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Kingsmen

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Haley Holmes is used to lending a helping hand.

But what was maybe unexpected was six service aces that went along with her 31 assists in Kings Park’s girls volleyball team’s 3-0 sweep of South Side Nov. 11, 25-15, 25-13, 25-16, for the Kingsmen’s seventh straight Long Island championship crown.

Haley Holmes recorded 71 combined assists in the Suffolk County and Long Island title games. Photo by Bill Landon

Head coach Ed Manly said her floating serve has some spin-drop action to it, making it more difficult for defenders to return. She showed that during a 6-0 run in the second set, which she recorded two aces during.

Holmes received many of senior libero Meagan Murphy’s passes throughout the game to set up Erika Benson (10 kills), Lexi Petraitis (eight kills), Kara Haase (three kills) and Samantha Schultz (three kills).

“Hitters like Lexi, Sam, Kara and Erika — I can count on them to put my ball away,” Holmes said.

The aggressive attack action is what Manly said he prefers seeing from his athletes.

“When we’re aggressive on offense is when we play some of our best volleyball,” he said. “But sometimes through the course of a match, there are ebbs and flows.”

Having multiple weapons on offense and defense is what is leading Kings Park to another state tournament appearance.

In the No. 1 Kingsmen’s 25-13, 25-23, 25-15 shutout of Westhampton Beach Nov. 9, the team relied more on its defense to take the title.

“Our defense and our blocking is what won the game for us today,” said Haase after the Suffolk game, who’d finished with seven kills. “We had so many touches on the ball; [Westhampton] didn’t have one outside hit that we didn’t have a touch. It was just a great overall performance.”

Alexa Petraitis slams down one of her 18 kills on the week. Photo by Bill Landon

Holmes, who recorded 40 assists, was also quick to point to the team’s defense across the postseason.

“We always have great defense in the back row,” Holmes said. “We have Megan Sticco and a bunch of people I can always count on to get the ball to me. We’ve also been working on a huge block with Erika, and that’s helped us a lot in the past few games.”

While the offense was there too — Murphy finished with 33 digs; Benson notched 12 kills and three blocks; Schultz added eight kills; and Haase had seven — the serving was sloppy for Kings Park in the second set of the county win, according to Manly.

“In that second set Westhampton picked up its defense and we got into some trouble were we didn’t serve particularly well in certain points,” he said. “We had a hard time putting balls away [because] they’re a solid defensive team. We didn’t hit a very high percentage and that’s a tribute to their defense.”

Schultz said she isn’t concerned about what other teams are doing though.

“I knew that if we played the way we’re supposed to play we would definitely get the job done,” she said. “I wasn’t concerned about what they were doing, but what we can control and how we can play. And if we did that we’d get it done.”

Meagan Murphy returns the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park is confident it can continue to use every weapon in its arsenal while chasing the elusive state title. On top of extending their county and Long Island volleyball reign, the Kingsmen have now racked up 20 wins in a perfect season. Kings Park has also been dominant in sweeping all but one team, Half Hollow Hills West in a 3-1 win Oct. 11.

The team will be tested this weekend, as Kings Park enters the state tournament facing undefeated Walter Panas in the first round at Glens Falls Civic Center Nov. 18.

“We’re really excited to go up there, and we know we can actually do it,” Murphy said. “We’ve been looking at Panas, and we really think we can beat them and all the rest of the teams up there.”

While Holmes will be assisting in any way she can, she said her Kingsmen have all the pieces in place for the checkmate this time around.

“It’s our heart,” Holmes said has led her team to seven county and Long Island wins, and what could lead Kings Park to its first state title. “If we just play to our potential — with our dedication — if we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re tough to beat.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Meagan Murphy digs out a serve receive. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Erika Benson slams the ball over the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Megan Murphy dug deep to pull out a win — quite literally Monday.

The senior libero threw herself all over the court to record 31 digs in a 3-0 sweep of Hauppauge Oct. 23, 25-14, 25-17, 25-10, to cap off Kings Park girls volleyball’s second straight undefeated League V season.

“Megan Murphy in the back row was strong on defense,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “Very rarely are you going to catch her off guard or get her to shank a ball during the course of play.”

With Hauppauge as close as 12-10 midway through the first set, three straight Kings Park points — a Hauppauge out-of-bounds hit, an Alexa Petraitis (eight kills) spike and a Kara Haas dump over — forced the Eagles to call timeout. The scoring streak was only briefly interrupted after the break, and Kings Park slammed home four more to make it 19-11. Murphy closed out serving on the last four of five Kings Park points, until an out of bounds serve made it 24-14 and a Hauppauge service error closed out the set.

“I don’t say this selfishly — we’ve been doing this for so long and I’m so honored to play with this team,” said Petraitis, a senior outside hitter. “Everything I do is because of my team, because of how much support I have. Hauppauge was great at getting the ball up, and we did great staying mentally focused, ready for it to come back over the net.”

Kara Haas serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hauppauge was strong serving, and returning it. In the second set, the Eagles were cruising right alongside Kings Park, forcing five ties. A Petraitis kill put the Kingsmen up 6-5, but Hauppauge bounced right back to tie the score at 8-8 and again at 10-10.

“Hauppauge is always extremely scrappy and they make it hard to put balls away,” Manly said. “Every time we tried to tip or do something unconventional they picked it up, but we stayed consistent swinging at the ball and keeping the offense strong.”

Manly said his team worked on defensive drills, like service receives, to prepare for Hauppauge, but he still thinks his team has work to do heading into the postseason.

“That’s my biggest issue with my team — we’re pretty powerful offensively, but we rest on our laurels and let down a little bit on the defensive side,” he said. “But we weathered the storm.”

Senior Erika Benson (12 kills) took the game over, as the middle hitter spiked the ball for a big kill and a 12-10 advantage that gave Kings Park the push it needed.

Haley Holmes sets up a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I thought when times were getting rough — we were in a little bit of a slump — we worked hard to get out of it quickly to move on to the next play,” Benson said. “Coach tells us to get ready for the next point. We’re never thinking ahead, we’re just thinking of what we can do to get that point.”

Right up the middle the team began clicking, with Murphy returning the serve, Haley Holmes (39 assists) setting up the play and Benson driving shots to the ground.

“Haley Holmes did a nice job setting,” Manly said. “She sets a really consistent ball, she didn’t get called for any doubles, lifts or carries, and she spreads the ball on offense really, really well. Erika Benson overpowers people in the middle, and up the middle with our libero, setter and middle is where our bread is buttered and that pretty much carried us tonight.”

Kings Park is the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, which begin Oct. 30. The Kingsmen won’t play again until November thanks to a first-round bye.

Meagan Murphy celebrates Kings Park’s undefeated League V season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I’m really excited to see what happens with this team,” Murphy said.

Graduating just one senior from last year’s team, Benson said her team’s accomplishments, including helping to win the seventh straight league title for Kings Park, means a lot to the seniors, who are following in the footsteps of those in years past, losing just one regular-season game in their entire careers.

“Being able to keep this League V title is pretty special,” she said. “Every season we have one goal: to win states. It’s always in the back of our minds and it helps us push through to win every game.”

Manly said he doesn’t see the streak weighing too heavily on the girls, because they’re focused on that one goal.

“They’re a pretty relaxed bunch — they’re more focused on their goals than about what’s happened in the past,” he said. “They’re focused on every point, every set and every match. I love my team very much, I think they’re extremely talented and I think the sky is the limit for them as long as they stay humble and hungry and don’t overlook anybody. They have the capability to do some pretty special stuff.”

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Kings Park girls soccer team upperclassmen celebrate senior day with their families. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park was spreading the wealth on senior night — something that especially pleased senior Jessica Hoyt.

Senior Jessica Hoyt powers past a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve been playing with these girls since the seventh grade and not all the seniors play that much,” she said. “So it was great to see them get playing time and a bunch of them scored, who usually don’t, so it was just a really nice day.”

Four girls, two seniors, found the back of the net in the Kingsmens’ 5-0 shutout of East Hampton Oct. 16. The win was especially sweet for those upperclassmen playing in their last home game of the regular season.

“To win on senior night was amazing — I don’t get a lot of playing time, but to win tonight, our season just got even better,” senior defender Zoe Dougherty said.

The game against Hampton Bays though was not what she or any of her teammates expected. Even though the Bonackers are 0-13 on the season, they brought their A game.

“They were not what I expected,” Dougherty said. “Being in last place without a win they pressed us in the first half, holding us to just one goal.”

Kings Park scored in the 28th minute, when Hoyt drilled a Sam Hogan cross pass into the netting to break the ice.

Senior Mary Tuorto heads the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Hogan, a junior, beat out a defender for an open look at the goal two minutes into the second have, and sent her shot into the upper left corner. She scored a solo shot later in the half for a 3-0 advantage.

“We played them once before, so we knew they’d be tough — they don’t ever give up; they swarm to the ball and they play really hard,” Kings Park head coach Bryan LoPalo said. “They played better than their record indicates. [This is] an extremely tough league.”

With senior bench players swapped in for starters, junior Amelia Galdorisi and senior Mary Tuorto also found their way to the scoreboard. Kings Park ends the regular season at 11-3-2 overall with an 11-2-1 mark in League V. The girls soccer playoffs begin with outbracket games Saturday Oct. 21. The first round starts Tuesday Oct. 23.

“That was unexpected, [it was] a little different game they played, but absolutely they challenged us,” Tuorto said comparing the two matchups between the teams. “I was shocked at how our seniors came together. We don’t normally all play together on the field. Tonight it was so important to win this game.”

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Senior Dylan Winwood competes in final football game

By Desirée Keegan

Dylan Winwood couldn’t ask for a better way to end his football career.

Kings Park’s senior tailback/slot receiver hybrid and safety battled on the gridiron one last time Sept. 23, before getting season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Winwood’s injury occurred in a scrimmage Sept. 1, and he asked his doctor to clear him to play in one final game. Upon getting approval, he decided his last performance would be at homecoming.

“Any win is sweet for our coaches and our team, but having a great crowd to play in front of for homecoming made the atmosphere electric,” he said. “I can’t thank our fan base enough, truly one of the best groups on the Island.”

Although the team could credit running back Vince D’Alto for its 7-2 win over Hauppauge (0-2), Winwood also credited the Kingsmen’s fans and new surroundings for helping the team seal the deal.

“I felt great out on the field and the lights were fantastic,” he said of the stadium’s new ambiance. “I felt like homecoming made it that much sweeter — with the crowd and the team going crazy after every play.”

The junior running back scored the only touchdown of the day — on a 32-yard run in the first quarter. D’Alto said he was looking to ride a routine push play, but happened to stumble across a hole in the defensive line and carried the ball into the end zone. Senior Mike Trupiano’s point-after attempt was good to put the Kingsmen (2-2) up 7-0.

“I was just trying to get some yards to get out of our own end zone, but there was a hole and I took it,” said D’Alto, who finished with 155 yards on 15 carries. “It was a great team effort and there were a lot of ups and downs, but a win is a win.”

Despite the offense not playing up to its preferred tempo, the Kingsmen’s defensive unit was willing and able to pick up the slack, especially co-captain Winwood.

“I feel as if [the win] was due to our stout defensive effort,” he said. “The whole team rallied around a stellar defensive performance.”

The senior said he thought D’Alto was strong on both sides of the ball to help propel the team to victory.

“He was running extremely aggressive and was making plays on the defensive end that helped seal the game for us,” Winwood said. “This year’s team is definitely one of the fastest teams in our division. We have a bunch of athletes just waiting to make plays, and I’m looking forward to the Kingsmen capturing more wins in the future.”

D’Alto said he was inspired by Winwood’s willingness to put his career on the line to play football one last time, especially since he already has a lacrosse scholarship to Florida Southern College.

“Dylan had a lot of courage playing in his last game with a lacrosse scholarship on the line,” he said. “Dylan always plays great — one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, and he played his heart out for his last game. It was great seeing him on that field risking it all for just one more game, telling us as a team how much this really means to him.”

The senior reflected on his final high school game.

“I felt awesome on the field; all I wanted was to finish my career on a win and it happened,” Winwood said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end note.”

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With nine returning starters Kingsmen have eyes set on postseason play

Kings Park goalie Nick VanDuesen sends the ball into play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s Matt Anderer heads the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Last year Kings Park needed to win the final game of the regular season to make the postseason, but after two overtime periods that left the game resulting in a tie against Hauppauge,  the Kingsmen were held back from making that playoff appearance — by a single point.

But that was then, and the Kings Park boys soccer team has shaken off the stalemate and is looking to make strides toward a better start to the season and not leave a postseason hope hanging in the balance. With nine returning starters, the chance of achieving that goal increases this season.

“We lost seven seniors to graduation, but what’s great is that we have those returning starters, which is tremendous,” Kings Park head coach Bill Hender said. “They all had big minutes last year, and our bench guys are also tremendous and I think they’re much stronger than they were last year, so we have a lot more depth.”

Because of reduced enrollment, Kings Park moved down to League V as a Class A team this season but won’t escape its nemesis because Hauppauge also dropped down in the division standings.

“We’re considered a Class A school now, which is good,” the head coach said. “When we go into the playoffs we won’t go against the Brentwoods, which have four times as many kids as we do, so it’ll be a little bit more fair for us.”

Kings Park’s Eoghan McGovern and James Sicardi fight for possesion during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

He said he’ll be leaning on Eoghan McGovern, Liam Thompson and Matt Anderer to steer the ship, but said he’s hoping junior Connor Brady can contribute some guidance.

“He really turned it on in the second half of last season,” Hender said. “In a game against Eastport-South Manor he scored two goals in a span of about 48 seconds — they were both beautiful shots.”

Thompson, a two-year varsity center back, said he thinks his team has its best chance to pick off Hauppauge this year.

“We’ve always been close with Hauppauge — we’ve always been right there but never actually made it over the hump — we’ve always wanted to beat them,” he said. “I think we have it this year with this team — we have returning guys and we’ve all been best friends forever, so we’re excited.”

Senior center midfielder Robbie Catoir agreed with Thompson in that the Kingsmen’s pros this season could help them get the better of the team who ended their last season early.

“It makes us hungrier,” Catoir said. “We’ll have to work on our communication to start, but Hauppauge is still the team to beat.”

Kings Park’s Eric Escobar catches a pass during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Defensively, the team returns three out of the four core from the back line.

Guarding the net will be starting goalie Nicolas VanDuesen, who didn’t see action last year due to an injury, but is now at full strength.

“I’m most pleased with our defense,” McGovern said. “I think we have to focus on just scoring goals. We’ll see once the games start up if we can finish.”

Hender agreed his team’s defense is a force to be reckoned with, pointing to McGovern as the biggest driving force to back up his claim.

“We have a three-year All-Conference player in Eoghan McGovern, and I think he’s the best center back in the county — he’s that good,” the head coach said. “Other coaches have made comments about how good he is. And Alex Graci is a junior who came in and gave us a lot of minutes in a lot of different positions last year, so he’s looked great throughout training camp this year. He’s really come into his own.”

Kings Park will play a pair of nonleague games, against Wyandanch and Shoreham-Wading River, before its season opener at home against Rocky Point Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

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Tiffany Slicklein leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen are a powerhouse full of offensive threats — and as has been the case all season, senior Tiffany Slicklein and junior Sam Schultz stole the show this week.

The dynamic duo scored 20 points each in a 74-54 win over East Islip Jan. 24. Kings Park girls’ basketball head coach Tom Edmundson said the victory was just what the team needed after a pause in performance last week.

Sam Schultz carries the ball into East Islip’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was tough,” the coach said of the two games against Hauppauge and Bellport, the first resulting in a loss and the second a close-call win. “We were talking about picking up the intensity, picking up the pace and coming out and playing well, and I think we did. I was telling the girls they need to build off this. We’re kind of right there on the doorsteps, so we need to start playing our best basketball. This was a pretty good example of that.”

The team has five more games before playoffs start. The next matchup will be a home contest against a tough Half Hollow Hills West team. When the Kingsmen saw their opponent last, Jan. 3, they pulled away with a close 63-60 win.

“This is definitely a confidence booster” Schultz said, who added eight rebounds and four assists. “Everyone got on the board today, everyone was taking shots, so hopefully that translates to the game against Half Hollow Hills West — we had a tough game against them last time — and to the rest of the season.”

Slicklein and fellow senior Selena Ubriaco traded baskets for the first few Kings Park scores, Slicklein scoring six points and Ubriaco tallying five, before Schultz got the ball rolling. After grabbing a put-back on Slicklein’s missed extra-point attempt at a three-point play, she scored the next two field goals for Kings Park. At the end of the first quarter, the team had a 10-point lead, 21-11.

Taylor Slicklein moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Schultz continued her scoring streak in the second, adding a field goal, three-pointer and free throw, all the first points for Kings Park in the next eight minutes.

“She can knock down the three, she can get to the rim, she makes free throws, she has a complete game,” Edmundson said of his athlete. “She’s the kind of player that will definitely play at the next level, and she’s only a junior. She’s just fantastic.”

But Schultz credits her teammates for her scoring.

“This is my fourth year on the team and I can always count on them to get me the ball if I’m open or communicating on offense, seeing the extra pass, being unselfish — and I think that helped me personally get my shots,” she said. “But it really helps us all as a team.”

Schultz had 17 first-half points, and Slicklein added 14. The pair played in the third quarter, but Edmundson continued to get his bench players time on the court, and had all starters except sophomore Sam Hogan sit in the fourth.

“I’m not looking for one girl to score all the time — although it does happen to work out that way — but our offense is geared toward everybody,” the head coach said. “I think we have a very good team, I think we have one of the best teams in the county and I think we’ll be right there with a chance to win a county championship. I think we have the ability to and I think we have the talent to.”

Slicklein, who scored her 1,000th career point last week, had a double-double in the game with 10 rebounds and also had seven blocks.

Sam Hogan drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We call her LeBron James because she can do everything,” Edmundson said. “She’s leading the team in rebounds, steals, assists, points, although Sam [Schultz] might have just taken over because they’ve been neck and neck all year, but she does it all. It’s very rare that you have a girl that has the ability to score on every possession, but is also willing to give it up and distribute the way she does.”

Shultz also shares the wealth. Slicklein said she’s enjoyed working alongside her teammate.

“We know exactly where each other are, we’ve been playing together for a while and it’s good to play with a girl who knows how to play like that,” she said. “It’s always fun.”

Slicklein’s twin sister Taylor finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Hogan had eight points.

Schultz said she’s hoping the total team success can propel the team further into the postseason this year. Tiffany Slicklein said she thinks if any Kings Park team can do it, it’s this one.

“We’re getting ready,” Schultz said of the team preparing for playoffs. “Each and every practice we’re working hard, getting better, working on the little things and it’s all coming full circle — with good timing, too.”

Kings Park's Paul Cooper dribbles down the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s boys’ basketball team nearly doubled Huntington’s second-half score to remain atop the League IV leaderboard with a 69-49 come-from-behind win Dec.30.

The Kingsmen jumped out to an 8-1 lead before the Blue Devils rattled off 15 unanswered points for a 16-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Senior Kevin Lawrence netted nine of those points on four baskets and a free throw.

Kings Park clawed back to trail by five with just under four minutes left, a one-point lead minutes after, and senior guard Paul Cooper helped his team take the lead, 23-22, by banking four of six free-throw attempts on fouls.

Kings Park’s Richie Price scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“In that first half we weren’t communicating, and then guys started to talk and make each other accountable,” Cooper said. “So we got on track, and played good defense and that leads to open shots.”

The teams traded scores, and Huntington junior guard Mekhi Harvey let the clock unwind before scoring a field goal, to give the Blue Devils a 26-25 edge heading into the locker room.

Kings Park opened the second half with a different defensive look. The Kingsmen swarmed with a full-court press as Huntington turned the ball over and paid the price each time. Harvey said he wasn’t surprised.

“We don’t take any team lightly’ and their defense was pretty rough going into the second half,” he said.
Kings Park head coach Christopher Rubé said he told his team they might get outplayed, but told the

Kingsmen to make sure they didn’t get out worked. They took it to heart.

“We increased the intensity in the second half,” Rubé said. “We’re 6-1 but I told them ‘you have to earn it every night,’ and I think they got that message.”

Kings Park senior Jeff Li hit a big three-pointer for his first points of the game to put his team back in front, 28-26, and next was senior Richie Price, who scored his third trey of the game. Junior guard Jason Hartglass followed with his third of the game,as the Kingsmen jumped out to a 45-31 lead, and Price struck again from three-point land to put his team out front 48-31.

“When you’re in the zone you’re not thinking about your shot, you’re just letting the game come to you,” Price said. “So when the ball comes to me, I’m not thinking about it, I’m just shooting.”

Kings Park sophomore Andrew Bianco opened the scoring for the final quarter with a three-point play for a 53-35 lead. And Price followed swishing his fifth three-pointer.

Huntingotn’s Kevin Lawrence scores on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon

Price was splitting time with Liam Thompson before an injury against East Islip the game prior sidelined Thompson. Rubé said he was proud of Price, and happy for his showing. He led the team with 17 points.

“He played great defensively, he had  great energy, played hard on our press, and that spilled over to his offensive game,” he said. “He did a great job.”

Hartglass, who scored 15 points, let one fly from the left corner while getting knocked to the court by a defender, and saw his shot make it while sitting on the floor. Matter-of-factly, he made it a four-point play from the free-throw line.

“We definitely tightened up especially with communication,” Price said. “Not only did we play harder in the second half, we played smarter.”

Huntington had no answer.

“I would say we got more confident as a team,” Huntington junior Michael Abbondandelo said, despite head coach Brian Carey pulling his starters. “We started driving to the hole more and definitely got more rebounds. Our bench definitely earned that — they needed to go in at that point — it was right to put them in.”

With the win Kings Park improves to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in league play. The Kingsmen will face Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.

Harvey topped the scoring chart for the Blue Devils with 17 and Lawrence tacked on 14.

With the loss Huntington drops to 2-6 overall and  1-2 in the league and plays West Islip Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.

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The Kings Park cheerleading team leaps into the air during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s cheerleading squad has been battling since opening day, when seven of the team members dropped out. And now the girls are struggling to stay healthy.

The team took to the mat, competing for the top spot in Small School Division I against 10 other teams Dec. 18 at Comsewogue High School, and even with two members sidelined, the girls were able to stay solid through the two-and-a-half-minute performance in front of a near-capacity crowd.

The Kings Park cheerleading team performs different stunts while getting the crowd involved in the cheering during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

What has made matters more difficult is getting used to the differences between the Long Island Cheerleading Association and Section XI rule book and scoring sheet, since cheerleading has been recognized as a sport.

“We had to change our routines and it’s a drastic change,” said Kings Park head coach Jennifer Ford. “Section XI caused us to fundamentally change how we do it.”

Kings Park senior Alyssa Ambrosia, a two-year varsity starter, said she’s only known the new scoring system, so for her, that’s an advantage.

“We’ve had to overcome a lot this season,” she said. “We were strong in stunting, but I think we can all improve on our tumbling.”

The Kingsmen finished outside the Top 5, but four-year veteran Jamie Barbarino sees nothing but prospect.

“I know that every single person on our team has potential,” she said. “We can be really, really good out there on the mat, but we need to get better with our [end of the routine] pyramid.”

Senior Olivia Nicoletti has been cheering since ninth grade, and has seen the difference between the two scoring methods.

“You have to do certain types of jumps, certain tumbling, and you do stunts differently,” Nicoletti said. “All the points are awarded differently in individual sections, so it’s much harder. We had some challenges today, [another] one of our girls got hurt, so we had to [animate] one stunt.”

Kings Park looks to put on a better performance once they’re at full strength on Jan. 15 at Mount Sinai High School at 9:15 a.m.

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Jason Hartglass shoots from the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

In his third year as Kings Park boys’ basketball head coach, Christopher Rube looks to turn the corner after two losing seasons, and will rely on his core of returning players to do so.

Co-captain Paul Cooper, a returning All-Conference player brings experience and senior leadership to the court in his fourth year on the varsity team. He is on track to score his 1,000th career point this season.

Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Rube said that his player is an excellent ball handler who has a nose for the rim. Cooper, who has received two All-County nods while on the football team, is being actively recruited by Division III colleges to play both sports.

“I see a lot of improvement — we were competitive in my freshman year, but the last two years we’ve been rebuilding,” Cooper said. “Everyone’s getting used to the new coach and now everyone is buying in and we should have a good season.”

Rube said the last two years have been steppingstones. The Kingsmen finished 5-10 last year, and 4-11 the year before. Rube indicated his returning players have improved drastically over that time.

“Compared to where we were the last two seasons, we’re at a spot where we should be much more competitive,” he said. “I’m pleased with our efforts defensively — their unselfishness and willingness to pass the ball and find the open man. This year they did more work in the offseason than the previous two years, and they’ve developed a work ethic.”

He’s also looking forward to what co-captain Richie Price will bring to the court.

“This year it’s serious — everyone is invested in the program and no one’s selfish,” said Price, who is a three-year varsity returner. “This season everyone’s focused about the success of the team. Our defense has come a long way, so if we can be a solid defensive team we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon
Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

Bolstering the core of this year’s squad is returning sophomore Andrew Bianco, who started as a freshman. Rube expects big things from his player.

“He has improved tremendously and will be one of our primary scorers,” the head coach said. “He’s tough around the ball, he can crash the boards and can step out and shoot 3-pointers.”

Bianco agreed with Price that everyone is focused on the greater good of the team.

“We share the ball more and we have good shooting,” Bianco said. “But we’re going to need to work on our plays on offense to be ready for Bellport to open the season [at home, Dec. 20].”

Price agreed with Cooper that the two teams to beat in League IV this season will be Half Hollow Hills West and Deer Park. Bianco sees Babylon as a greater threat than Deer Park, though.

The Kingsmen will host Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3, travel to Deer Park three days later and return home to face West Babylon Jan. 10.

“They’re at a point where they know that everybody needs to be able to shoot the ball, make the extra pass and work on being more consistent,” Rube said. “We look very good in flashes, but we need to put that together for all 32 minutes of play.”

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