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county championship

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Cougars score nine 3-pointers to nab third county crown in four years

Commack's girls basketball team celebrates in county title win over Half Hollow Hills East. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Commack’s girls basketball team proved once again why it’s the No. 1 seed and team to beat by securing the program’s third Suffolk County championship title in four years.

Kim Shaloub shoots from outside. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Cougars controlled the tempo with their ability to spread the floor and shoot from the perimeter, making nine 3-pointers in a 52-25 topple over No. 2 Half Hollow Hills East Feb. 27 at Farmingdale State College.

Senior captain and Commack sharpshooter Kim Shalhoub drained a team-high four threes to lead the Cougars with 14 points. She had 13 points in a Feb. 24 semifinal win over Ward Melville. She felt more comfortable taking shots from beyond the arc this time around.

“It was really good to finally hit some shots after last game,” Shalhoub said. “Nothing was really going in for me on Saturday.”

She said she was able to get open shot opportunities coming off screens, which is a vital part of the Cougars’ offense.

“A lot of our plays have to do with setting screens for each other, cutting, and a lot of fast movement,” Shalhoub said. “I think that’s really important when it comes to getting open for shots.”

Junior guard Katie Kelly contributed 13 points and knocked down two 3-pointers for Commack. It’s her third straight time making it to the county finals game. In the second half, Commack ran away with the game by outscoring the Thunderbirds 24-9 while playing smothering defense. Going into the game, Kelly was not anticipating a one-sided affair.

Amanda McMahon shoots ahead of the block. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I expected them to come out a lot harder,” Kelly said. “I think that we just played our game. We stayed together, ultimately. We said that no matter what happens in this game, we have to stay together.”

Commack senior captain Casey Hearns orchestrated the offense. She called plays and made extra passes until her Cougars were open for shots. She added eight points, also making two 3-pointers. Her first shot from outside was a running bank shot off the glass at the end of the first quarter, which gave Commack a comfortable 21-8 advantage. To finalize a 13-0 run in the third quarter in the final minute, she tossed a shot that put Commack up by 23 points, 44-21.

“We usually depend on Katie [Kelly], but she was being covered,” Hearns said. “When she’s being covered or when the offense is a little slow, I’m obviously going to step in and help her. I think that’s what we do really well on offense. I’m always happy to assist my teammates by sharing the ball.”

Hearns said she was astonished to know her team allowed just nine points in the second half.

Katie Kelly drives to the basket. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I had no idea. That’s awesome,” Hearns said. “We played defense really well in the second half. I’m so proud with how we played.”

Denis Conroy, Commack’s 12-year head coach, missed a large portion of the season due to medical reasons. Assistant coach Russ Tietjen, Harborfields’ former head coach, has led the team most of the year, but Conroy said he could not be happier to add another county title notch to his belt.

“It’s the pride of my life to be their coach,” Conroy said. “They are just tremendous kids. You can’t say enough about what they did. It means a lot to play as well as we did against a team that good. We have managed to develop a strong continuity in our program and I’m very proud of that.”

The Cougars await the winner of the Nassau Class AA final between Massapequa and Baldwin. Commack will play the winner in the Long Island championship/ Southeast Regional semifinal March 8. The game is currently slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

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.

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Patriots relay team places first at Millrose Games, counties

Allyson Gaedje crosses the finish line at the New York Road Runner Millrose Games finals for first place. Photo from Tom Youngs

They’ve had that feeling before — the pit in their stomach as they watched Gator run.

This wasn’t the typical scaly, dark olive-brown reptile the Ward Melville 4×400-meter relay team was watching. It was their anchor — Allyson “Gator” Gaedje.

She was sprinting across the final stretch of the race at the New York Road Runners Millrose Games Feb. 3, maintaining her Patriots’ lead with Westhampton Beach hot on her trail.

Ward Melville’s 4×400-meter relay quartet of Allyson Gaedje, Elizabeth Radke, Sam Rutt and Sam SturgessPhoto from Tom Youngs

“So many things are going through your mind, but you really can’t process anything except ‘Gator, hold on, Gator, hold on,’” said leadoff runner Sam Rutt, who on the track was with teammates Elizabeth Radke and Sam Sturgess watching Gaedje as she beat Westhampton to the finish line. “Her smiling as she crossed the finish line ­— it was the best feeling for all of us.”

The Patriots completed the race in 3 minutes, 57.84 seconds for Ward Melville’s first win at the Millrose Games.

“It didn’t feel real,” said Sturgess, a senior who passed the baton off to Gaedje. “We’ve been told we can do it, but seeing it happen was unreal.”

Gaedje credited visualization as a strength in her preparation to compete.

“I like to picture how I want it to go, and it helps because once you’re in the race, you don’t have a lot of time to think, but you already have that mental image in your head — It makes it easier to stay focused on the goal,” she said. “Once I got the baton I was ready to get around the track as fast as I could.”

Being in Lane 6, Rutt said she couldn’t see anyone behind her, and she wanted to keep it that way.

“I thought if no one could catch me we’d be in good shape,” the senior said.

“It takes brave individuals to dig in their heels and be patient to do things the right way, and to look ahead to the long term by believing and trusting in the process.”

— Tom Youngs

Westhampton remained hot on their tail, and after a shaky handoff to Radke, the Patriots fell to second.

“I went a little earlier than I should have,” the sophomore said. “I tried to do everything in my power to race well.”

Head coach Tom Youngs said after a sub-par fall cross country season, it’s nice to see things turn around for his team.

“It takes brave individuals to dig in their heels and be patient to do things the right way, and to look ahead to the long term by believing and trusting in the process,” Youngs said. “The effort and grit shown that Saturday was a direct result of these girls working to be the best versions of themselves each and every day. I could not be more proud of them.”

The win motivated the relay team to finish first the following day at the Suffolk County indoor championship. Gaedje also won the 600 in 1:39.67, and Rutt took first in the 1,000 in 3:07.57. It was only Rutt’s second time competing in the event.

“I was surprised,” she said of placing first. “But I was comfortable, hanging back to make sure she had enough momentum left to propel her the last few meters. It was all about me staying on top of the others girls to get as many points as I could for us to compete for a team title.”

Kiera Hughes leaps over the hurdles in the 55-meter dash. She broke the school record twice. Photo from Kiera Hughes

Senior Kiera Hughes, who has been improving on her time all season, finished the 55 hurdles in 8.73, good for second in the county. Sophomore Megan Wood took seventh in the shot put with a throw of 33 feet, 8.5 inches, her personal best.

Hughes first broke the school record of 8.74, set in 2003, with an 8.63 finish. At the league championship, she broke her own record with an 8.60.

“I’m proud of the results of all my hard work thus far,” Hughes said, adding that breaking the school record, which is also the state standard, was a goal of hers. “I had wanted to set a time that I could kind of strive for. Going into each race I want to get better — just keep trying to beat myself. I’m my own best competition.”

After competing in her first state qualifier last season without the state standard, she’s more confident competing this time around, being ranked second in the county by 100th of a second.

The Patriots will compete in the state qualifier meet held at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Feb. 12 at 5 p.m.

“I’m a very determined person,” Hughes said. “I’ve also wanted to be the best in whatever I can. I want to improve myself every single race.  It’s all for the excitement and that thrill.”

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Girls top East Islip for first time in three years, boys team places fourth

For the first time in three years, Middle Country's girls bowling team bested East Islip for the county crown. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The intensity was up and the noise level high as Middle Country and East Islip found themselves in familiar territory — duking it out for the county title for seven hours Feb. 3. Middle Country won by 42 pins after erasing an 43-pin deficit heading into game six to finally overcome East Islip after coming in second to the Redmen the last two years.

With emotional hugs and tears, Middle Country won its final game 1,147 to 1,062 after being up in games one through three. Amanda Scarfogliero finished with a 1,317 series, and saved her best for last, a 256 in Game 6, the team’s second highest score. No one on Middle Country bowled lower than a 202 in the final game. Scarfogliero was in tears as the final scores were being calculated.

Middle Country’s Julie Acosta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“My heart dropped honestly,” Scarfogliero said. “I made a promise to this team and my parents that I’d get Middle Country up to Syracuse. That’s exactly what we did. I needed to get that last game-high, and I did it.”

Middle Country rallied back to win 6,454 to 6,412 in a thriller at Bowlero in Sayville, winning four of the six games.

Middle Country’s 69-year-old head coach Mandy Dominguez announced he will be retiring after coaching for 28 years and in Middle Country for 18.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” Dominguez said. “The girls did not give up. They all had 200s in the final game. They’re resilient, and a tough group of girls.”

East Islip came out on fire in Game 4 and Game 5, out-bowling Middle Country 1,131 to 1,020 in the latter to turn a 248-pin deficit into the 43-pin lead.

“I knew we could come back,” Dominguez said. “We were just hoping that East Islip wouldn’t get hot. The [Middle Country] girls came through and that’s the main thing.”

Freshman Hannah Skalacki came in with the highest average in the county for Middle Country at 223. She said there was a lot of pressure taking down East Islip. She rolled a 255 in Game 1 of a 1,330 series.

“I love competition,” Skalacki said. “When everything was going on, I felt the tension going everywhere.”

Middle Country’s Hannah Skalacki. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Senior Julie Acosta was the last bowler in starting rotation for Middle Country. She finished the last game with a 225 and had the team’s high game with a 279. Middle Country had mathematically already won before she bowled her final frame.

“I was so nervous,” Acosta said finishing up her game. “Knowing that we won, I just wanted it to be over with and be able to celebrate with my team.”

The last time Acosta went to states, she was in seventh grade, which was her first season with Middle Country.

In Dominguez’s final season coaching, he said going to the states is icing on the cake. The team will compete at The Oncenter March 10 at 9 a.m.

“I’m so happy, especially very happy for the girls,” Dominguez said. “East Islip has beat us every year for the past three or four years. This year, the seniors came through and they worked hard. They’re a great bunch of girls and a great bunch of talented bowlers.”


In other county bowling news:

Middle Country’s boys bowling placed fourth with 6,294 points.

East Islip claimed first by a landslide with 6,829 points to earn back-to-back county titles. In second was West Babylon with 6,353 and Sachem in third with 6,346.

Comsewogue’s. Hannah Manetta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Middle Country junior Noah Axinn bowled a 300 in his second game. He’s never bowled a sanctioned 300 before.

Senior Thomas Lettich finished sixth in the county in with a 223 average for Middle County. He has the fourth highest series in the county at 783. He will go to Syracuse to play in the All-Star game.

Comsewogue girls bowling team placed fifth in the county championship with 5,612 points. The Warriors won three of their six games.

“It’s kinda where I thought we would be,” Comsewogue head coach Bo Frimmer said. “I was hoping that we would somehow come in third, because it’s always tough to beat East Islip and Middle Country.”

Junior Hannah Manetta has the seventh highest average in the county at 216. She bowled an average of 221 in the tournament. Last year, Warriors finished in sixth.

“This year we bowled against a lot of the harder teams, which is when you bowl against harder competitors, it leads you to bowl better,” Manetta said. “It was pretty tough this year.”

This post was updated Feb. 5 to correct the deficit Middle Country overcame for the win.

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By Jim Ferchland

After Corey Connolly’s match-clinching win, he jumped in the arms of assistant coach Anthony Volpe. In that moment, the entire Rocky Point team surrounded them knowing what they just achieved.

“It was amazing,” Connolly said of helping the Eagles to their third consecutive Suffolk County dual meet title Jan. 20 He pinned Brentwood’s Hugo Vasquez in 1 minute, 35 seconds to give his team a commanding 37-3 advantage. “I’m so happy. I’ve waited my whole life to be county champ, and now it’s here. Training with these guys all season — hard work, it actually pays off.”

Rocky Point’s wrestling team beat Brentwood at Bay Shore High School, 37-33 even after chosing to forfeit the final five matches.

“I’m going to wrestle until we clinch,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said was his mentality, chosing to protect his final grapplers by not competing if they didn’t need to. “Then when we clinch, we are going to walk off the mat. We are going healthy upstate.”

Senior Jake Pohl (27-10 record) got Rocky Point heading in the right direction when he earned a 5-0 decision over Jean Jasmine at 285 pounds. The Eagles cruised from there.

“It felt really good just knowing I went out there and got the job done,” Pohl said. “Once one person gets going on our team, everyone else gets going. It’s a train you can’t stop.”

Nick LaMorte, a seventh-grader and youngest on Rocky Point’s roster, won in a dazzling 12-9 decision over Fernando Romero in the 99-pound weight class to keep the train rolling.He scored a reversal and two back points in the final 13 seconds for the comeback win.

“It gave us momentum,” Goldstein said. “That can help you build.”

Rocky Point fought in 10 matches and won nine of them, dropping the 106-pound weight class.

After the loss, sophomore Logan Sciotto answered right back for Rocky Point earning a 5-2 decision over Brentwood’s Wenchard Pierre-Louis at 113 pounds. Sophomore Evan Mathias squeezed by Richard Diaz with a 5-3 decision at 120. Senior captain Ryan Callahan won his 138-pound match and classmate Donald Hammarth took his at 145.

Goldstein said he’s excited to be one of the first to represent Suffolk County in the state dual meet championship. Rocky Point will wrestle Jan. 27 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Section XI wrestling chairman Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director at Comsewogue, said 12 teams will be competing in four pools of three teams each, with the winner of each pool heading to the semifinals. The winners of those matchups will face off in the final. The Eagles, in the Division I pool, are grouped with Spencerport (No. 3 seed) and Jamesville-DeWitt, competing on mat three.

“We are going to try our best,” Goldstein said. “We know that we can compete with the best kids in the state — that’s really what we’ve been doing all year long. We got these kids focused, in the right mindset.”

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The Mount Sinai softball team raises up its championship plaque following a 8-1 win over Westhampton-Beach. Photo by Alex Petroski

Before 2015, Mount Sinai’s softball team had never won a Suffolk Class A title. Now, the county crowns are coming in bunches.

The Mustangs completed their Suffolk schedule a perfect 22-0 with an 8-1 victory in the championship game against Westhampton Beach May 27 at Mount Sinai High School. Junior Emma Wimmer led the way with a complete game, eight-strikeout performance on the mound and went 2-for-3 with four RBIs at the plate — including a three-run homerun in the fifth.

Emma Wimmer throws a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Couldn’t happen to a better kid,” head coach Thomas Tilton said of Wimmer’s big day. He praised his starter and sophomore pitcher Julia Golino for their season-long dominance in the circle. “We have a two-headed dinosaur here — we have a kid that’s 12-0 and another kid that’s 10-0. So on any given day, either one of them can go, and they do their job.”

Golino served as a catalyst for the offense against Westhampton, chipping in three doubles and scoring two runs in the blowout win. She’s been one of many underclassmen to step up for the Mustangs throughout the course of the 2017 season, and given her age, could be a sign that the three straight championships might only be the beginning.

“I think being younger helped us,” Golino said. “We’ve gained experience through this, and we’re only going to grow through the years.”

Wimmer, who will also be back to make a run at four straight county titles in 2018, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s good because you get to work with them throughout all the years, and everyone’s just progressively getting better,” she said. “We’re all growing up together basically.”

Julia Golino hits one of her three doubles. Photo by Alex Petroski

Before Wimmer’s big swing in the fifth, Mount Sinai led 4-1 thanks to two sacrifice flies from tenth graders — one by Holly McNair in the third and another by Ilexa Skulnick before Wimmer’s homer in the fifth — and several baserunners taking the extra base on fly outs and wild pitches. Following the semifinal win, Tilton repeatedly used the word “gritty” to describe his team, and the same toughness and willingness to grind out at-bats characterized the performance Saturday before Wimmer blew the game open.

“We were hitting it hard, they just weren’t falling in,” Tilton said. “It was just a matter of time. They were playing us deep and we were just trying to hit the ball in front of them.”

Westhampton made Wimmer work early on the mound. The first two batters reached on a single and a walk to start the game, but two strikeouts with runners on second and third eliminated the threat in the top of the first. A double and a single to start the third inning got Westhampton on the board first, but Wimmer settled in, allowing only one more baserunner over the final four innings. She retired 14 of the last 15 batters she faced.

Emma Wimmer’s teammates congratulate her after a three-run homer. Photo by Alex Petroski

The hurler said she couldn’t remember a better all-around game in her career, and called it “awesome” to come up with the clutch performance in a county final.

“It was a great feeling, I was so happy,” Wimmer said, reflecting on what went through her mind as the homer sailed over the centerfield fence. “It definitely let some of the pressure off. Having more runs helps when I pitch because you get that insurance.”

Mount Sinai will face McArthur in the Long Island championship June 2 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue at 3:30 p.m.

The Mustangs celebrate their third straight county title. Photo by Alex Petroski

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The Wildcats will play in the Long Island championship June 3

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team dogpiles following its 8-1 win over Bayport-Blue Point, to complete a series sweep for the Class A Suffolk County crown. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team utilized a familiar formula to extend its dominant season beyond the Suffolk County Class A final May 26 — equal doses of the long ball and the powerful right arm of senior ace Brian Morrell.

Brian Morrell hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

Morrell put a cherry on top of his special senior season with a complete game, 11-strikeout performance to stymie the Bayport-Blue Point bats in an 8-1 victory. He also went 3-for-5 at the plate including a second-inning grand slam — his second in three games — finishing just a triple short of the cycle. The win was the 20th in a row for the Wildcats, which completed the sweep of Bayport-Blue Point to close out their Suffolk County schedule 24-1, with an eye on more pieces of hardware.

“His breaking ball was really dynamite — that’s a tough pitch to hit,” head coach Kevin Willi said of Morrell’s stuff on the mound Friday. “He’s throwing it in all counts — not afraid to throw it 3-2 to guys; and it was really effective.”

Willi reflected on coaching the dominant two-way player during his memorable career.

“It’s nice, it’s easy,” Willi said of coaching Morrell. “He’s a good kid too on top of that. He’s always team first.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team celebrates its Class A Suffolk County championship win. Photo by Alex Petroski

The ace, who has committed to play ball at the University of Notre Dame next season, said his whole arsenal was working in the victory.

“I just commanded my fastball, that’s really how I started off every batter,” he said. “Every pitch I really felt confident in. I knew if I threw strikes I was going to come out with the ‘W.’”

Morrell scattered three hits over the first two innings, then didn’t allow another over the final five frames. He set down 10 straight Phantoms at one point, before loading the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch to start the sixth. A fly out and two strikeouts ended the threat and maintained a seven-run lead.

“He was throwing really hard and painting corners,” senior catcher Thomas Brady said of his battery mate’s performance. Brady kicked off the scoring with a one-out, two-run homer in the top of the first. He and Morrell combined to drive in seven of the Wildcats’ eight runs. “Honestly, when me and him get in our rhythm, we’re the best duo,” Brady said. “It’s really hard to hit Brian obviously.”

Brian Morrell rounds the bases after hitting his second grand slam in the last three games. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite Morrell’s consistency on the hill, Willi said the team was driven by its offense in 2017.

“All season we’ve had a really heavy senior class — a lot of guys working hard for very many years to get to this point,” he said. “We put together a lot of great pitching performances, we played great defense at times when we needed it, and really the story of the year was the bats. We scored a lot of runs.”

The Wildcats will face the winner of the Nassau County championship series between Wantagh and Garden City. The Long Island championship game will be played June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury at 12 p.m.

Brady said he’s not sure it matters who Shoreham-Wading River squares off against next.

“Whoever we play, they’re not going to stop us right now,” he said. “We’re hot, we’re playing hard. We became a team, and I’m proud of all of these guys.”

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