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League III

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By Desirée Keegan

Brooke Berroyer loves the burst of adrenaline she gets out on the volleyball court, and her team’s current winning streak certainly seems to be getting her engine revving.

Smithtown East’s Brooke Berroyer celebrates a point. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Playing gives me such a rush — especially when you’re playing with such great players and you see all the hard work culminate in a win,” the senior setter and right side said. “We go to practice every day and work hard; we all trust each other a lot. I would never be able to play and set the people that I do if I didn’t trust them.”

That trust and confidence led Smithtown East to its seventh straight win Oct. 2 with a 3-0 sweep of Copiague, 25-18, 25-16, 25-23. Berroyer finished with 14 assists and eight digs in the win, but she credited teammate Allie Brady for getting the team to the No. 1 spot in the League III standings.

“Allie Brady is our powerhouse,” she said of the senior outside hitter. “No one can stop her. She puts the ball down every time. She’s our best player right now.”

Brady came through for Smithtown East in crucial situations, like when her back-to-back kills put the Bulls up 12-7 in the first set, or when her spike stopped Copiague’s momentum after three straight points, leading to three straight Smithtown East points in the second set.

“We believe in each other,” said Brady, who had 12 kills and 11 digs in the win. “We have great leaders on this team. All of us seniors work hard to get the team going in the right direction and the rest follow our lead. We always have each other’s back.”

The senior gave credit to the Bulls’ juniors that contributed to the win, and Berroyer recognized one in particular: Michelle Husslein.

Smithtown East’s Alex Colón receives a Copiague serve. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Husslein, an outside hitter, added a handful of service aces in a close third set, and closed out the match serving on the final two points, the second an ace to win the game.

“She’s a junior with a really strong serve, and it’s tough getting on that line, especially as an underclassman,”Berroyer said.

Husslein was filling in for the injured senior middle Steph Berdon, and Smithtown East head coach George Alamia pointed to his junior’s standout performance among others helping to fill the space.

“She was a spark plug,” he said of Husslein. “She hasn’t played a lot, and she was among several players that stepped in to play today, and she played really well.”

Alamia was quick to point to the stellar serving throughout the evening from not only Husslein, but the rest of the squad as well. In total, nine players added to the Bulls’ 41 service aces, accounting for a little less than 55 percent of Smithtown East’s total points.

“Our service team was excellent,” Alamia said. “Game three we had a lot of our bench in with starters sprinkled in. Michelle [Husslein] on the line changed the game — she ran off five or six points and gave us confidence. Logan Kozlowski is a nice young setter coming up and she also got some great opportunities today in the third game.”

Smithtown East’s Allie Brady spikes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls remain undefeated at 7-0 on their quest to take their 11th straight League III title this season. Senior libero Alex Colón, who had 14 digs and 16 service receptions, said she’s moved by what her team has already done this year.

“It’s inspiring,” she said of the run. “At the beginning of the season it was a little rough — we all had to learn to work together [after losing seven senior starters to graduation]. We work harder than any team in the gym, we’re communicating and controlling the ball, and that’s key to getting our momentum going. When we come together and play as a team nothing can stop us.”

Smithtown East faces off against crosstown rival Smithtown West for the second time this season Oct. 4 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown East edged its opponent 3-1 in close sets to open the season Sept. 9. Smithtown West is currently 7-2 overall and 7-1 in league play.

“This team has pressure on them — they want a league championship, they expect it and they’re looking to get it,” Alamia said. “Every year West is a challenge, and I think we’re ready for it — we’re all in. These girls are hungry for he league title, they’re focused, we’re going to have a great practice and we’re going to give them everything we have. I think we’re ready to take what’s ours.”

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Chris Crespo moves the ball along the sideline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Yes, you can call it a comeback.

Everything the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team had worked for led to this moment. The Bulls were faced with adversity for what seemed to be the first time all season, but they wanted to be one of just two teams to make it back to the Final 4 for a second consecutive year. Up against another league leader Feb. 21, head coach Mike Agostino said he might not have had the right game plan.

Gerg Giordano muscles his way to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They were really well-coached, well-prepared,” he said of No. 5-seeded and League IV leader Deer Park. “We might not have had it right, but we found a way to survive.”

No. 4 Smithtown West fell behind, and fast, losing the lead at the two-minute mark of the first quarter, and didn’t’ regain it until the fourth. In the end, junior Chris Crespo’s eight fourth-quarter points, junior Michael Gannon’s six and senior Greg Giordano’s five gave the Bulls its 50-47 come-from-behind win.

“Inside their heart and what they’re made of, it’s bigger than coaching,” Agostino said. “These kids have character, and they’re not afraid of the big moment. They’re going to go out and challenge anyone and every time they play it’s a full effort.”

On paper, it may look like Smithtown West had an easy road, going undefeated in League III and coming into the Class AA quarterfinals with a 20-1 record.

Giordano and senior Nick Ferolito gave the team a 4-0 lead after both teams went scoreless for most of the first three minutes. At the six-minute mark, a Deer Park field goal and 3-pointer put the team out front 9-5.

By halftime, the Bulls’ four-point deficit grew to six, 23-17, but the team was in as deep as an eight-point hole when a technical following a field goal gave Deer Park three more chances to grab points. The team hit two of three free throws for a 15-7 advantage with 7:20 left in the second.

Kyle LaGuardia leaps to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were down the whole game, we were fighting back the whole time, but we all had each other’s backs,” said Giordano, who scored a game-high 22 points. “Coach kept telling us to stick to our game plan, eventually our shots were going to fall, and they did. We played good defense and that kept us in the game.”

Smithtown West chipped away at the lead with four different players lighting up the scoreboard, but Deer Park continued to have an answer. With 1:39 left in the third, another 3-pointer put Deer Park ahead 30-23, but a Giordano 3-pointer, Kyle LaGuardia layup and a floater by Giordano closed the gap, 32-30, at the end of the eight minutes.

Crespo opened the fourth quarter with a game-tying bucket, and the crowd erupted.

“It feels great not just for the team, but the community, too,” he said. “A lot of them are backing us here.”

The game would then be decided largely at the free-throw line.

Gannon made two at the 5:56 mark to give his team its first lead since the game’s opening minutes. Deer Park quickly tied the game, but Crespo came through again. He scored eight of his 11 points in the final stanza and also finished with seven assists.

“It was a hard-fought battle,” Crespo said. “Despite being down we always feel confident. We don’t feel rushed. We’re not frustrated or out of our element. We know that if we play within ourselves we know we’ll get good results.”

ichael Gannon prepares to make a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Giordano added two free throws for a four-point lead with 35.9 seconds, 46-42, and Deer Park called timeout after timeout to try to find plays to score. All the team could muster was one free throw, and the Bulls were back to the line to add to its lead. Again, Gannon sank both of his opportunities with 12.5 seconds left in regulation to give the Bulls more breathing room.

“I’ve taken 1,000 free throws in my life, so hitting a few, I felt confident about knocking them down,” he said. He scored all six of his points in the third quarter, all from the charity stripe. He closed out the game making two more with 4.8 seconds on the clock.

“When you sit down in the beginning of the season, you know Stony Brook is at the end of a long road,” Agostino said. “Now, to finally get there, it’s really exciting.”

The Bulls will take on the No. 1 seed in the semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll face Bay Shore at Stony Brook University Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Giordano said for now he’s soaking in the moment. He said the team is excited to get back to where they lost last year.

“It was surreal — this is the last game on my Smithtown West home court and it was amazing to see all the guys come together and be able to make some big plays at the end to come out with the win,” he said. “It shows with the group of guys we have — we’re all so tight, so close, we all work in practice each day — how much we can pick each other up in times like these.”

 

By Bill Landon

Colin Powell once said “success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence,” and the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team has used dedication and determination to attain another success this season. On Feb. 13, the Bulls outscored Centereach 59-29 on senior night in the last game of the regular season to remain perfect, at 14-0, in League III.

Smithtown West’s seniors started the game off strong, despite four not seeing much playing time this year. Will Kass started the three-point flurry with a shot that gave the Bulls an early 8-0 lead, but Centereach junior forward Chris Witherspoon drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a two-point game with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter. Centereach would come no closer.

Even with a different starting five, the Bulls found their rhythm early. Juniors Chris Crespo and Michael Gannon, and senior Gordon Shouler added shots from beyond the arc to help Smithtown West take a 34-13 advantage into halftime. In total, Smithtown West had eight 3-pointers from six different players.

“Our effort is what won this,” Crespo said. “Our seniors gave 100 percent effort and we executed all game. I’m really just in awe as to how we played together as a team tonight.”

Centereach senior Josue Chery opened the third quarter with a trey of his own, to bring the score to 34-16, but Smithtown West’s defensive pressure was more than the Cougars could handle. That pressure keyed in mainly on senior Jon Agostino, who is usually a double-digit scoring threat. Smithtown West held its coach’s nephew to just three points.

“I thought the defense was the best part of our game tonight,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said.

The Bulls continued to bank 3-pointer after 3-pointer, as senior Justin Durcan, Crespo and Gannon swished their shots to break the game open at the end of the third.

“I was just happy that all of our guys got to play,” Gannon said. “We have four seniors who don’t play as much and it was fun to watch them play well.”

Durcan finished atop the scoring sheet with 14 points. Crespo followed with 11 points, Gannon added nine and senior Chris VanderBrink tacked on seven.

“I think coming out hot and confident — even though we’re not the regular starters — that’s what made us so comfortable,” Durcan said. “It’s our preparation. We work hard every day in practice even if we don’t see much playing time, and I think we work harder in practice than any team in our league, and that helped us today.”

The loss eliminated Centereach from postseason play. The Cougars finished the season with a 9-11 overall mark and 6-8 record in league play.

The Bulls, who clinched the league title with their win over Copiague on Feb. 2, finished with the best boys’ basketball record in the county, at 19-1. Only one other team, Center Moriches, finished undefeated in conference play.

Heading into the postseason on a 15-game winning streak, Crespo said his team will maintain it’s winning attitude.

“Once we know who we’ll play,” he said, “the coaches are going to show us the personnel, what they run and what we have to do to defeat them.”

But Durcan said his team will remain composed as the No. 4 Bulls prepare to host No. 13 Lindenhurst Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.

“We’ve just got to stay poised and don’t expect to win, but the county championship is what we’re shooting for,” Durcan said. “Even though we’re up there [in the rankings], we’ve got to stay humble and hopefully our games will speak for themselves.”

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The Smithtown West boys' basketball team is all smiles after winning back-to-back League III titles with a 78-59 win over Copiague. Photo by Desirée Keegan

When the boys’ basketball team from Smithtown West entered the locker room, they let out a loud scream.

They’d done it. After not winning the League III title in nearly 50 years, the Bulls are now back-to-back champs. And they have their secret weapon to thank.

Greg Giordano drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Greg Giordano hadn’t played in the team’s first matchup against Copiague, and it turned out that worked to his advantage. The senior scored 28 points in Smithtown West’s 78-59 win Feb. 2.

“He’s strong, athletic, he’s a jumper, he’s fast, attacks the rim,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said of his captain. “He does the right thing every single day in practice. His work habits are awesome, and as a result, you get the byproduct of a game like this.”

Giordano found the open lane time and time again, driving the lane and using spin moves, reverse layups and under-the-basket passes amid a flurry of aggressive defenders.

“We came out firing,” he said. “We’ve got a veteran group of guys that love playing with each other, and whenever things are going down we know we can pick each other back up. We wanted to come out and make a statement.”

That statement was made early when the Bulls jumped out to a 10-2 lead after two minutes of play, scoring layups on their first five possessions — two by Giordano, two by Chris Crespo and the other by Kyle LaGuardia, before Gordon Shouler swished a three-point shot.

Kyle LaGuardia knocks down a layup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We worked hard and I think we deserved it,” Crespo said. “Copiague is a team that can score the ball. They have crafty, excellent guards that get to the basket, so we needed to contain them.”

Leading 36-26 at halftime, five Bulls helped the team run away with the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Eagles 16-9. Giordano and senior Michael Gannon, who came off the bench to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds, scored five points apiece over the eight minutes.

“During warmups I was hitting most of my shots, so when I got open I let it fly,”
Gannon said.

Copiague amped up the defense in the hopes of getting back in the game, scoring 12 straight points in the fourth quarter as the home crowd roared, but Giordano iced the game late, racking up 12 points off 14 free-throw attempts.

“They played like us,” Agostino said. “They played tough, they played smart, and they played together. They know that’s the formula we need to be successful.”

Chris Crespo avoids a block as he leaps to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The win extended the Bulls winning streak to 13 games. The team is just two games away from going undefeated in conference play.

Crespo said in the moments following the win it felt like a dream.

“We’ve been playing together since sixth and seventh grade, so it’s definitely a special moment,” he said. “The sky’s the limit for us.”

Agostino said he’s proud to see all the dedication pay off.

“We have to play against good teams that are strong and game plan and strategize to beat you,” he said. “Winning the league is the hardest thing to do, but we play each game the same way. I’m with these guys all the time — and there’s ups and downs — and they had to work hard and persevere and overcome and for them to still be successful, I’m elated. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

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Rafael Celanti gets a shot on goal off a corner kick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Rafael Celanti started off this season as a center midfielder, and after the decision to move him to center forward, the sophomore’s coaches — and the rest of the Newfield boys’ soccer team — are reaping the benefits.

Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Celanti repeatedly came through for his team after the change, and helped the Wolverines make history. He scored early for his second game-winning goal of the postseason in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Hauppauge (15-1-3) Oct. 31, which sent his team to the Suffolk County finals for the first time in school history.

“He’s been a superstar,” Newfield’s 12-year head coach Jamie Santiago said of Celanti. “He’s doing everything a center forward does — he holds the plays up, he scores goals, he’s so elusive there. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.”

Celanti scored in the eighth minute of the contest when he blasted a shot into the bottom left corner.

“I saw the center back coming inside, and he backed away and thought the goalie was going to pick it up, so I ran and got to it first,” the sophomore said. “I’m speechless. Newfield never made it this far and I’m happy to be part of it.”

The Wolverines battled through its 16-1-1 season tallying nine shutouts with a handful of come-from-behind wins. Senior center back John Alves knew what it would take to get the Wolverines further than any Newfield team had been before.

“I told the boys it’s going to be a battle, but it’s just going to be another game of soccer,” he said. “I told them we need to settle down and play our game, and we scored early, which helped our emotions.”

Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After several pushes made by Hauppauge to even the score, sophomore center attack and midfielder Nick Gomez put the game out of reach when he headed in a free kick by senior Mike DiDominico.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” he said of the team making history, adding he was also thankful that his coach didn’t listen to him when he asked for a substitute to get him off the field right before the free kick. “It felt great to make it in and extend the lead for my team.”

Santiago said he was proud of his team’s achievements this season, which so far include nabbing the League III title and making it to the Class AA finals after not making the semis in 17 years.

“These guys have been through so much all season long,” he said. “There’s been peaks and valleys of emotions and to be the first team to make the finals is historic, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone and their effort. It’s a joyous occasion for all of us.”

Santiago also credited Alves, the team’s leader on the back line. Sophomore goalkeeper Loui Chen made several diving, quick-reaction saves to maintain the clean sheet. He finished with eight saves.

No. 3 Newfield will face No. 4 Brentwood in the finals at Diamond in the Pines in Coram Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

While Santiago said Brentwood is a program the Wolverines aspire to be like, Alves said his team has the right mindset to continue to make history.

“This season’s been a war, and we’ve battled the entire time to come out on top,” he said. “The emotions are crazy right now. I’m happy to finally do something for the school — put ourselves on the map. I tell my teammates to fight for the person next to you and play as hard as you can, and I’m confident we can continue to battle to reach new heights. We’re here to play.”

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Bryan Yanes grabs a pass downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

With a 2-1 win over West Islip Oct. 7, the 8-1-1 Newfield boys’ soccer team is one step closer to being named League III champions.

Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The route to that ultimate goal will continue to challenge the Wolverines, with teams like West Islip fighting for postseason life, and others, like No.1 Smithtown West (10-1), challenging them for the top spot.

“We told them that against a lot of teams that are fighting for their playoff lives, it’s going to get chippy,” Newfield head coach Jamie Santiago said. “But they need to maintain composure, because a lot of teams are going to get them off their game and push them out of their element.”

West Islip did just that in the first half. After scoring the first goal of the game, tempers flared and pushing and shoving resulted in multiple yellow cards for both teams.

Heading into halftime still down a goal, the referees pulled aside captains from both teams to talk about the physicality.

“It happens — they talk — it’s a game, and I told the team to just relax,” senior center back John Alves said. “We’re trying to win the league here, so I told my guys to keep their hands down, get the ball, calm down and to just play our game.”

Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines opened up the second half very differently. They finally broke through midfield and into West Islip’s zone.

Almost 10 minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Anthony Mauri grabbed a pass, raced around his opponents through midfield, and sent the ball up top to Rafael Celanti. One-on-one with a defender as he made his way to the box, the sophomore midfielder and center forward won the battle, and stuffed the ball into the left corner past a diving goalkeeper to even the score.

“I thought the defender was going to come in at me, so I took a touch forward and got past him,” Celanti said. “Then, it was just me and the goalie and I tapped it into the corner and felt a rush of excitement. This was an important win.”

Celanti had plenty of other opportunities in the game, which impressed his coach.

“Raphael Celanti had a great game,” Santiago said. “He scored, and he missed a couple of headers, but he was just all over the field creating a lot of opportunities. I thought our center midfielders also played a great second half.”

Winning the 50/50 balls was a key to the team’s second-half success.

“When you go down you think you’re going to keep getting scored on, but our team, we get back up — our hearts are always in the game,” Alves said. “So we kept possession — winning the first and second ball — we’re not scared of going into tackles, we’re not scared of shooting the ball. It’s all about going hard and having heart.”

Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 14 minutes left, senior forward Michael DiDominico headed in the game-winner.

“We gave up a bad goal early — we got punished for being slow out of the gate — but as the game went on we built momentum and finally started playing the way we’re capable of, and we turned the tide our way,” Santiago said. “That’s what good teams do. They find a way to win even when they’re not playing their best game.”

He’s hoping his team can do the same thing against Smithtown West Oct. 14. Newfield faced off against the Bulls Sept. 17 and came out on top 2-0, handing the team its only loss of the season.

“It’s a really, really big game,” Santiago said. “Hopefully they can pull out a big win. We have good senior leadership with a great core of young kids — we start five sophomores out of the 11 — and it’s just a good mix. This is one of the best teams I’ve had in my 12 years being a coach. They’re going to fight to the end.”

Centereach's Annalie Buscarino makes a diving save off a penalty kick. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With a 5-0 league record, Smithtown West hosted the Centereach girls’ soccer team, and on paper, it looked to be an easy matchup. But the 1-4 Cougars gave the team a run for its money.

In a raucous game that was stopped multiple times for players to receive yellow cards, leading to both fan and coach ejections, the Bulls’ lone goal came with 12 minutes left to play, as Smithtown West escaped with a 1-0 victory.

entereach’s Emily Tirado and Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Emily Tirado and Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Although the Bulls spent most of the game on the Cougars half of the field, Centereach’s defense stood its ground and time and time again was able to clear the ball down field.

Play was stopped as the coaches questioned many calls made by the officials. There was a lengthy delay for an injured player with 27 minutes left, and a minute later play stopped as the officials ejected Smithtown West’s head coach Rob Schretzmayer.

With all the play stoppages, neither team could find a rhythm, and the game stretched beyond two hours in length.

On a penalty kick, Centereach senior goalkeeper Annalie Buscarino stood tall in the net, and dove to the right side of the net, deflecting the ball for the save to the astonishment of the Bulls’ kicker.

“They always come out hard and we were definitely expecting a lot, because they’re the No. 1 team in the league right now, but I think we did a really great job at stepping up and I was very happy with my team’s performance,” she said. “Defensively and offensively, we moved the ball and we have to keep up this momentum to bring in some wins this season.”

Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney’s foot decided the game with 11:21 left to play, when the freshman’s shot found the right corner of the net for the lone goal of the afternoon.

“It was a short corner — we planned it before,” Meaney said. “I had a good angle to shoot and I just shot it.”

Centereach head coach Andrew Nardi said his team studied and prepared to take on the team atop the League III leaderboard.

Smithtown West's Sarah Harrington and battles Centereach’s Jessica Desena for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Sarah Harrington battles Centereach’s Jessica Desena for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“Smithtown West — they’re undefeated, but we had a game-plan and we stuck with the game-plan,” he said. “And it helped us. We just got unlucky in that last 12 minutes.”

Centereach senior Lauren Buscarino, Annalie’s twin sister, was under no illusion that her team would have an easy time against Smithtown West.

“We were expecting a hard game, and we had to step up and we did that,” she said. “We kept our spirits up; we played up to their level. We’re both division [III] teams, so it’s easy to fall back a little, but today we played up to them.”

Meaney said she thought her team may have underestimated Centereach.

“I didn’t think they were going to be that strong,” she said. “We came in weak and we should’ve gone in stronger. I’m happy we were able to stay up, and we kept pushing through the game, even after all the crazy stuff that went on.”

Smithtown West assistant coach Steve Ianone said it was difficult for his team to gain any kind of traction during the contest.

“The game was stopped so many times during the course of play … neither team could get into any kind of groove, so we just couldn’t get a flow going,” Ianone said. “I was pleased with everyone’s overall performance on the field today, though, especially with the stop-and-go play.”

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Andrew McDonnell squeezes between two Ward Melville players to gain possession of the ball in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

With a talented sophomore class, the Smithtown West boys’ soccer team will rely more heavily on its underclassmen this season to fill the shoes of the 12 seniors lost to graduation.

“I think the biggest challenge for the boys is that we’re very talented, we just have our talents spread out through different grade levels,” 14-year head coach Tom Lips said. “We have really good soccer players, we just have to figure it all out. It’s very new right now.”

Aaron Siegel sends the ball into play in a game against Ward Melville last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Aaron Siegel sends the ball into play in a game against Ward Melville last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Last year, the Bulls made it to the Suffolk County semifinals after winning the League III title for the third consecutive season. Although the coach and his teammates thought the 5-2-1 team had the potential to go father, Lips thinks fatigue played a factor.

“It’s a lot of soccer games in a short period of time, so when we entered the playoffs I felt the kids ran out of gas a little bit,” he said. “It was generally the same lineup and the same group basically played every game and most of the minutes, and that can build up after a while.”

Which is why the Bulls are building on their athleticism. Despite being consistent over the last few years, finishing the 2014-15 season with a 14-2 record, and the 2013-14 season at 18-1-1, the extra push to continue a strong record will help the Bulls go deeper into the postseason.

“We had a really good session [on Monday] and another on Saturday,” three-year starter and retuning goalkeeper Aaron Siegel said of practices so far, despite lacking in leadership early on. “In my three years on varsity it was the first time we had about 25 of the 28 kids run the two mile in under 14 minutes, and we had a bunch of kids run it in under 13 minutes; we look very fit and very strong coming into the season.”

The senior also noted that a lot of the sophomore additions bring size and skill to the team.

Brandon Erny maintains control of the ball in a game against Ward Melville last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Brandon Erny maintains control of the ball in a game against Ward Melville last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“A lot of them are physically big or athletic, but a lot of them are also pretty soccer-smart,” he said. “They know what to do with the ball — they know how to play. They don’t just try to run into people, they actually move the ball and get it going.”

Leading the team this season, will be senior captains Reed Massaro and Brandon Erny.

Of Massaro, a three-year returner, Lips said the defenseman has made some great strides over the last two years, and expects him to have his best year. For Erny, a three-year starter, Lips said he’ll be used as a utility player, moving to wherever the team needs him most in a given game.

“He’s talented enough to play everywhere,” the head coach said.

Also returning to the team is Andrew McDonnell, former captain Matt McDonnell’s younger brother. He’ll be a junior this season, and Lips said he’s coming through the program well.

“He did a nice job last year before he got hurt and then we lost him in the playoff run, which was impactful, because things were pretty solid with him in the middle of the field,” he said. “But I expect Andrew to have a very, very good year at midfield and possibly forward.”

Harrison Weber edges ahead of a Ward Melville player to gain possession in a game last year. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Harrison Weber edges ahead of a Ward Melville player to gain possession in a game last year. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior midfielder Anthony Gibbons will also be looked to for his experience and talents.

Gibbons thinks that the younger athletes bring new energy to the team and said that it didn’t take long for the new group to begin to gel, but Lips thinks that his three-year returner has an energy all his own.

“Gibbons has high energy and we hope he makes some tremendous strides,” Lips said. “He had a wonderful season last year and he could be more the physical and emotional leader of the team. I think he’s going to make a great impact.”

Being physically fit to have an edge on other teams, the Bulls believe stamina wont be an issue as the team pushes for a fourth consecutive League III title.

Smithtown West will host Ward Melville on Sept. 2 in a nonleague game, and will travel to Smithtown East on Sept. 7 for a League III matchup against its crosstown rival.

“We have to get tactically ready for school-ball season because it’s a more physical, more direct game, and we have to keep drilling that into the young kids and keep getting more fit, because that’s really going to help us in the long run,” Siegel said. “ This year I don’t think there’s going to any let off. Ending my high school career never losing that League III title would be a big thing for us to keep our name — we want to maintain the legacy of the school. I think for the fourth straight year, the league title will be coming back to Smithtown West.”

 

Huntington's Kenny Charles leaps up to the rim in the Blue Devils' 61-35 victory over Centereach on Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Huntington turned up the heat in the second half to close the door on previously undefeated Centereach, 61-35, in League III boys’ basketball action Tuesday night.

Centereach's Jake Marzocca shoots in the Cougars' 61-35 loss to Huntington on Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Jake Marzocca shoots in the Cougars’ 61-35 loss to Huntington on Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach was previously 3-0 in league play and 6-1 overall, while Huntington sat at 1-2 and 1-6 before the win. The game was close after eight minutes of play, as the Cougars were ahead, 10-9, to open the second quarter, despite both teams being sluggish from the opening tipoff. The Blue Devils found their rhythm and the rim in the second, to pull ahead with the victory.

Huntington came alive behind the hot hands of senior guard Kenny Charles, who notched 10 points in the quarter after hitting a pair of three-pointers, a field goal and two foul shots. Teammate Quincy Nelson matched Charles with a pair of treys of his own to help put his team out front, 33-16, by the halftime break.

“We trusted each other and we executed out on the court, and that’s how we got the ‘W,’” said Nelson, who is also a senior guard. “They’re a very good team and coach told us at halftime that we had to take better shots.”

Huntington was patient in the second half, choosing to wait for the open shot rather than drive the lane. The Blue Devils were content with letting their three-point proficiency dominate the third quarter, as Charles hit his fourth and junior guard and forward Kevin Lawrence hit his second, while Nelson was fouled attempting his third, sending him to the charity stripe shooting three. Nelson was perfect from the line, and Huntington surged ahead 43-24 to begin the final eight minutes in regulation.

Huntington's Quincy Nelson sets the play in the Blue Devils' Jan. 5 61-35 victory over Centereach. Photo by Bill Landon
Huntington’s Quincy Nelson sets the play in the Blue Devils’ Jan. 5 61-35 victory over Centereach. Photo by Bill Landon

“We haven’t seen Huntington — we saw them once last year,” Centereach senior guard Kevin Callahan said. “We were told that they were going to shoot, and I guess we didn’t respect it, and they punished us for that.”

Charles said that knowing Centereach’s record, his team expected the worst, adding that all his team thought about was playing to win the game.

“We’re 1-2 in the league and our record doesn’t give our team justice,” he said. “In the second half, we knew we couldn’t let up. The game was far from over, but we came out with the win.”

Callahan hit his first three-pointer of the game and added a field goal in the fourth quarter, while fellow senior Jake Marzocca, a forward, found the net for two points, but the Cougars couldn’t keep the pace.

Centereach head coach Ed Miller, fresh off a recent scouting report, told his team that Huntington is a long-range scoring threat, but the Blue Devils were still hard to contain.

“We needed to do a better job at stepping out on them,” Marzocca said. “And when we did step out on them, it didn’t help. They were just hitting their shots — it was their game.”

Centereach's Kevin Callahan scores in the Blue Devils' Jan. 5 61-35 loss to Huntington. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Kevin Callahan scores in the Blue Devils’ Jan. 5 61-35 loss to Huntington. Photo by Bill Landon

For Huntington, the fourth quarter was all senior guard Dan Mollitor, who hit his third trifecta of the game and nailed a pair of free throws, while Charles hit a pair of three-pointers to finish with six on the night, as Huntington slammed the door on Centereach.

“They’re very, very good — I’ve picked them second in the league, and they’re at a different level than us right now,” Miller said. “I didn’t expect it to be an almost 30-point loss, but I expected them to be very good, especially at their own home place.”

Charles led his team with 26 points, followed by Lawrence, who added 13.

On the top of the scoring list for Centereach was Marzocca with 12 points, while Callahan followed close behind with nine.

Huntington hits the road today, as the Blue Devils invade West Islip, with opening tipoff scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Centereach will host North Babylon today at 6:15 p.m.

This versions corrects the name of Jake Marzocca.

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Smithtown East's Ceili Williams drives the lane in the Bulls' 54-50 Jan. 2 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East's Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s girls’ basketball team trailed from the opening tipoff, and fell behind by as much as 11 points, but the Bulls were able to rally back against Lindenhurst in a nonleague contest that was decided in the final seconds of the game, when Smithtown East junior guard Haley Anderson nailed two free throws to break a tie with 14 seconds left to play to give her team a 52-50 edge.

Junior guard Victoria Redmond added two free throws to help her team to a 54-50 win Saturday.

Smithtown East, trailing by 10 to open the second half, rattled off three unanswered field goals to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four. Lindenhurst scored next to extend its lead to 40-34 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, and Smithtown East sophomore guard Ceili Williams hit her second three-pointer of the afternoon to again make it a four-point game, 41-37, to open the final quarter.

Having played the Bulldogs twice last season, Williams said her team spent a lot of time in practice preparing for the matchup.

“Our coaches prepared us — and our shots were on today,” Williams said, adding that that hasn’t been the case lately.

Smithtown East's Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Both teams traded points at the free-throw line and Anderson swished both of her attempts to make it a three-point game, as the Bulls trimmed the deficit to 44-41.

Jordan DeBernardo had just one basket in the game, but it was a big one, as the junior guard drained a long distance trey to tie the game 44-44 with five minutes left to play.

“I thought we were prepared for them, but they really pushed us,” DeBernardo said. “Haley [Anderson] wasn’t playing in the beginning, but when she did come in, we played with more energy.”

Sophomore point guard Abby Zeitsiff answered next when her shot found the rim to put the Bulls out front for the first time, 49-48.

In a foul-riddled final two minutes of play, both teams tried to best each other at the free-throw line.

Redmond split the difference in her appearance at the charity stripe, and the Bulls edged ahead 50-48 with less than a minute left in regulation.

“We knew who their better players were and we worked in practice at stopping them,” Redmond said. With 27 seconds left, Lindenhurst went to the free-throw line and sank both to retie the game a 50-50, before the Bulls put the last four points on the scoreboard.

Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls' 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls’ 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Anderson said her team had to key on Lindenhurst’s Alexis Perdue, but couldn’t contain her, as the senior point guard led the game in scoring with 27 points.

“They have a really good player in No. 12, she’s hard to guard,” Anderson said. “But we picked it up there in the second half and played really well.”

Redmond led her team in scoring with 16 points, followed by Williams with 13, Zeitsiff with 10 and Anderson with eight.

“We made a few adjustments at halftime — we tried to do a better job of slipping those screens and switching and not give them a wide open look,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We came out on them more in the second half.”

Smithtown East remains atop the League III leaderboard, tied with Riverhead, but that will change on Tuesday when the Bulls travel to take on the Blue Waves for the top spot. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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