”

Bertolone said the key to the win was limiting the touches of Wantagh’s dynamic offense — highlighted by a quartet of scorers.

“We needed to get in and out of a lot of defenses depending on which one had the ball,” he said. “Defensively, I don’t know if Wantagh matched up with the things we were doing down there. Once we get the lead, with the defense that we have, we’re pretty good.”

Leah Nonnenmann races between Wantagh defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mitchell was also impressed with the defense, led by Vengilio, senior Haley Dillon and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro, which has held opponents to 3.7 goals per game this season, including two shutouts in April.

“Our cuts, picks and screens were the best they’ve been all season,” Mitchell said. “This senior group, they mean the world to me, and I wanted their last year to be a special one.”

Leah Nonnenmann, who added two goals in the win, said she remembers losing in the county final game her freshman year, and the motivation she had to come back and change the result the following year.

“All I could think about was coming back next season and winning it all,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy ride — we had to work hard — and we continue to prove everyone wrong. We fought for the respect we deserve.”

That longtime mission was accomplished, according to Vengilio.

“It feels better than all the other ones,” she said of the win this season.

Tyrrell agreed: “Three LICs in a row — how much better can it get?”

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team outscored Wantagh, 10-4, for the Mustangs’ straight Long Island championship win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

 

In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.

The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.

Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.

“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”

He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.

“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”

Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.

“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”

Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.

Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.

“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”

He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.

“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”

During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.

“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”

He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.

“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”

Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.

“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”

The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.

“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”

Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.

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Mount Sinai edged out Bayport-Blue Point, 9-6, for the program's third consecutive Suffolk County Class C title. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With her team’s early 3-0 lead turning into a 5-3 deficit, Meaghan Tyrrell knew somebody had to take charge.

“I got the ball in our offensive end, and I knew somebody had to do it,” Tyrrell said. “And I just stepped up.”

She had a five-goal performance and two assists to lead Mount Sinai’s girls’ lacrosse team to its third consecutive Class C county crown, with 9-6 win over Bayport-Blue Point May 30. The junior scored unassisted to pull her team within one, 5-4, and assisted on senior Leah Nonnenmann’s game-tying goal less than 30 seconds later. She knew her team was on its way to the Long Island championship as she raised her hands toward the sky following two unassisted goals soon after her assist.

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball into Bayport-Blue Point’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We wanted this so bad,” Tyrrell said. “We know Bayport, we’ve seen them before, but each time it’s different. When they started coming back we realized something had to change.”

The key was not only Tyrrell taking charge, but locking down on defense, and the Mustangs had one of the county’s top defenders in senior Emily Vengilio to do just that.

“We never give up,” Vengilio said. “[Bayport-Blue Point has] a great offense, so we knew our defense had to step up. Three years ago when we lost to them [11-9 in the county final] in the last 10 minutes, we knew what it felt like, so we fought hard to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Phantom Kelsi LoNigro was the target, and Vengilio and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro made every step the senior tried to take difficult.

“Our kids are tough — they’re all veteran players,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “We tried to take [Kelsi LoNigro] out of the mix because she’s a catalyst for their offense.

We took their best punches. At the end of the day you have to have kids that fight, and they fought.”

Mount Sinai jumped ahead 3-0 with two goals from senior Veronica Venezia. Tyrrell assisted on the first and scored the second goal of the game. But Bayport-Blue Point picked up steam to tie the game by halftime. Nonnenmann said her teammates were in their own heads, including herself — even while racing toward the circle to grab a pass from Tyrrell for her goal that made it 5-5.

Meaghan Tyrrell scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I was thinking ‘I should get this,’” she said. “I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. But when it was me and the goalie I knew I had it.”

Mount Sinai’s objective just a couple of years ago was to “prove people wrong.” Now, the Mustangs are synonymous with championship-level lacrosse.

“We’d always been overlooked, but that’s changed now,” Vengilio said. “We wanted to make the full circle. Each win feels great, but this one especially. Now we’re definitely on top.”

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The Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team following its Class C state semifinal win over South Seneca. Photo by Danielle Turner

Despite coming up just short of their ultimate goal, the 2016-17 Port Jefferson girls’ basketball season won’t soon be forgotten.

It wasn’t securing the final win that mattered. As the dust settled after Watkins Glen scored a buzzer-beating layup to edge out the Royals, 65-63, in the Class C state finals, the legacy the five senior starters will leave behind and their incredible run, will remain on everyone’s mind.

Every win since the Royals’ 46-43 nail-biter over Pierson-Bridgehampton has been historic. With that victory, Port Jefferson brought home the first Suffolk County championship crown in 90 years. The team then outscored East Rockaway, 67-49, for the Long Island title in school history. The Royals have continued to improve on a 6-9 2013-14 record over the last three seasons, but made a giant leap this year. Port Jefferson won a regional title in the school’s first appearance in the state tournament March 9 and followed it up with a state semifinal victory March 18, to reach the finals.

The Royals were coming off a high heading into the state finals matchup March 19 against Watkins Glen. Port Jefferson had crushed South Seneca 71-53, which senior standout Courtney Lewis said was a big boost of confidence for the team.

“We had never played a team outside of Suffolk before this season, and I think winning by such a large margin on Saturday made us realize we could win,” she said. “We belonged upstate.”

After scoring 31 points in the semifinal game, Lewis tallied 11 of the team’s 15 first-quarter points to help the Royals to a 15-10 lead in the finals. By halftime, the advantage diminished just slightly, to 29-24, with the 2,000-point scorer adding five more points.

“I felt great going into the game,” she said. “I really felt like I could attack their man defense and our offensive plays worked well.”

Freshman Sam Ayotte filled in for Lewis in the third when she was in foul trouble, and she and senior Corinne Scannell came up big in Lewis’ absence. Ayotte capped off a 20-4 run with a 3-pointer from the right corner, extending Port Jefferson’s lead to 53-37 entering the fourth. She scored 12 points in the game, and Scannell added 11.

“Corinne Scannell was making her layups and foul shots, and freshman Sam Ayotte stepped up her game and was driving to the basket,” senior Jackie Brown said. “It gave us the energy we needed.”

But that energy came to a sudden halt, as Watkins Glen’s 28-10 fourth quarter was the difference.

“Our defense was most intense in the third quarter, and our foul situation really hurt us in the fourth,” Lewis said.

She returned to action 50 seconds into the fourth quarter with her team leading 56-42. By the 1:24 mark, Watkins Glen had pulled within two. Watkins Glen added a free throw, but senior Jillian Colucci hit one of two free-throw attempts with 33.1 seconds left to push the lead back to two points, 63-61. With 13.7 seconds on the clock, the game was tied 63-63. Port Jefferson had the ball but couldn’t take the lead. Watkins Glen gained control and Hannah Morse hit a layup at the buzzer, ending the Royals’ 20-5 season just short of a state championship.

“I feel great knowing that even though we didn’t win, we still will go down in history at our high school,” said Lewis, who knocked down a game-high 23 points. “Basketball has been such a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, and just playing with these girls and getting this far in the playoffs is the best way I could have imagined ending my high school career.”

Lewis, who first started on the team as a seventh-grader, was part of three losing season before the Royals started experiencing success.

“Playing on the team since seventh grade has been such a positive influence in my life, and a shaping one, too,” she said. “Basketball means so much to me and playing for Port Jeff was nothing short of a perfect experience, especially my senior season.”

Brown reflected on her time with her teammates.

The Royals game plan before the start of the fourth quarter in the state finals matchup against Watkins Glen. Photo by Danielle Turner

Senior Gillian Kenah is a threat on the boards, Brown said, always below the basket to “clean up the trash,” grab rebounds and score putbacks. Brown said Scannell’s bubbly spirit and positive attitude puts a smile on everyone on the team. The All-Tournament basketball selectee and recipient of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Sportsmanship Award has a strong shot from all over the court.

Colucci, an All-Long Island and All-State soccer player who was named Suffolk County Player of the Year is quick on her feet, with a determination to win that, according to Brown, gets the girls fired up.

“She’s a game changer,” Brown said.

Lewis, as one of the only starters who focuses solely on basketball, has a great sense of the game.

“She is truly an amazing basketball player,” Brown said. “From CYO to senior year, she’s a talent. I could always count on her to get things done.”

The many multisport athletes on the team  only enhanced its winning attitude, with Colucci and Scannell bringing the soccer team’s state-championship mentality to the court the last two seasons. Brown, a field hockey standout, further added to the team’s athleticism.

The Royals have not only made an impression on the district, but also left newcomers like athletic director Danielle Turner in awe.

“I have been involved with countless teams in my career as a player, coach and observer; I can’t remember a team that I am more proud of,” she said. “Right before our eyes, these girls have changed basketball in Port Jefferson. Not only from an athletic standpoint, but from a cultural perspective. Their unwavering commitment to each other, their mental toughness and their maturity were evident throughout the season, and especially throughout their playoff run. It’s something that will be talked about for years to come.”

Brown hopes making history will inspire future teams to come.

“I’ve never been part of a championship team, so I’m honored to be a part of it with this group of girls,” she said. “This has been an incredible experience and I’m so proud of what this team has done over the past five months. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m also excited for the younger girls. It gives them motivation to go get it next year.”

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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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Courtney Lewis drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Although the small school matchup may not hold much postseason weight, you couldn’t tell, as Port Jefferson and Mattituck’s girls’ basketball teams duked it out for the third time this year.

Jillian Colucci scores from beyond the arc. Photo by Bill Landon

Each had grabbed a win over the other in the regular season, but this time, the larger school prevailed as the Suffolk County Class B champion bounced back in the game’s final minutes to edge out its Class C rival, 58-54, Feb. 24 at Riverhead High School.

Scoring stalwart Courtney Lewis did what she’s done all season, as the 2,000-plus-career point scorer led her team with 29 points — the only Royal in double figures.

The senior sank two from the foul line to retie the game at 25-25 with 2:12 left in the first half, and classmate Jillian Colucci hit a field goal to retie the game at 29-29, but Mattituck 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Tuckers a 32-29 lead.

“We knew who their good players were and we knew how they pressed and the plays that they run,” Lewis said. “I think that we prepared as well as we could have.”

She went back to work driving the lane and muscling her way to the basket drawing foul after foul, scoring 11 points from the charity stripe on the afternoon. Colucci hit a 3-pointer, followed by freshman Samantha Ayotte, for a five-point lead at the 3:15 mark of the third.

Corinne Scannell shoots from the free-throw line. Photo by Bill Landon

During the final eight minutes, senior Corinne Scannell scored back-to-back field goals and Colucci sank her second trey of the game for the Royals to remain in control, 49-42. Both teams trade points at the free-throw line, but momentum shifted Mattituck’s way. Junior Liz Dwyer scored seven of the team’s nine straight points to take a 53-51 edge.

Again, both teams were back at the charity stripe with seconds on the clock, but Mattituck made more of its opportunities to give the game its final score.

Despite the loss, Port Jefferson will take on East Rockaway in the Class C Long Island championship semifinals March 6 at SUNY Old Westbury at 5 p.m.

“I think that with the group of girls that we have here — with the athleticism that’s on the court — we always have a shot in a close game like that,” Port Jeff head coach Jessie Rosen said. “But to have the type of scorer that Courtney is — and she can take over a game at any point — having that as a coach you always appreciate that. We had faith that we could grind it out, but Mattituck wound up on top tonight.”

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Royals reign over Suffolk for first time since 1927

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

Jillian Colucci and Corinne Scannell know what being a part of a Port Jeff powerhouse is like. They were both on the two-time state champion girls’ soccer team. Now, they can say they are a part of another team that made history with total team dominance.

The Royals basketball team earned the school’s first Suffolk County Class C title since 1927 Feb. 18. Despite being the first team to take Port Jefferson all the way this year, the Royals hadn’t had success is the finals in seasons past. The girls went 11-1 in League VIII last season, and 10-0 the year before that, but lost to Pierson-Bridgehampton and Babylon, respectively in the final game.

This year, the girls not only made history; they got redemption with a 46-43 win over Pierson.

Senior Courtney Lewis, who scored a team-high 12 points, was limited well below her 27.3 points-per-game average. She and classmate Jillian Colucci were forced to watch the final minutes of the game from the bench, after fouling out as the 13-point lead they entered the fourth quarter with slowly shrank.

“Honestly, it was very stressful and everyone else on the team stepped up,” Lewis said of watching the end of the fourth quarter transpire. “They just played really well today.”

The Royals led 38-25 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation. That’s when momentum shifted the Whalers’ way. The team slowly chipped away at the deficit, with Nia Dawson, who scored a game-high 17 points, leading the way.

With two of the team’s primary ball handlers sidelined, Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said his bench players were remarkable.

“They may not have been comfortable in the situation they were put in on the court — especially in a pressure situation — but they stepped up and did a nice job,” he said.

Protecting a six-point lead at that point, Port Jefferson was sent to the free-throw line, but couldn’t cash in. Pierson had the same opportunity on the other end, and used it to lessen the Royals’ advantage to four points. Coming down to the wire, Pierson’s Isabel Peters went to the stripe and sank both of her free throws with 17 seconds left in the game.

Port Jefferson sophomore Jocelyn Lebron added a free-throw to extend Port Jefferson’s advantage to three points. Port Jefferson senior Corinne Scannell had an opportunity to put the championship away when she was fouled with eight seconds left, and she didn’t disappoint.

“No matter how much they were gaining on us, we still had the lead and we had to keep that in perspective,” Scannell said. “We put pressure on ourselves, we played as a team and we pushed ourselves.”

Lebron said despite being one of the younger members of the squad, she too knew what her Royals had to do.

“When they got close, we just had to slow this game down a little bit, but keep our energy up,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with this experience.”

Rosen said he gave his girls some words of advice during the fourth quarter.

“I said to them that runs are inevitable,” he said. “Things like that are going to happen and the key is to be able to weather the run.”

Colucci credited her teammates for how they handled the game’s final minutes, but not before she tipped her hat to her opponents, especially for being the team to top the Royals last year.

“It’s always a tough game against Pierson — they never give up and they play us really hard — but we just had to keep our composure,” she said. “We all made eye contact, we relaxed and we slowed the game down. We tried not to let the crowd get us frazzled and we kept our heads in the game.”

Behind Lewis were Colucci and Scannell with 11 points each. Colucci swished two 3-pointers and Scannell had a double-double with 12 rebounds. Senior Gillian Kenah finished with five points, Lebron added four and freshman Samantha Ayotte scored once, with a shot from beyond the arc.

Port Jefferson will take on Class B’s winner of the Feb. 21 Mattituck and McGann-Mercy matchup for the small school championship title at Riverhead High School Feb. 24 at 4 p.m.

While the team is to get ready for the next game, Rosen said just wants his team to take in the moment first.

“I told them to just savor the win,” he said. “We’ll talk X’s and O’s another time.”

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