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Jackie Brown

The Port Jefferson girls' basketball team experiences the thrill of winning the school's first-ever Class C Long Island championship title. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

A special class of seniors is leaving behind an unprecedented run of success at Port Jefferson High School.

Jackie Brown, Courtney Lewis, Jillian Colucci, Brian Mark and Corinne Scannell are just some of the athletes that have helped put the school back on the map in a variety of sports over their respective high school careers.

Jackie Brown. File photo by Bill Landon

“These seniors would be starting players at larger schools and on larger teams,” Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said. “They’re just great athletic talents in their sports regardless of the size of a school. They’d play anywhere.”

Brown, who played field hockey, softball and basketball at Port Jeff, is committed to play field hockey at Adelphi University. She was All-Conference as a freshman, All-County as a sophomore, and All-State and All-Tournament as well as a captain her junior and senior seasons. She helped lead the Royals to the county finals in 2016, and graduated as Long Island’s all-time leading scorer in field hockey. She was also a four-time New York State Public High School Athletic Association scholar athlete in all three sports.

“Most of us seniors are two-sport or three-sport athletes, which makes us so diverse,” Brown said. “We all use skills from one sport to be successful in another. I, for instance, use my field hockey vision to better see the basketball court. We’re also passionate, and give 100 percent and work hard.”

Lewis reached the 2,000 career point plateau last basketball season, and led the team to Suffolk County and Long Island titles, as well as the program’s first regional win and state finals appearance. She became the 22nd player in Suffolk County girls’ basketball history to reach the career milestone. She will be playing for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this winter.

Courtney Lewis. File photo by Bill Landon

Colucci was a standout soccer player, and also competed on the basketball team. She led Long Island in goals scored her junior year and propelled the soccer team to the state finals the last three years. The Royals brought home back-to-back Class C state championships in 2015 and 2016. She also holds the record at Port Jefferson for career goals (105) and assists (62). She will be taking her talents to Marist College this fall.

“There is nothing better than finding success in doing something you love,” Colucci said. “The best part is that it was all so unexpected. It felt really special to bring attention to the school, and the community supported us every step of the way.”

She said while she was always humbled by the attention, at times she felt embarrassed, because to her, it was about the team.

“We all experienced success because we’re all talented athletes with the same drive and passion,” she said. “Since Port Jeff is so small, we’re not just teammates, we’re friends.”

Her brothers, parents, aunts and uncles were all Royals, and Colucci said she’s proud to be able to carry on their legacy.

Mark, another three-sport standout — in football, lacrosse and basketball — helped each of his teams reach new heights. Despite the lacrosse program being just three years old, it’s made the playoffs every year, and the football team achieved its best record in the last six years during his senior season.

Jillian Colucci. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“While the program still isn’t on the same level as some of the other top schools, I’m confident that the program is heading in the right direction,” he said, reinforcing the fact that the bond and community support played a big part in the rise. “Our group of seniors — both boys and girls — has always been really ambitious in the goals we’ve set for ourselves athletically.”

Turner saw it, too.

“He was constantly putting himself out there, he was always in the wight room and going above and beyond to do something to improve his game,” she said.

Mark said he hopes he and the other seniors made an impact on the younger generations of athletes.

“I know that a lot of us took pride in representing our school well and providing a good example for the younger kids in our community,” he said. “We know that we were once those kids and remember how we idolized the varsity players so seeing younger kids in the stands watching us always gave us a little extra motivation.”

Brian Mark. File photo by Bill Landon

Scannell, who is headed to Wake Forest University in North Carolina, has not committed to playing a sport. She was a defender for the state championship-winning soccer team and helped the basketball squad to the state finals. Her family was also instrumental in paving the way for the first varsity lacrosse team. After several failed attempts to launch a program at Port Jeff, the team competed for the first time this year, narrowly missing the playoffs by one win.

“My dad was a big proponent — it started in my backyard,” she said of her dad who coached youth lacrosse. “The fact that we can pave the way, it’s nice we can give others the opportunity to play. They can color in the lines we drew this season.”

Turner lauded the athletes not only for their skills, but also because “they’re just great kids.”

“They have such good values and I think those values they hold are what make them great athletes,” Turner said. “They come from great families, they’re committed, they put the team first, they’re always willing to sacrifice, they’re dedicated, and that’s in all facets of their life.”

One instance in particular Turner recalled was when the girls’ basketball team was upstate competing for the state championship. She said, although Scannell didn’t want everyone to know about it, if the team had lost in the semifinals, the 2017 class president was going to travel home to compete in a half marathon to raise funds for children with cancer on the day of the finals. She was frequently caught with Brown, the vice president, hosting bake sales or raising money for a charity or school event.

Corinne Scannell. File photo by Andrew Wakefield

The athletic director said Colucci was always in her office asking how she could earn more community service hours. Colucci won the Butch Dellecave award for her dedication to athletics and academics, coupled with completing 160 hours of community service. Mark won the Golden Eleven Award, which is presented to the top 11 academic scholars in Suffolk County, and the LaBue Award, which is presented to the top scholar-athlete is Suffolk County football.

“They put everybody else before themselves, they’re all going to great schools, and they’re mature, great kids,” Turner said. “And most of all, they grew with the kids in their class. They learned from each other and acted as role models to each other. Those values and bonds became stronger, and there’s nothing I would change about them. I feel I got so lucky to step in when I did [as athletic director] even just to know these kids.”

Scannell said she agreed the bond the girls created playing together for so long was crucial to achieving every milestone.

“Playing together at such a young age, especially with soccer, we knew how someone was going to touch the ball, who was going to send a long ball, when someone would pass, and it’s not just knowing the soccer or basketball style, but knowing each other’s personality and how their thinking goes,” she said. “It takes a history to understand. Our relationships made it so strong, but we all also wanted it. As long as you love what you’re doing that’s the most important thing.”

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Port Jefferson's Annabelle Soucy slides slides home. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Siobhan Petracca’s solid pitching and Jackie Brown’s timely hitting propelled Port Jefferson’s softball team to its first win, a 12-0 shutout of Shelter Island April 7.

Port Jefferson’s Siobhan Petracca hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

Shelter Island (0-3) struggled early on, allowing unearned runs with passed balls at the plate. After the first inning, the Royals were up 4-0.

Sophomore shortstop Taylor Catoggio’s bat spoke next as she hit the ball into the gap for a standup double that drove home teammate Ji Won Woo to make it a five-run game.

“Today’s win was very important — it brought us all together because the losses can break us down,” Catoggio said. “I had confidence that [Siobhan Petracca] could put the ball over the plate, and confidence in my team that we’d get the first or the easiest out.”

Ashley Catoggio, Taylor’s twin sister, did her job with a sacrifice fly that plated Brown, a senior, and a passed ball scored the runner from third.

“We’re upbeat and happy for this win, it gives us confidence going forward,” Ashley Catoggio said. “We fielded really well today and we didn’t have a lot of errors.”

Following the list of young Royals making their presence known was sophomore Gabriela Sanchez, who smacked a grounder through the gap, bringing home senior Annabelle Soucy for an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

Port Jefferson short stop Taylor Catoggio makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Shelter Island mounted its first serious threat in the top of the fourth with runners in scoring position, drawing a walk to load the bases with one out, but Petracca fanned the next two batters to get out of the jam.

“I was nervous, but I was confident I could do it, especially with my team cheering me on,” Petracca said of the bases loaded situation. “It’s been a little bit rough with the games that we’ve played, but this will help us from here on out.”

Brown, who was catching for Petracca, never doubted her pitcher’s poise.

“We have a lot of confidence in each other, “ Brown said. “She puts it over the plate and we strike them out.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Soucy crossed the plate on another passed ball, as did senior Chiara Rabeno, forcing Shelter Island to make a pitching change.

The change didn’t halt Port Jefferson though, as Brown blasted the ball to right field for a home run that put the Royals ahead 11-0.

Port Jefferson head coach Deb Brown, Jackie’s mom, was relieved to record her team’s first win of the early season.

Port Jefferson’s Jackie Brown rounds the bases during her home run. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’ll take the ‘W,’” she said. “We did some positive things today — we only had two errors which is better than our last couple of games — and the girls are getting to know each other. Their confidence is building with each at bat and with each play they make.”

Another passed ball that brought the 12th runner home, and triggered the mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth inning. Petracca finished the game with seven strikeouts, eight walks and one hit.

Jackie Brown finished 4-for-4 with a home run, three runs and four steals.. Taylor Catoggio was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, a run and a stolen base, and her sister Ashley added two RBIs, a run, a steal and two putouts. Sanchez finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a run, a stolen base and two putouts.

Deb Brown said she was pleased with her younger players’ performances, some who are playing softball for the first time.

“We have a new person at third base, Ji Won Woo, she did a great job, and we have someone new at second, Gabby Sanchez, and she’s doing an awesome job,” she said. “This is also a confidence builder for Siobhan, because this is the third time she’s pitched this week. It’s cold, and she did a great job.”

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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.”

 

By Bill Landon

In his book The Precious Present, Spencer Johnson wrote: “I can chose to be happy now, or I can try to be happy when, or if.”

The Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team chose to live in the moment during their March 6 Long Island championship title game, stepping onto a court no Royal had walked on before. Senior Jillian Colucci was no stranger to the limelight, though. The soccer standout, used to throwing the ball inbounds during the fall season, swished a long distance shot that was just three feet inside half court to close out the first half. The buzzer-beater before halftime that capped a 9-0 run sent the crowd into frenzy, and the Royals dancing into the locker room. That happiness carried through the second half, as Port Jefferson outscored East Rockaway 67-49 for the school’s first Class C crown.

“We’re just soaking it in,” senior Corinne Scannell said of the win. “Precious Present … it’s all about living in the moment, so I guess we’ll enjoy the moment and take it from here.”

East Rockaway’s defense focused on shutting down senior Courtney Lewis all across the SUNY Old Westbury court, but it didn’t matter. Lewis fought through double-teams most of the way to score a game-high 30 points. She drove the lane over and over, and even if she didn’t score, she drew fouls to find points from the free-throw line instead. The senior went 9-for-10 from the charity stripe.

“It feels really good knowing that we did it as a team.”

—Corinne Scannell

“We knew they were going to key on Courtney, and we needed our other shooters to be willing to step up and take their shots,” Port Jefferson head coach Jessie Rosen said. “They gained confidence throughout the course of the week, and today when the opportunity was there for them. They did what they needed to do.”

Jackie Brown was first to step up, hitting long distance shots seemingly at will. The senior banked four of them in the first half. Then, it was Colucci’s shining moment. With Lewis cornered, sophomore Jocelyn Lebron passed Colucci the ball. As Colucci sprinted just beyond half court, she let the ball go as the buzzer sounded, and hit nothing but net, giving her team a 36-22 advantage heading into the break.

“There was time for one more, and I heaved it up and it just went in,” Colucci said. “I’m just absolutely speechless. To make it this far with these girls is absolutely amazing.”

Defensively, the Royals hands were everywhere. And they made their steals count. Scannell intercepted a pass, and dished it off to Colucci, who went coast to coast for the score that helped the Royals break out to 43-27 lead with 4:41 left in the third.

“It feels really good knowing that we did it as a team,” Scannell said. “The things we worked on in practice were tailored to this game. It’s nice to see it all come together.”

For Brown, who chipped in 14 points, the magnitude of her team’s accomplishment hasn’t set in yet.

“I hoped we would be here at the beginning of the season — it’s awesome that we won it,” she said. “It’s really cool that we’ll have that 2017 LIC banner to hang in the gym.”

Senior Gillian Kenah echoed Brown’s sentiment.

“At the beginning of the season it was definitely a dream — I imagined us at the counties, but I wasn’t sure about this,” she said. “Honestly, it’s a dream come true.”

I know that sounds like a cliché, but when you practice like you play and play like you practice, it’s nothing short of awesome.”

—Jesse Rosen

Lewis credited the success to her team’s daily preparation.

“I knew we’d come out with intensity,” she said. “But I didn’t think we’d win by this margin.”

Rosen said he could see the team’s determination early on when he took over mid-season as the team’s head coach.

“This is an exciting group of girls — they work their absolute hardest every day,” he said. “I know that sounds like a cliché, but when you practice like you play and play like you practice, it’s nothing short of awesome.”

When the buzzer sounded, the Royals erupted in celebration as they experienced the taste of a Long Island championship for the first time. Thinking back to the short story they read prior to the game, they realized they attained that precious present.

“It is wise for me to think about the past, and to learn from my past, but it is not wise for me to be in the past for that is how I lose myself,” Johnson wrote. “It is also wise to think about the future and to prepare for my future, but it is not wise for me to be in the future for that too is how I lose myself, and when I lose myself, I lose what is most precious to me.”

Kenah said her team will savor the moment , and get back to work preparing for the next game. The Royals will face the winner of the Section I Haldane vs. Section VIIII Pine Plains in the regional finals March 9 at SUNY Old Westbury at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re going to condition tomorrow,” she said. “We have another game on Thursday, so we’ll enjoy tonight, but we’re right back at it tomorrow.”

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Senior scores 30 points against Stony Brook

Courtney Lewis drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

As Courtney Lewis goes, so goes the Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team.

The senior led the Royals to a 71-22 win over Stony Brook Jan. 14, scoring a game-high 30 points.

“She’s unbelievable,” Port Jefferson head coach Ed Duddy said. “She’s really matured and she has a lot of talent. That makes the other girls better and opens them up for more shots, too.”

Lewis is in her sixth season on the varsity squad, and has served as a model of success for younger Royals, like freshman Sam Ayotte.

“I look up to her,” Ayotte said of the senior. “She always makes these great moves, she teaches me everything I need to know about the game and she’s a role model in the sport.”

Jackie Brown carries the ball across the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lewis scored 10 points in the first quarter, and added six more by halftime. Ayotte scored eight points in the first half, on two three-pointers and a field goal.

“I’ve been working on making threes, and they all fell in today,” Ayotte said.

Duddy was happy to see the freshman, along with his bench players, scoring in the game.

“Sam hadn’t done that all year, but she was on fire today,” he said. “We’ve been working on her shooting and it opened up for her today. All she had to do was hit that first one and get her confidence going and she couldn’t stop shooting. It’s always a good team win when everyone gets involved in the game and everyone scores.”

At halftime, Port Jefferson led 33-15, but Duddy told his Royals he thought they had it in them to run the opposing team off the court, and that’s what they did.

“We had more energy and we focused more on passing the ball, not taking the first shot and looking for the open shots,” Lewis said. “I think in the second half we definitely upped the intensity and got more rebounds and assists.”

Lewis scored 11 points in the third quarter on two three-pointers, a put-back and a three-point play, and senior Corinne Scannell, chipped in 10 points of her total 12 in the third to help Port Jeff pull away.

Scannell said her team improved on executing its plays in the second half, and the team’s press led to multiple turnovers, which the Royals converted for easy points.

Sam Ayotte fights to maintain possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were focused on shooting on our first opportunity, but in the second half we started to take a breath and unweave the defense instead of shooting from the outside right away,” she said. “Everyone is always super supportive of each other, and Gillian Kenah, she was looking for me cutting through. But it’s not always the person who assists that helps out, it’s the person setting the pick, or the girls on the other side, the whole team makes it happen.”

Lewis scored her 1,500th point of her career this season, and is hoping to reach the 2,000 mark. Currently, she’s at 1,735.

“Courtney is amazing,” Scannell said. “I’ve been playing with her a long time — since we were in fourth grade CYO — and when she sees the lane to the basket she knows how to take advantage of those opportunities and create opportunities to score.”

Senior Jackie Brown added 10 points, senior Gillian Kenah finished with four and sophomores Jocelyn Lebron and Sarah Hull rounded out the scoring with two points each.

“We have five seniors that have been playing together since seventh grade, so it’s cool seeing how we’ve developed and looking up to the girls before us,” Scannell said. “We’re enjoying our last year.”

But if the team wants to make a statement, defense is going to have to continue to be key for the Royals.

“It’s our time I told them,” Duddy said. “They’re a tight group, they’re good friends on and off the court and hopefully it happens this year. Right now I like where we’re at and hopefully we finish strong, but when we get into the playoffs and we play Pierson and Southold, possibly, it’s going to come down to defense. We’ve always been a good shooting team, but we have to emphasize defense if we’re going to win a ‘C’ championship.”

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Jackie Brown sends the ball up the field. Photo by Carla Sciara

By Desirée Keegan

The relationship between a star player and a coach can sometimes be complicated, but when they’re immediate family members, a special bond is needed to achieve success.

Jackie Brown’s athletic career has been unique — her mother Deb Brown has been coaching her for five years in both field hockey and softball at Port Jefferson high school, and was her basketball coach for two years. Despite having her mother as coach, playing time and accolades were never handed to her.

Jackie Brown was Long Island's leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara
Jackie Brown was Long Island’s leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara

“If anything, she’s probably had to work even harder with me being her coach,” Deb Brown said. “I hold her to a higher standard, and I put more pressure on her than anyone else. For instance, in practice, she does the most push-ups.”

Brown recalled a game when her daughter had a one-on-one with a goalkeeper and she told her daughter to do one move, but she did another. “I’m yelling at her, and that’s when the parent in me comes out,” she said. “As beautiful as it was, the ball did not go in.”

Jackie Brown said the constant push has aided her success in sports, especially field hockey.

“It’s definitely interesting,” she said of their relationship, laughing. “Sometimes I tried to step over her and she puts me in my place, but what’s great is we got to talk about all of the games afterward whether it’s me saying something bad or her giving me something to work on. She teaches me new things every year.”

Brown first picked up a field hockey stick at 6 years old. From there, she became involved in clinics and played for East End Field Hockey travel team. She decided to try clinics in basketball and softball, too, and joined the Long Island Bandits fast-pitch travel softball team.

“Believe it or not I thought she would gear toward softball,” Deb Brown said. “But she just loved field hockey so much. It’s been fun watching her grow as a player.”

Jackie Brown said field hockey ran in her blood thanks to regular visits as a young girl to the field with her mother, who has been coaching at Port Jefferson for 27 years. She said the style of the sport felt like a fit for her.

“It wasn’t the sport everyone else was playing, and I liked how you had to move the ball a certain way and work with your teammates,” Jackie Brown said. “A lot I learned from field hockey, like field position and power, also helped me play softball and basketball.”

Speaking of power, the midfielder and forward has a strong shot, along with the knowledge of nuances needed to score, which helped her become Long Island’s leading goal scorer and leader in overall points this season.

Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher
Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher

“Besides just having a good shot — a hard hit and accurate — her ability to read the defense and the goalkeeper makes it much easier for her to get around them and beat them,” Port Jefferson assistant coach Nancy Gallagher said.

Gallagher is also in a special position. She played for Deb Brown and graduated from Port Jefferson in 2010. She first met Jackie when the coach’s daughter would come to games when Gallagher was a player. The assistant coach remembered the team hoisting her up on their shoulders following big wins, and the girls would teach her the tricks of the trade.

“She’d practice, and I’d tell her to do it 100 times in a row if she wanted to get better, and she was so eager to learn that she’d sit there on the sidelines doing it 100 times in a row,” Gallagher said. “She’s the ideal player to coach because not only does she have the athletic ability to pick up skills quickly, but she’s also willing to put in the time and energy to make it an instinctive part of her play.”

Gallagher said the athlete not only knows the skills, but she understands what skills are used when and why, and then how to put them to use.

Adelphi University field hockey head coach Gloria O’Connor saw each attribute Jackie Brown possesses — even the field hockey standout’s recent 6-inch growth spurt.

“Jackie has great size and feel for the game,” O’Connor said. “She is a daughter of a coach, and therefore knows the game of field hockey from a whole different perspective. She competes hard, has passion and desire and is always putting in extra practice time. She demonstrates the ability of taking care of business both on and off the field.”

The feeling of knowing the team wanted her, and the fact that Adelphi felt like a “home away from home,” led Brown to sign a letter of intent this November to play with the Panthers.

As a member of three high school teams, vice president of the Student Organization, co-president of the Varsity Club and a member of the Yearbook Club and National Honor Society, Brown knows what it means to put in the time to improve.

Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

“It’s a lot to juggle when I go from one practice to the other, and then come home and do homework before going to another practice, but it’s manageable,” she said. “I learned how to be a leader on the field, work with my teammates and develop a strong work ethic.”

As Brown departs for college in 2017, her mother said she too may be hanging up her whistle at Port Jefferson. The head coach will receive a coach of the year award during the Suffolk County awards dinner, while her daughter will receive her second All-State honor and an All-Tournament nod following the No. 2-seeded Royals’ appearance in the Class C county finals.

Gallagher said the recognitions are well deserved, especially for her former coach.

“She’s very humble,” Gallagher said of Deb Brown. “No one can argue about how much she cares and dedicates herself to these girls and to this program. The success not only during these past couple of season but over her whole tenure shows it.”

Despite a hesitancy to talk about her daughter, Brown is even more proud of the success her daughter has had over the years than her own accolades.

“When I have to get the job done I do rely on her heavily to get the job done for Port Jeff,” Brown said. “I kind of downplay what she has accomplished over the years, but she’s worked very hard for this, and she deserves recognition. I’m probably retiring this year, so it’s bittersweet, but it’s great to go out with her after how well she’s done. I’m very proud of her. It’s been a heck of a ride.”

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Port Jefferson's Courtney Lewis, who scored a double-double off a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds, goes up for a layup in the Royals' 55-31 win over Southold/Greenport on Jan. 25 to extend their winning streak to six games. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Behind Courtney Lewis’ double-double Monday night, the Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team kept the ball rolling with a 55-31 victory over Southold/Greenport to extend the Royals’ winning streak to six games.

Port Jefferson's Courtney Lewis reaches up to the board. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Courtney Lewis reaches up to the board. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lewis recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assits.

“They’re starting to come together,” Port Jefferson head coach Ed Duddy said. “We started off slow in the beginning … [but] now I think everyone knows their role.”

Port Jefferson had trouble getting shots to fall until Lewis’ field goal at the 5:17 mark, which started the junior forward and guard’s 10-point tear in the first quarter.

“She’s a great captain,” junior point guard Jillian Colucci said of Lewis. “She boosts us all up and she’s so talented. Her scoring gets us all going and gets us working hard.”

Southold remained in the game by scoring seven points to Lewis’ 10, but Port Jefferson sophomore guard Annabelle Soucy nailed a three-pointer with 30.6 seconds left to extend the Royals’ lead.

Lewis tacked on a three-point play to start the second stanza and then added four more points while Colucci tacked on a three-pointer to put Port Jefferson up 23-20 at halftime.

But the Royals were just getting warmed up.

Port Jefferson's Annabelle Soucy drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Annabelle Soucy drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Our coach’s halftime speech motivated us to come out stronger in the second half,” Lewis said. “I think our teamwork and team chemistry was great. We had a lot of assists and connected our passes a lot, and our fast breaks were great today.”

Those fast breaks and assists helped the Royals jump out to a 43-25 lead by the end of the third, with Lewis scoring 11 of the team’s 20 points and Colucci adding six.

In the final quarter, the Royals limited Southold to just two points by the 2:22 mark, while scoring eight more of their own. Southold added a field goal and two free throws in the final minutes, but Lewis added two free throws of her own to finish 9-for-10 from the charity stripe on the evening, and Soucy completed the scoring with a layup.

Colucci finished with 11 points and eight rebounds to help Port Jefferson to a 7-1 record in League VII.

“It’s Courtney, it’s Jillian, it’s a little bit of everybody,” Duddy said. “Jillian had a terrific game today. She did everything a point guard has to do with great passes and great defense and assists, but Annabelle and Jackie Brown have been playing very well, too. They’re all part of the team, but I think they all feed off of Courtney, and when she gets double- or triple-teamed she can kick it out to her teammates and they get easy layups.”

Port Jefferson's Jillian Colucci crosses the ball into Southold/Greenport's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Jillian Colucci crosses the ball into Southold/Greenport’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

As the team moves forward with only one loss in its conference, Colucci said the Royals have their sights on the top spot in the league, where Mattituck currently sits at 10-1.

But the point guard said she’s confident in her team’s ability after the Royals edged out Mattituck, 53-52, back on Jan. 11.

“That was a really good booster for us,” Colucci said. “But since we’re a core group of juniors that have been playing together for so long, the teamwork that we’ve developed helps us most.”

Lewis said the team had a rough first half the season, starting it off with losses to Comsewogue, Mount Sinai and Pierson/Bridgehampton, but has come together to propel the Royals to their winning streak.

“This is my favorite sport and my favorite team,” Lewis said. “They’re all so great and we all help each other do better. We had a rough first half of the season but we picked it up and we took off. We don’t want to lose another game. We want to finish the season on a streak.”

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Jackie Brown battles a Shoreham-Wading River player for possession in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Although the Port Jefferson field hockey team fell to Pierson-Bridgehampton in the Suffolk County Class C championship, 6-0, the Royals can boast recording their first postseason appearance since 2009.

“It was a great feat the girls achieved,” Port Jefferson head coach Debbie Brown said. “They worked really hard to get into the position they were in, so I’m very proud of them.”

Ranked last out of the 13 teams to make the playoffs, the Royals did not expect to top the Whalers, but the team was proud of holding its opponent to a 1-0 lead by the halftime break.

“Pierson is an extraordinary team and they have a lot of girls that do travel all year round,” Brown said. “So to be 1-0 at halftime, I was extremely happy and extremely proud of them, and the score didn’t reflect how well the girls played.”

After Pierson-Bridgehampton scored a couple of goals in the second half, Brown, seeing a loss on the horizon, substituted in some of her younger players to give them playoff experience.

“They worked hard all season and they deserved it, so [Pierson-Bridgehampton] scored a few more quick goals,” Brown said.

According to the coach, the Royals had the added challenge of only fielding 14, compared to the average 25-player roster.

“So even though the score said 6-0, it was a great first-half game and, if anything, we dominated the first five minutes of the game and had the first couple of corners.”

Brown’s daughter, Jackie, who has been on the team for four years, scored 10 of the team’s 17 goals this season, despite being injured toward the beginning.

The junior forward said she couldn’t take all the credit because the goals wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her teammates. The younger Brown added that it was exciting to finally be a part of a playoff game, after previously watching from the sidelines while serving as a ball girl.

“To actually be on the field, on a team, with my teammates, playing, it was a nice experience,” she said. “In the beginning of the season we didn’t communicate well on the field, but in the end we were passing to each other nonstop, we believed in each other on the field; so I saw a big improvement.”

Port Jefferson senior defender Michelle Bourguignon said her team did not play Pierson-Bridgehampton during the regular season, but took them on last year. Leading up to the big game, her team practiced on turf to get used to the playing conditions, since the Royals’ home field is grass.

“To make it that far was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “We know they’re a very tough team, so that was pretty big for us to only be down 1-0 at halftime. Our team has always been very close and it’s going to be hard not being on the team anymore.”

The team’s camaraderie is what Debbie Brown said has been its biggest asset.

“I’ve had some extraordinarily talented teams, but this group worked hard every day,” she said. “A couple of seniors — Andreya Harvey and Michelle Bourguignon on defense, and Stacey Warm, one of our wings, junior Chiara Rabeno and freshmen Taylor Corallo and Phalina Sciara — really stepped up this year. It’s emotional because even though Jackie is my daughter, I consider them all one of my own.”

Corallo was one of the team’s key scorers until she broke her arm in a Sept. 19 game against Comsewogue.

Bourguignon earned All-Division honors for her work this season, Rabeno received an All-Conference nod, Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team and Brown earned All-County honors.

“Since the girls got a taste of playoffs this year, they’re going to want to get back there next year, so hopefully we’ll make it there again,” Jackie Brown said. “This season as a whole was pretty successful, considering that we hadn’t made playoffs since 2009, so the fact that we got that far, hopefully that carries into next season.”

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