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East Islip

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Team takes Division I title in Syracus, three Middle Country girls place in Top 10 in scoring

Middle Country’s girls bowling team took home its first state title since 2013 March 11 in Syracuse. Photo from Nicole Lettich

With a difficult oil pattern on the lane, the Middle Country girls bowling team knew what it was going to take to win a state title — and it had the talent to spare.

“We knew it would be tough bowling on a more challenging pattern, but we knew spares were going to be so important,” senior Nicole Lettich said. “As most of us say, strikes win games, but spares win tournaments. We are a strong team and knew we could take on whatever was thrown at us. We just needed to focus each game and make good shots. That’s exactly what we did.”

Amanda Scarfogliero leads off for Middle Country’s girls bowling team. Photo from Amanda Scarfogliero

Lettich, noted by head coach Mandy Dominguez as the most consistent bowler on the team, averaged a 191.67 over six games.

“She did great, she’s steady,” Dominguez said of his one of four seniors.

With her team up by just 118 pins heading into a crucial Game 6, she bowled a 223 to help seal the deal and a state title March 11 in Syracuse.

“My parents tell me all the time that I bowl with a poker face and don’t let bad scores phase me,” Lettich said. “I don’t really put any added pressure on myself, I just focus on making my spares and throwing good shots. When I throw a bad shot, I shake it off and get ready for the next frame.”

Lettich, who finished Sunday ranked fourth in New York, was one of three Middle Country bowlers to rank in the Top 10 in scoring. Junior Amanda Scarfogliero (No. 7) and freshman Hannah Skalacki (No. 2) were the others.

“I’ve never had a team improve in the offseason the way that this team did,” Dominguez said. “Last year we only had one 200 bowler, and this year I had five. The girls really stepped it up, and have so much grit and determination. We had a 280-pin lead at one point in the tournament and to lose that lead is hard for any team in any sport, losing a lead late in the game. They gut it out and brought it back. It says so much about their resiliency and willingness to never give up.”

Middle Country’s girls bowling teammates were all smiles on the bus ride home after being crowned state champions. Photo from Nicole Lettich

Middle Country won a state title in 2013 and since lost three battles to East Islip and one to Sachem for a ticket upstate. This year the girls took the league title before overcoming that county hurdle with a 43-pin win, and weren’t going to let an oil pattern stop them from going all the way. Scarfogliero said the team practiced for the 41-foot Tower of Pisa Kegel pattern, asymmetric in design with a shift to the inside, in the weeks leading up to the tournament. After averaging 215 at the county tournament, Middle Country finished with a 180 average upstate, according to Dominguez, proving even with practice how difficult the sport pattern can be.

“It was a whole new atmosphere,” said Scarfogliero, who leads off for her team. “It took us by surprise, but we worked together as a team so the oil pattern wasn’t as hard. We helped each other and with the oil pattern being so hard I didn’t even think I was going to make it up there [in scoring], but that wasn’t even a priority for me. I wanted to put my team in the best position to win states.”

For Skalacki, her freshman status shouldn’t be misunderstood. The three-year varsity team member bowled a 193.83 average, just about three pins under first. As the team’s anchor, she said there’s a lot of pressure when her team needs extra points at the end of each game, but she thrives under it.

Middle Country’s girls bowling team hoists up the state championship banner. Photo from Middle Country school district

“If we need a certain amount of pins to win, I have to get them, but I love the attention and the competition,” said Skalacki, who was strongest in the first three games, bowling a tournament-high 226 for Game 1. “It’s heart-dropping, and I love knowing I play a big part in helping the team come out with a win.”

She said after finally topping East Islip, she knew Middle Country had a lot to prove, and the team wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a perfect finish.

“We had the biggest motivation to win,” she said. “Now people know Middle Country and know how good we are. We wanted to prove people wrong — to show we have what it takes — and we did it.”

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Bowling right up twins’ alley

Bowling is how the Lettich twins roll.

The duo each competed for a state title last weekend in Syracuse, and clean swept their senior season with gold medals in their respective tournaments.

“It’s honestly breathtaking to make it this far and win it all,” Nicole Lettich said, noting that she was on the 2013 state championship winning team, but didn’t yet have the skills to be invited to compete. “Going to the state tournament with my brother who I’ve been so close with was probably the most amazing thing I could have done in my senior year.”

Middle Country twins Nicole and Thomas Lettich took home state gold. Photo from Nicole Lettich

The twins’ mother bowled in high school, and found they had their own itch to compete after competing in a league in second grade.

“Bowling is such an underrated sport in high school, and to finally win it all proves to schools that bowling shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet, but actually acknowledged more because it is a very difficult sport,” she said. “A lot of people don’t see it that way.”

Middle Country finished with a grand total 5,332 pins, nearly 200 ahead of second-place finisher Orchard Park (5,157). Her brother Thomas Lettich competed on the Section XI boys All-Star team. He’d averaged 224 during the regular season, and said even though he’d won his team’s MVP awards, and was named an All-Star, All-County and All-League bowler, he was most confident competing because of the last month’s worth of practicing six day a week.

“I have grown so much over the years, improving my physical and mental game,” he said. “Since I am a lefty and had an advantage and disadvantage since I’m the only one on the left side. The lanes were brand new, so I knew it was going to be difficult, but being chosen to compete on this team with a group of boys that I was very close with and were fun to bowl with was a goal of mine.”

He said it was a unique experience competing alongside his sister.

“When I am bowling bad she supports me and helps me, and when she’s bowling bad I support her and help her,” Thomas Lettich said. “She unfortunately didn’t have the ability to watch me, but I was able to cheer her on in her match and it was exciting to have the chance to be together. We had great accomplishments and it’s a great way to go out.”

Republicans Phil Boyle and Larry Zacarese and Democrat Dan Caroleo are running for Suffolk County sheriff. Photos from left, from Phil Boyle, Larry Zacarese and Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer

Three candidates are currently in the race to become Suffolk County sheriff this November. State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-East Islip), career law enforcer Larry Zacarese (R), Boyle’s Republican primary challenger, and retired New York City police officer Dan Caroleo (D) are each hoping to inherit the position held for 12 years by Vincent DeMarco (R), who announced in May his decision not to seek a fourth term. He declined to comment on his decision.

Boyle, 55, of Bay Shore, who was elected to the New York Senate in November 2012 after serving 16 years as a state assemblyman, was endorsed for sheriff by the Suffolk Conservative Party in March and was backed by both the Republican and Independent parties soon after.

If elected, Boyle, a stepfather of two, said he wants to run the sheriff’s office in the most cost-effective manner possible, promote people based on merit rather than politics and halt the rise of drug overdoses and gang violence. He recently co-sponsored a bill to ban the sale of machetes to minors, the weapon of choice for MS-13 gang members.

The senator, who chaired and helped create the state Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction in 2013 to stamp out the growing drug problem, pointed to his active involvement pushing law enforcement issues in Albany as significant qualifiers.

Under the task force, 18 hearings were held across the state, which led to 11 prevention, treatment and enforcement measures passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

When it comes to immigration issues, Boyle said he disagrees with how DeMarco has run the jail.

“I work closely with federal immigration agents to make sure any individuals housed in the Suffolk County jail that agents may want to interact with due to immigration status have access to that,” Boyle said. “DeMarco, for a while, made the jail a sanctuary jail, in my opinion, and I’m definitely not going to allow that to happen.”

Zacarese, 43, of Kings Park, who is currently the assistant chief of  the Stony Brook University police, said he’s looking forward to the primary. Zacarese and his “army of volunteers” are currently gathering 2,000 signatures in order to run. Confident he’s not just another choice, but the better choice, for the top law enforcement job, Zacarese outlined his 25-year law enforcement career.

He started as a Holbrook volunteer fireman at 17, went to paramedic school, then began to work in the NYPD as a patrol officer, canine handler and tactical paramedic. He became a sergeant, then deputy chief fire instructor at the Suffolk County Fire Academy and an adjunct lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Stony Brook University.

For four years, while working at Stony Brook by day, Zacarese pursued his shelved passion, attending law school by night. He is currently admitted to practice law in the state.

“My wife tells me I’m the biggest underachiever she knows,” the father of four said, laughing. “I’ve worked really hard rounding out all of the areas that are pertinent to the office of sheriff, which is much more than just the person who oversees the correctional facilities.”

He said, if elected, his main priority is the opioid crisis.

“We really need to take a better look at the prevention and collaboration between addiction programs and not-for-profits, as well as how we can influence treatment while people are being incarcerated,” he said. “It’s about [providing] help while they’re in jail so when they return to their communities, they have started on the path to recovery.”

Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Schaffer, campaign manager for Caroleo, 62, of North Babylon, who was unavailable for comment, said the former New York City police officer, director of security at the North Babylon School District and current member of the district’s school board has, “a wealth of experience, he’s well-rounded and I think he can work cooperatively with, and continue, what County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, and DeMarco have laid out — making sure we continue to drive down jail population.”

According to Schaffer, “Caroleo feels he has a great deal of public safety experience” that he could bring to the sheriff’s department.

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Hansen, Hudzik head girls and boys teams to victory

Lauren Hansen maintains possession during a previous game. File photo by Desirée Keegan

It was a winning weekend for Ward Melville.

First, the No. 2 girls’ basketball team trampled No. 18 North Babylon, with sophomore Lauren Hansen putting up a game-high 35 points in 20 minutes Feb. 17. The Patriots demolished North Babylon 93-24.

“Lauren played great like always and her putting up 35 points in 20 minutes is something really special,” said senior Taylor Tripptree, who finished with 15 points.

Taylor Tripptree dribbles around a defender during a prior matchup. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Hansen scored more than half of the team’s first-quarter points, banking 15 of the 24, while the Patriots held their opponent to just five points.

Twelve different Patriots managed to show up on the score sheet, including a few junior varsity players who got the call to join the varsity squad, which impressed the veteran Tripptree.

Junior Bre Cohn chipped in 12 points, which would have been enough to lead North Babylon in scoring.

But to Hansen, who made eight shots from beyond the arc, the first-round win is only the first step.

“We’re looking to win the whole thing,” she said. “We have to stay locked in each moment in practice and in preparation for the very next game.”

She said she liked the way her team bounced back from its 38-33 loss to Brentwood in the last regular season game.

“It was what we had to do,” Hansen said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible. I thought a lot about what I could’ve done better individually after the loss to Brentwood, and I let the loss soak in and the feeling of it, and I did a much better job in preparation before I even put the jersey on for game day. In practice, and out of it.”

She said her team will use the first-round win as motivation when it moves on to No. 7 Half Hollow Hills West for a home game Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

Mat Hudzik moves the ball up the court during a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“The game made a statement, showing that we are definitely on a mission,” Hansen said. “We call this a second season, and we’re focused on not dwelling on our accomplishments or obstacles in the regular season. Going into the second round I think it’s definitely time to amp our intensity up even more, and accomplish all that we have set out to do.”

The next day, the No. 6 boys’ basketball team hosted No. 11 East Islip and also made short work of its opponent, with the Patriots bouncing the Redmen out of the postseason with a 66-34 victory.

Ward Melville nearly doubled East Islip’s first-quarter score, leading 17-9 after eight minutes.

“I think we had a big first quarter because we were all excited to go out in front of our home crowd and win for them,” said senior Dom Pryor, who finished with a double-double on 14 points and 14 rebounds. “What really helped us get the win was our coaching staff making sure we were all prepared before the game even started. Coach made it specific that we were not doing anything different than we have all year, and that we just needed to play like we always do.”

Dom Pryor leaps up for the layup during a previous game. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Like the girls, the boys also put forth a total team effort with nine different scorers.

“I thought we all came together as a team and executed in all parts of the game,” Pryor said. “It’s always more comfortable when you have so many threats on offense, especially ones that are rarely off their game.”

Classmate Matt Hudzik liked what he was seeing from his teammate.

“Dom works really hard,” Hudzik said. “He is everywhere on the court, is really good at playing defense and grabbing rebounds and loose balls.”

Hudzik led all scorers with 21 points —18 on 3-pointers — and senior Alex Sobel banked six field goals and a free throw for 13 points.

“My outside shot was feeling good and my teammates just kept finding me on the wing,” Hudzik said. “Before the game, we just talked about everyone doing their job. If everyone on the team does what they are supposed to, we play to the best of our ability.”

Ward Melville will travel to No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East Feb. 21 for a 2 p.m. tipoff.

Pryor said he sees smooth sailing in Ward Melville’s future.

“I feel very confident in our next match up,” he said. “I don’t think any team can keep up with our offensive threats, and when we play defense like we did today, I don’t think there’s a team that can stop us.”

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Smithtown West senior forward John Kazubowski kicks the ball behind him toward the goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West senior forward Max Mohrmann pushes the ball forward toward East Islip’s net. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West senior forward Max Mohrmann pushes the ball forward toward East Islip’s net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

John Kazubowski said he normally doesn’t score goals, but if he told you that Tuesday, he’d be lying.

The Smithtown West senior forward scored a hat trick to lead the No. 3-ranked Bulls, 4-2, over No. 14 East Islip in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.

Just over 10 minutes into the first half, Kazubowski went to knock the ball deeper into East Islip’s territory from the 30-yard line, only to hit the top of the crossbar and bounce into the right corner of the net for a good goal and the 1-0 lead.

In shock, the forward threw his hands up in disbelief as the crowd erupted.

“I don’t usually shoot during the season a lot, so I thought, ‘Hey, might as well,’” he said. “I had space so I took it and it came out nice, I guess.”

Minutes later, an East Islip player escaped defenders and on a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, knocked it into the right corner to tie the game.

Smithtown West head coach Tom Lips said that since his team was going against a low seed, the other team knew they had to give it their all if they wanted to progress through the bracket.

Smithtown West senior midfielder Matt McDonnell keeps the ball in play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West senior midfielder Matt McDonnell keeps the ball in play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They have everything to loose, but more importantly, we’ve had two starters out of our consistent lineup,” he said of junior defender Reed Massaro and sophomore midfielder Andrew McDonnell who were both injured in the last game of the regular season. “We’ve had no injuries until the last game of the season and this is our first game playing without them, so it obviously affected us greatly — especially in our back line where we’re very thin defensively.”

Despite Kazubowski scoring again in the eighth minute off an assist from senior midfielder and co-captain Matt McDonnell, East Islip tied it up, 2-2, off a foul kick four minutes later.

“I don’t think we rose emotionally to the occasion,” Lips said. “I think the other team outworked us. Do I think we’re a better team? Yes, but they outworked us. We have talent, it’s just we weren’t cohesive, pretty much played their style and it’s a compliment to them. We just weren’t good today.”

The Bulls opened up the second half with an early attempt, but couldn’t capitalize, which happened multiple times throughout the game.

“We came a little not awake in the first half and it was a tough one, but we rallied through the second half,” Kazubowski said. “We have to play better in the next round if we want to do something big this season. We have to wake up for the next round and produce something better.”

At the 21:53 mark, the senior forward proved he couldn’t be stopped, when he grabbed a tipped rebound in front of the box and faked out the keeper, shooting the ball into an empty right side for the 3-2 advantage.

Smithtown West's Nathan Biondi maintains possession as East Islip defenders swarm around him. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West’s Nathan Biondi maintains possession as East Islip defenders swarm around him. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We didn’t play our best, but we definitely came back after they scored a goal or two and pushed in the end,” Matt McDonnell said. “I think we were physically a little more fit toward the end of the game, which helped us.”

With 15:09 left on the clock, McDonnell took a penalty kick shot after a teammate was blocked on a breakaway, and he shot it past a diving East Islip goalkeeper for the 4-2 win.

“I think we were just able to persevere,” he said. “We had a few missed plays and couldn’t finish a few opportunities, but we worked hard and got back in it. If we come together as a team we can go far.”

Smithtown West hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 16, when the team fell to crosstown rival Smithtown East, 1-0, and are now 14-1-1. The Bulls move on to host No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at 2 p.m.

No. 16 East lost its outbracket game at home against No. 17 Sachem North, 3-1, on Oct. 24.

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Middle Country’s Zach Harned puts on the breaks as he looks for an opening in front of East Islip’s net, in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over the Redmen Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team scored four quick goals in less than three minutes and continued to fire off shots and find the back of the cage to claim an 8-5 victory over East Islip, Saturday.

Less than a minute into the game, junior midfielder Kyle Stemke scored first for the Mad Dogs, and senior midfielder Brandon Thomas followed with a goal of his own a minute later to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We played a solid team with a solid defense today who have a lot of offensive power,” Stemke said, as his team made eight of its 21 attempts at a goal. “We made some goals when we had to and we were able to shut them down defensively at the end.”

Middle Country head coach Kenneth Budd said his team has struggled at the faceoff position lately, but that wasn’t the case for the Mad Dogs in this matchup.

Junior midfielder Declan Canevari won his third possession of the game and dished the ball to senior attack Bobby Emerson, and Canevari followed with his fourth faceoff win, and took the ball down the right sideline, cut to the inside and buried his shot between the pipes to give Middle Country a four-goal advantage.

Budd said his faceoff specialist was the difference-maker in the contest.

“Declan was phenomenal at the ‘X’ today,” Budd said. “When you control ‘X’ you get possession, and that’s how you win games.”

Middle Country senior attack Zach Harned assisted in his team’s first goal of the second quarter when he fed the ball to junior midfielder Cole Demaille, who found the back of the cage. Stemke crossed the ball over to Emerson next, who sent home his second goal of the game to take a commanding 6-0 lead.

“We knew their goalie was good, but we came out firing and we were really amped when we went up 6-0,” Harned said. “We came out clean, we maintained possession and we played hard.”

East Islip wouldn’t go quietly though, and rattled off three unanswered goals in less than three minutes late in the half, to keep Middle Country’s defense on its toes.

Harned halted the Redmen’s scoring spree, and blasted a shot to the back of the cage to bring the halftime score to 7-3.

Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

East Islip found the cage late in the third to trim the deficit to three, and Middle Country failed to find the cage until halfway through the final quarter when Stemke moved down the right sideline, crossed to midfield and scored his second goal of the game to double East Islip’s score to lead 8-4.

East Islip tallied one more goal with three minutes left to play, and despite Middle Country being a man down off a penalty with 2:45 left to play, the Mad Dogs defense stood its ground.

“We stepped it up on offense and then our goalie made a big defensive stop at the end of the game,” Emerson saidå.

With the nonleague win, Middle Country ended its five-game losing streak and improved to 3-5 overall, while maintaining a 2-4 League I record.

The Mad Dogs will host Lindenhurst next, on Wednesday, at 7 p.m., where the team looks to continue its success to move up in the league ranking.

“The key to the game was us getting out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter,” Canevari said. “Even though they came back, we gave ourselves a sizable margin that we could work with. I just focused on getting possession at the X; we haven’t been doing that lately — to get possession, get the ball to our attacker’s sticks to win the game.”

Harborfields’ Mikayla Bergin reaches over an East Islip defender and rockets the ball toward the cage in the Tornadoes’ 14-13 win Tuesday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Down 3-0 five minutes into the game, the Harborfields girls’ lacrosse team may have been down but not out, battling back to edge out host East Islip 14-13 Tuesday to continue a four-game winning streak.

“They left everything out on the field and as a coach, win or lose, when your girls play with heart and pride and never give up, that’s the greatest moment,” Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty said. “You’re always going to have lulls in a game, but it’s about perseverance, being resilient and coming out on top.”

With 18:07 left to play in the first half, after junior midfielder and attack Angela Deren intercepted a pass, she sent the ball to junior attack Caitlin Schaefer, who dumped it in up high in front of the net for the Tornadoes’ first point.

Harborfields began winning possession of the ground balls off the draw, and four minutes after her first goal, Schaefer came through with another goal off a pass after a foul call to pull within one, 3-2.

Harborfields’ Caitlin Schaefer, who finished the game with six goals, scoops up a ground ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Caitlin Schaefer, who finished the game with six goals, scoops up a ground ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After two East Islip goals, the Tornadoes answered with two of their own to pull within a goal again, and after winning the next draw, junior midfielder Ella Simkins pushed her way up to the front of the net and sent a straight shot to the back of the cage. Her goal tied the game 5-5 with 5:49 left in the half, but a minute later, East Islip countered to maintain the lead.

“We really worked as a team today,” Simkins said. “Every game we play, we play with so much heart. It’s amazing to see everyone get each other’s back. Even if they score a goal we’re back and scoring even more.”

And Simkins did.

The junior midfielder opened the scoring of the second half with another goal to yet again tie the game, and Schaefer scored her hat trick goal on the next play less than a minute later off an assist from senior midfielder, attack and co-captain Nicole Bifulco, to give the Tornadoes their first lead of the game, 7-6.

“We knew we had to prepare for this game and the last few practices it’s been all about preparing for East Islip and it was so awesome as a coach to see everything we practiced come to fruition,” McGinty said. “You get down, but you have to stay up and that’s something we talk about in practice.”

The teams continued to trade the lead until sophomore midfielder Falyn Dwyer scooped up a ground ball and rushed to an open front of the net and, from the right side, knocked it into the opposite corner for a 13-11 advantage with 6:42 left to play.

East Islip countered at 5:20, and after possession flip-flopped to both sides of the field, Bifulco netted a goal of her own before East Islip again made it a one-goal game.

Harborfields’ Nicole Bifulco maintains possession of the ball with two East Islip players at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Nicole Bifulco maintains possession of the ball with two East Islip players at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Tornadoes’ defense held it down with a minute left, and with two ticks on the clock, the team forced a turnover to seal the deal.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush; my heart’s beating out of my chest — to storm the field with everybody is amazing,” Schaefer said following the win. “Our hard work paid off, and it’s important for us to stick together as a family and keep our effort and consistency up.”

McGinty said she always believes that her team will come through in the end.

“I think my defense did a hell of a job,” she said. “Defense really never gets the recognition attack gets, but coming down to the draw controls, the doubles, that last few minutes holding them off. Every single component on the field came together.”

Schaefer finished with six goals, Simkins tallied two goals and three assists and Deren tacked on a goal and three assists to lead Harborfields in points.

With the win, the Tornadoes improve to 5-1 in Division II and look to extend their winning streak when they travel to Westhampton on Thursday at 4 p.m.

“No game is ever perfect, you can always get better,” McGinty said. “You can always improve, so we go into the rest of the schedule, it’s pretty tough, but we hope we can keep rolling with the wins.”

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