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Landslide victories help Eagles to seventh straight league crown

Rocky Point's Corey Connolly takes down his Amityville opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

These Eagles are flying high.

Like the opportunistic foragers they represent, Rocky Point’s wrestlers saw how close they were to another undefeated league season, and grabbed it by easily outscoring Amityville and Westhampton Beach to finish the season 6-0.

Rocky Point’s Ryan Callahan claims a victory. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Our team has been grinding throughout the year,” senior captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had a lot of tough matches; we’ve had some tough teams we’ve battled, but every team will get their bumps and bruises.”

Amityville had to bow out of six matches — weight classes 99 to 132 — giving Rocky Point a 36-point lead right out of the gate on the way to a 74-9 victory Jan. 10. Sal Aprile pinned Amityville’s Nestor Rivera in the 182-pound weight class to give Rocky Point 67 consecutive points.

“It’s a rarity, but not so much with Amityville,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said of the multiple forfeits.

Callahan (22-4 at 138 pounds) and Don Hammarth (16-1 at 145 pounds) won by technical falls, outscoring their opponents by 15 points for automatic wins.

Callahan said Goldstein has taught him everything he knows about wrestling.

“I’ve been around him since I was 5 years old,” Callahan said. “He taught me everything about the sport; everything about competing. He taught me great sportsmanship and to enjoy sports.”

Rob Pliska gave the Eagles four points with a major decision over Amityville’s Angel Zavala, 8-0, at 152 pounds, and Corey Connolly won 5-0 at 160 pounds.

Rocky Point’s Don Hammarth controls his Amityville challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Eagles only continued their winning ways at Westhampton Jan. 11 with another dominant win.

Mickey Gold, Justin Amendola, Anthony Sciotto and Darren Ketcham each pinned their challengers, which alone would have handed Rocky Point sole possession of the League VI title. Rocky Point won the dual meet 67-12.

Callahan and Connolly teched their opponents, and Hammarth pulled out an 11-3 major decision.

“We’ve had a share of the league title for the last seven years straight,” Goldstein said. “We are proud, but we set big goals in the beginning. We work year round.”

Rocky Point finishes the regular season 11-1 overall, with the sole loss being to League V’s Eastport-South Manor the first meet of the season. Goldstein is proud to see how his grapplers bounced back, giving it their all at each meet after. He’s looking forward to seeing what his Eagles can do in the Suffolk County brackets.

“We didn’t wrestle our best to Eastport-South Manor, but we’ve been rolling ever since,” Goldstein said. “When the county dual comes, you can’t run away.”

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Rocky Point's field hockey team celebrates its first Suffolk County championship title since 2014. After losing to Miller Place in the county finals the last two years, Rocky Point shut out the Panthers 4-0 Oct. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner felt different about this county playoff game.

For the first time after her pregame ritual, which involves showing a picture slideshow to her field hockey team, she wasn’t crying.

Bella Fusco passes the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

“I always tell them I get very nervous before games, and I always get very scared before a county game because it could mean goodbye,” the coach said. “But they looked at me after we did our picture slideshow and they said, ‘Look, she’s not crying.’ And I wasn’t crying, because today I knew wouldn’t be goodbye.”

Bella Fusco fulfilled Bittner’s prophecy, finding the back of the cage twice in her Rocky Point field hockey team’s 4-0 blanking of Miller Place for the Suffolk County Class B crown Oct. 28.

“We wanted it a lot more — we’ve been working for so long, we work hard, we practice, we run a lot to stay in shape, and we just deserved it,” Fusco said. “We’re all a big family so to move on [to the Long Island Championship], nothing could be sweeter.”

Fusco, a sophomore at top-seeded Rocky Point, scored her first goal nine minutes into the contest off a pass from Sara Giammarella. The senior set the tone 40 seconds later, when she rocked the back of the box with a hard hit off of a feed from senior Christiana Bellissimo for a 2-0 lead at the 20:20 mark. But Giammarella was quick not to take all of the credit.

“It’s our defense,” she said of what helped her Eagles soar. “Nicki Taveras holds our backs on the defensive side; she’s a wall, no one can get past her. And Lizzy Wiener, she’s awesome, just fantastic.”

Miller Place’s Nicole Beck and Rocky Point’s Sara Giammarella fight for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Rocky Point proved faster to the ball, passed cleanly and pressured the No. 2 Panthers, which struggled to get the ball past midfield.

With 12:51 left in the first half, Fusco struck on a crossing pass from senior Emily Molinaro for a 3-0 advantage at the break.

Deflated, opportunity came knocking for Miller Place when Rocky Point went a down a player with 24 minutes left in regulation, but was unable to capitalize.

Senior forward Hannah Luchsinger scored the final goal on a solo shot to close out the scoring for the Eagles, which had previously lost to Miller Place in the last two county finals matchups.

“I have 10 seniors who want it [more than anything else],” Bittner said. “I have 10 seniors who have gone to the county championship the past three years and have not won it, so all I saw today was heart.”

Rocky Point will face Garden City in the Long Island championship Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles last faced the Trojans when the team made it to the regional game in 2014.

Rocky Point’s field hockey team shut out Miller Place 4-0 for the team’s first Suffolk County Class B title since 2014. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country's Shauna Singh continues the volly. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Middle Country ended the regular season on a high note.

Rocky Point’s Katie Barber sends the ball over the net. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mad Dogs girls tennis team invaded Rocky Point Oct. 2 and took home a 6-1 League VI win over the Eagles. Middle Country is ranked No. 3 in the standings with a 6-4 record behind Mount Sinai and undefeated Port Jefferson.

“We were pretty evenly balanced today in singles — they kept the ball in play and they didn’t make the mental mistakes [to] beat themselves,” Middle Country head coach Mike Steinberg said. “Our doubles [had a good outing]. They worked well together.”

What the coach has liked seeing most from his team this season is consistency, and hopes that carries into tournament play.

“We’ll get some doubles in for the tournament,” he said. “Hopefully we can get one or two singles [players into the mix].”

Middle Country’s Olivia Zhu serves. Photo by Bill Landon

After dropping her first two games, Middle Country’s No. 1 singles player Olivia Zhu, a five-year varsity starter, swept the next 12 to shut the door on her opponent, winning 6-2, 6-0.

“I had a little bit of a slow start in those first two games, but after that it was smooth sailing,” the senior two-time All-County player said. “I thought I did a really good job at pushing her deep — keeping her towards the baseline — to attack to finish off points.”

Rocky Point senior duo Katie Barber and Allison Kasper had their hands full in No. 1 doubles, dropping the match 3-6, 4-6.

“We ended up losing, but it was a really strong match,” Barber said. “We were strong at the net. I’m tall, so it’s hard to get it around me. It’s a powerful shot [if I can hit] down at them and that gets you a lot of points.”

Kasper said she and Barber will now prepare for postseason play where it’s anybody’s match, especially not knowing who your opponent is until game time. Rocky Point ends the season with a 2-8 team record.

“It all depends on the draw — hopefully we get an easier team so that we face them first and from there work our way up,” Kasper said. “I was pleased with my backhand today, but I need to be more aggressive on my net play.”

Rocky Point’s Allison Kasper slams the ball back over the new. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country’s Haylie Budd said she was satisfied with her play in No. 1 doubles against the pair, adding it wasn’t the first time the two teams had squared off.

“We were good at volleying at the net and hitting it away from them,” Budd said. “I expected a strong match and they were better than the last time we faced them.”

Rocky Point head coach Jim Buonconsiglio said he’s also been pleased with the progress his team has made.

“The girls have just been a delight to work with,” he said. “All around I’ve seen tremendous growth from the start of the season through today. Record-wise it doesn’t really show that, but as their coach I can see that the growth has been there and all aspects of their game has improved.”

By Bill Landon

Harborfields settled the score Saturday as the Tornadoes invaded Rocky Point and avenged last year’s homecoming loss by outscoring the Eagles 20-13 during a homecoming celebration of their own. Rocky Point senior Petey LaSalla bulled his way up the field for two touchdowns to help tie Harborfields with eight minutes left in the game, but a Tornadoes touchdown and stop sealed the Eagles’ fate Sept. 16.

“The juniors on last year’s team remember that loss,” Harborfields head coach Rocco Colucci said. “I mean, hats off to Rocky Point, they’re a great football team and with good teams it usually does go down to the last minute, but what better way than to [come here] and return the favor at their homecoming game.”

Harborfields dominated the time of possession in the opening half, but the Eagles’ defense held the team to just one touchdown after senior quarterback P.J. Clementi found a hole into the end zone at the 10:58 mark of the second quarter. With a failed point-after attempt, the team took a 6-0 lead into the break.

“Our defense [played well] in the first half to hold them to just six points when they had possession like 90 percent of the time,” LaSalla said. “We lost a close one last week and this obviously sucks going 0-2, but we have power points [given to teams that face top-ranked opponents] and we have a big game next week at Comsewogue, which is their homecoming, and hopefully we can do to them what Harborfields did to us.”

The Eagles opened the second half by marching the ball down to a fourth-and-one, but Harborfields’ defense plugged the hole and took over on downs. The Tornadoes used the possession to strike with just two minutes left in the quarter. Clementi took another keeper across the goal line, and Harborfields senior Ethan Krauss split the uprights this time to put his team ahead 13-0.

“Our offensive and defensive lines were unreal today — they were making holes, they were clogging holes,” Clementi said. “To have those big guys up front, it’s a blessing, but I knew [Rocky Point was] going to try to get [Petey LaSalla] the ball. because he’s their playmaker.”

The Eagles’ offense opened the final quarter with a new look, putting LaSalla in shotgun formation. The running back plowed up the field until he crossed into the end zone for Rocky Point’s first touchdown of the day. Senior Jack Costa nailed the extra-point kick attempt to pull within six, 13-7. LaSalla scored again, but a missed kick blew Rocky Point’s chance at taking its first lead of the game.

With the score tied 13-13, Clementi hit senior wide receiver Chris Dluginsky bolting down the left sideline 56 yards to Rocky Point’s 22-yard line. Senior running back Jimmy Bifulco finished the job with the final touchdown of the game for the 20-13 win.

“I know they’re a great team, well-coached, but we came out here and we played our best,” Bifulco said. “We’re a family, we stick together the entire way and when it comes down to the last minute, we’ll finish it.”

Harborfields did just that, holding off Rocky Point on its final attempt deep in Harbrofields’ territory with 14 seconds left until the time expired.

“I was sitting on the sideline and and I couldn’t watch,” Clementi said. “I walked back to the track and turned around. I was just waiting for that [last] play to be over.”

Rocky Point head coach Anthony DiLorenzo said he wishes he’d have taken a timeout when a first down was signaled following Rocky Point’s first possession of the second half.

“Unfortunately, at the end of the game, that came back to bite us,” he said. “We came up short on the two-yard line.”

Colucci said he couldn’t be more proud of his players, especially despite not being at full strength.

“This was the ultimate team win,” he said. “Even at halftime people were looking at each other and saying ‘we still got this.’ I have a couple of guys who weren’t feeling well and I told them ‘don’t play for yourself, play for the guy next to you because next time they’re going to do it for you,’ and that’s going to win us some close games.”

By Bill Landon

Shenendehowa has given the Ward Melville field hockey team a run for its money the last two seasons — outscoring the Patriots by one goal in the state semifinals last season and in double overtime in the state finals the year before. But this season, the Rocky Point field hockey team was first to press its luck with Ward Melville, forcing a shootout that the Patriots pulled away perfect from, 3-0, for the first win of the season.

“Respect to Rocky Point — they are a very aggressive and talented team, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said of its nonleague opponent. “In fact, we like to schedule our nonleagues to be competitive games — it helps us see where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on.”

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now.”

—Shannon Sioss

Rocky Point was first to find the back of the cage when senior midfielder Madison Sanchez dished the ball to senior forward Emily Molinaro.

The Patriots had to shake off the cobwebs when they found themselves battling a scrappy, in-your-face Eagles squad that caused several turnovers, and Ward Melville senior forward Kerri Thornton was first to break the ice. She evened the score for the Patriots with four minutes left until the halftime break, and rocked the back of the box on another solo with nine minutes left in the game for Ward Melville’s first lead.

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now,” Sioss said. “I thought that Shannon Coughlan held the middle of our field today and Kerri Thornton is always up for a good challenge, so it’s fun to watch her play.”

Thornton said her team took the game very serious, knowing Rocky Point’s pedigree.

“I knew that Rocky Point was going to be good because they always battle with Miller Place in the county final,” the senior said. “So I wasn’t coming into this game thinking ‘oh, we’re going to win [this game easily, and as it turned out we had our hands full].”

Ward Melville drew a costly yellow card that led to Rocky Point defender Elizabeth Weiner scoring on a penalty shot to tie the game with four minutes remaining.

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game,” said Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner. “In the beginning we dominated, we scored first, and I think Ward Melville woke up a little bit, but we also got a little tired.”

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game. “In the beginning we dominated…”

—Katie Bittner

Despite being a player down in the final minute of regulation, the Eagles held their own until the clock expired. Ward Melville, still a man up, tried to take home the win in sudden death overtime, but the Eagles returned to full strength two minutes in without Ward Melville getting a shot off. Rocky Point went down a player yet again in the final four minutes, but neither team could score.

“I don’t think that they played bad or that we got lucky — I honestly think that we were the better team,” Bittner said. “We made some mental mistakes that put us a man down, but when the field is this big, it’s huge that we held our own with our five field players to their six.”

Then came the best-of-five shootout, where Thornton and seniors Lexi Reinhardt and Kate Mulham helped Ward Melville to the 3-0 win, while goalkeeper Meghan Lorenzen guarded the Patriots’ cage to keep Rocky Point off the board.

Ward Melville will host Riverhead Sept. 6 at 4:15 p.m. Rocky Point opens its league season at home Sept. 7, hosting Sayville at 4 p.m.

Despite the loss, Bittner has realistic goals for her team this year.

“I’m not looking for an undefeated season by any means, I’m looking to get us to where [Ward Melville] got last year, which is a state championship,” she said. “And with this group, I know they can do it. This was truly a learning experience.”

Rocky Point’s Class of 2017 celebrated graduation day June 23.

Students decorated their caps and proudly displayed old and new school pride during the commencement ceremony inside the auditorium.

Valedictorian Pooja Deshpande, salutatorian Nicholas LoCastro and exhortation speaker Natalie Bazata addressed the crowd and Rocky Point Board of Education President Susan Sullivan handed out the diplomas. Other awards, like best in math, science and foreign language were handed out, along with scholarships.

Skylar Carrasquillo breaks away with the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Brianna Carrasquillo’s five goals and two assists, and Christina Ferrara’s three goals and five assists, led the Rocky Point girls’ lacrosse team to a 20-11 home win over Hauppauge in a rain-drenched, windy Division II matchup April 25.

Madison Sanchez drives past a Hauppauge defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“For us, we’re finding that next level,” Rocky Point head coach Dan Spallina said. “Hauppauge, they’re fast, athletic with good lacrosse IQ and they’re a physical team. Our performance was good in that we got a lot of different girls in, and that’s always good for team morale.”

Leading 2-1 in the first five minutes of play, the Eagles began soaring over their opponent, scoring eight unanswered goals. During that time, sophomore Brianna Lamoureux notched her hat trick goal, Carrasquillo chipped in two, and juniors Madison Sanchez and Christina Bellissimo and sophomore Megan Greco each stretched the net for a 10-1 advantage just 11 minutes into the contest.

Hauppauge scored to stop the scoring spell, but it didn’t last long, as Carrasquillo and her younger sister Skylar each split the pipes for a 12-2 advantage.

Hauppauge again answered with two goals, but Ferrara’s stick spoke next with a solo shot for a 13-4 lead with six minutes still until halftime.

“We definitely didn’t want to underestimate them — we had to come out and play our game if we wanted to come out on top, and I thought we did that,” she said. “We got almost every draw today and that’s a huge part — that’s a game changer.”

Sanchez was that spark, winning 23 of 32 draws.

Christina Ferrara changes direction as she moves toward the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

Spallina opened the second half with his bench players, and as they gained some playing time Hauppauge began to chip away at the deficit, scoring four goals over the next five minutes to close the gap, 16-9, to slow the running clock back to normal.

But Brianna Carrasquillo slammed home her fifth goal of the game, and Sanchez once more to keep a nice margin.

“We didn’t want to take anything for granted,” Sanchez said. “Yes we’re ranked higher, but you still have to work hard. We’re not going to let anyone just slide through. We capitalized on our draws, we hit all of our shots and our speed is definitely a big part of our game.”

With the win, Rocky Point improves to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in league play, trailing division leader Eastport-South Manor by two games.

“With our speed we can bang the ball around, and with the movement we have, that’s our strength,” Spallina said. “I’m impressed with a lot of the girls and the amount of assists we had today. [Brianna] Carrasquillo — yeah, she’s the girl that buries the ball, but there’s a bunch of different pieces that go into it. Christina Ferrara chips in huge ground balls, she’s all heart and her assist numbers speaks volumes.”

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

By Bill Landon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Rocky Point cheerleading team gets into formation. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point continues to control the top spot.

The Eagles cheerleading team showed why it’s a 13-time regional and three-time national champion when it took to the mat Dec. 18 in the Small School Division I meet. The Eagles competed against 10 other teams and placed first in the event with a flawless two-and-a-half-minute performance that wowed the near-capacity crowd at Comsewogue High School.

The Rocky Point cheerleading team performs for the crowd. Photo by Bill Landon

They were the seventh squad to perform, and took to the mat with a presence. Every tumble was crisp and deliberate, every flip landed in unison and every pyramid was mistake free. The Eagles made it look easy and the girls smiled from ear to ear because they were confident, and genuinely having fun.

Rocky Point head coach Anna Spallina said one challenge her team has had to face with the new rules is getting used to the limited number of practices allowed.

“We still do the three hours sometimes — it’s hard, but three hours is three hours, they know that they have to come to practice and be serious about their work,” she said. “And we keep the level of pride up there.”

She said her girls know the level that they need to uphold, not just for her, but for the judges.

“They know that they’re going to be picked apart a lot harder than any other team,” Spallina said, “because they’re looking for them to make a mistake.”

Senior Kristin Flatley said that with six years of experience, after landing on the mat for the final time, she thought her team aced the performance. Her teammates erupted into celebration, too, because they thought the same thing.

“I think we nailed everything — we work so hard, we practice three hours every single day, we just have to push it out hard,” she said. “We fight for everything, we’re so strong and we know we have it. We bring that excitement to the mat.”

Senior Brittany Reh said her team performed well in every area of the routine.

“They know that they’re going to be picked apart a lot harder than any other team because they’re looking for them to make a mistake.”

—Anna Spallina

“I’m very proud of my team,” Reh said. “We had a lot of energy and I’m really proud of how we executed.”

Spallina told her team that with every competition there’s only one team to beat out on the floor.

“We keep telling them that you actually have to beat yourself at every competition, and that’s hard to do,” she said. “Everyone wants to pick off the top dog.”

Bailey Klein said her team ends every routine leaving it all out on the mat.

“I knew that as soon as the music went on — I looked around and everyone was smiling,” Klein said. “We were having so much fun, we cheer each other on throughout and no one was going to give up.”

Rocky Point senior Morganne Nofi said there’s an element of the routine that only comes with time, which is why the girls are seeing such positive results.

“I think what helped us today is we walked out on the mat with confidence,” she said. “We didn’t hold back anything, we knew what we were capable of and we did show that today. It’s part of our focus — to have a presence when you walk out on the floor. You can’t describe it, but it’s a strong feeling.”

Behind the Eagles were Wantagh, Hauppauge, East Islip and Comsewogue.

Rocky Point hits the competition mat again Jan. 8 at Newfield High School at 9 a.m.

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Mount Sinai’s Harrison Bak leaps up to the basket while Rocky Point’s David Apperson reaches for the block. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Mount Sinai Mustangs put their patented resiliency and toughness on display on the road this week.

Even after an 11-point Rocky Point run late in the second quarter to pull within five points, Mount Sinai’s boys’ basketball team battled back and hung on for a 53-40 nonleague win on the road Dec. 13.

The Mustangs put together a near perfect first quarter, creating easy layups and racking up points off put-backs to pull ahead 19-9.

Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like the way we started the game — I thought we came out pretty strong,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said, although he was disappointed with the run his team let up. “The same kind of thing happened when we played Riverhead at home last week. We jumped on them early, they made a little run and then we came back again, so I think the boys are good with that. They’re an experienced group. They’re resilient, tough kids.”

After the 11-0 run, Mount Sinai sophomore forward Nick Pintabona swished two free throws with 3.3 seconds left before halftime to end a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. Despite the spree, Mount Sinai maintained a 28-21 advantage.

“We kept our composure, we keep a level head,” Mount Sinai senior center Harrison Bak said. “They got a little scrappy, but we kept cool, came back and won by 13.”

Bak came out to score the first two points of the third on a layup, with an assist from senior point guard Nick Rose. Minutes later, Bak tacked on a 3-point play to further stem the tide.

“We faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and then we made a good run,” Rose said. “I think we were playing really strong. We had a bunch of guys crashing for the rebounds. We were getting the easy put-backs, they were fouling us, we were getting to the free-throw line.”

The Mustangs outscored the Eagles 17-10 in the quarter, and that momentum propelled the team through the fourth, hanging onto the lead despite being edged out 9-8.

Senior forward Cole Harkins led Mount Sinai with 13 points, Bak had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Rose chipped in 11 points with five assists and eight rebounds.

The Mustangs thought their showing on the defensive-side of the ball was effective, holding Rocky Point to under 50 points, but Harkins said he would’ve liked to see his team box out more, and Rose would like to limit the fouls and play better over the screens.

Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team focused on holding down Rocky Point’s top scorer, senior Alec Rinaldi. The Mustangs made several big blocks, forced turnovers and limited Rinaldi, but the guard still scored 16 points to lead all scorers.

The Mustangs improved to 4-0 thus far in all nonleague games, and will play two league games before Christmas break.

McNeely said despite the league growing stronger with the new additions of Southampton and Wyandanch, his team has been playing together all offseason, which might explain its strong start.

“I think that experience is starting to show,” he said. “We’re shooting the ball well. We’re shooting the 3-point shot real well. We have some good guards and we have some good, big guys and we have guys that can kind of play both positions.”

Rose said the team has already been tested, which he sees as a positive.

“It was important that they started to come back because we stuck with it — we faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and we made a good run,” he said. “I want to make the playoffs and I want to make a little run in the playoffs. I think getting there will be our hardest task, but there’s a bunch of teams in our league that we can really get after on defense and attack on offense, and I think it should produce some wins for us.”

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