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Panthers

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By Desirée Keegan & Bill Landon

The Miller Place football team has seemingly been playing catch-up all season, and with a 21-14 homecoming win over Shoreham-Wading River Oct. 14, the Panthers have climbed up another rung on the ladder toward their destination: the top of the Division IV leaderboard.

“It’s kind of been our M.O. all season — we’ve been playing catch up a lot this year, but the kids believe,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “They believe that they’re going to get it done and these kids have tremendous character. I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”

Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour tries to shake off a tackler on a keeper play. Photo by Bill Landon

The Panthers snapped the Wildcats’ 12-game winning streak, and with the victory, also avenged a 49-6 blowout at the hands of Shoreham-Wading River in the Suffolk County semifinals last season. Junior tight end Tom Nealis sealed the homecoming victory with a 5-yard go-ahead touchdown catch from senior quarterback Anthony Seymour with six minutes left in the game.

Seymour faked a handoff and dropped back to pass to Nealis, running a slant pattern, who despite having double coverage on him, came down with the ball as he slid on his knees in the end zone.

“Our defense played their butts off — we only allowed 14 points from a lethal offense [like theirs],” Nealis said. “We ended their 12-game winning streak. They came here [on our homecoming] and we ended it — that really means a lot.”

During that game-winning play, Nealis was matched up with Shoreham-Wading River sophomore quarterback and defensive back Xavier Arline, who had a 48-yard touchdown run of his own in the game.

“Arline, he’s a great defender,” Seymour said. “But [Nealis] came down with the ball for the touchdown — he’s been really big for us this year.”

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Kyle Boden struck first for the Wildcats, but things changed when he went down with a knee injury late in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Miller Place tight end Tom Nealis reigns in the ball for a catch during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place’s Sebastian Cannon helped propel the Panthers to tie the game up first, after the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half. The junior running back returned a kickoff 60 yards before being forced out of bounds at the 8-yard line, and then finished what he started two plays later on a 14-yard dash into the end zone for his team’s first score. He also ran in an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game on the way to 48 yards on eight attempts in the contest.

“We jumped on them early, and we had a chance to capitalize on that momentum, but I think one of the big plays was that kickoff return after [our] second touchdown,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It was a big return which gave them some momentum — it got the crowd into it because they had been quiet for awhile. When they scored on that drive, that put us on our heels.”

Cannon said his team was poised to make the plays needed to turn the game around.

“I was confident that we could make a comeback — giving us momentum going into the second half,” Cannon said. “But it was our defense that won the game for us.”

Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place are now tied at 5-1 behind undefeated Babylon in the standings. The Wildcats have dominated their division like few other Long Island teams ever have, winning the last three Long Island championship titles. No team has ever won four straight since the LIC began in 1992.

“In the end they out played us, they out coached us; they did a great job and they beat us all the way around,” Millheiser said. “We’ve been here before, so we’ll get back to work on Monday [to get ready for Babylon at 6 p.m. Oct. 20] and see if we can right the ship.”

Miller Place seniors got a proper sendoff during the high school’s June 23 commencement ceremony.

Students displayed decorative caps and proudly posed with parents as they bid farewell to one chapter, and readied to begin a new. Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano, along with valedictorian William Sussman and salutatorian David Argento, were among some of the speakers during the Class of 2017 commencement ceremony.

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Miller Place's Jack Walsh celebrates a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Not even halfway through the season, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team already has the same amount of wins that it ended with last year, turning its program worst record in 2016 into the best start in team history this year.

On April 10, in a battle of undefeated teams, the Panthers produced their seventh straight win, a 10-8 edging of Mount Sinai, to remain perfect at 7-0, with a 5-0 streak in Division II. Last season, Miller Place finished with a 7-9 overall record.

Miller Place’s Anthony Beck moves the ball into Mount Sinai’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew they were going to come prepared for us and play tough, so we stuck to our game plan and made them try to beat us,” Miller Place senior midfielder Anthony Beck said. “It feels good to come out and take the battle of undefeated teams, and take the win from a crosstown rival.”

Miller Place junior attack Anthony Seymour put the Panthers on the board less than a minute into the game with a quick shot to the top left corner, and Beck followed him up with a shot straight up the middle after the ball was rotated around the cage while Miller Place looked for an opening.

“We pushed the ball really well, we possessed for the most part and we played as a team,” Beck said. “We didn’t try to do too much and we stuck together.”

The Panthers continued to pounce with a balanced attack, as next to light up the scoreboard was junior attack Patrick Doyen off a pass from Seymour.

Miller Place forced several turnovers, and Mount Sinai called for two timeouts in the first to try and shift the tempo. With 3:35 on the clock, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Jason Shlonsky rocketed a rebound past an unprepared Matt Leen for the Mustangs’ first point.

Beck added another unassisted goal for a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first 12 minutes.

Miller Place’s Jack Walsh and Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky fight for a loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been unbelievable how we’ve came together since the first day of practice,” Beck said. “This is a group we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been playing really well together.”

Miller Place senior attack Jack Walsh scored next, laying out across the front of the net and scoring while in mid air. Head coach Keith Lizzi said with the loss of senior midfielder Kevin Gersbeck to injury, he told his team everyone needs to up their game to fill the hole, and they’re doing it.

“Jack stepped up — and he’s been doing that all year — he’s one of the top scorers in the county,” Lizzi said. “And Anthony Beck has just been so consistent between the faceoffs, defense and offense. He’s our No. 1 utility guy out on the field.”

Mount Sinai seniors Nicholas Cesario and Nicholas Rose closed the gap, before Beck, grabbing possession off the faceoff, re-extended the margin with his hat trick goal, bringing the score to 6-3 at the halftime break.

“It felt good to dominate the faceoff ‘x,’ get my team some extra possessions and score some goals,” he said. “We’re undefeated right now, we’re taking it one game at a time and we hope to keep it that way.”

Miller Place had a slower second half. They were outscored by Mount Sinai 5-4, but always remained a few goals ahead. Leen, the senior goalkeeper who finished with 12 saves, helped preserve the lead and Walsh also chipped in with two goals and two assists.

“It’s my last year, so I’m trying to get out and do as much as I can,” Walsh said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but we’re all best friends, so there’s a lot of chemistry here.”

Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky races ahead of a swam of Miller Place defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai wasn’t without its shining stars in its hard-fought comeback effort. Shlonsky finished with three goals, senior midfielder Robert DeMeo added two goals and two assists, and junior attack Joe Pirreca finished as the assist leader, scoring once and aiding in three others.

Lizzi said although it hasn’t been easy to complete, an already total turnaround from last year, the main motivation has been the Panthers desire for revenge from last year. They’ve already beaten some of those teams this year, like Comsewogue, Sayville and Elwood-John Glenn.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time, and although the pressure continues to build, this is a group that’s handled it,” he said, adding that with seven Division I college commits and three-year starters the experience has paid back dividends.

Harborfields is next on the schedule, and revenge is on tap after Miller Place lost to the Tornadoes in double overtime last year. The Panthers will travel April 12 to compete in the 11 a.m. matchup.

“Certain games you have circled on the calendar, and this year, that’s one of them,” Lizzi said. “We won a lot of tight games this year that we lost last year, so these kids are playing with a little chip on their shoulder — with something to prove.”

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Five Panthers take home league titles, win school's first team title

Eric Schreck controls his opponent. Photo by Ray Nelson

Suffolk County rivals may have written off Miller Place wrestling after the Panthers graduated several key competitors last season, but the boys came back to make a statement: they’re only getting better.

After going 21-2 this season, the team won the League VI dual meet title for the second straight season, with a 7-0 record, and took it a step further this season — winning the League VI team championship for the first time in school history.

“We did a lot of work in the offseason,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “We went a full year, 12 months, 52 weeks of wrestling. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be as good as we are, but we knew we were. We knew we were going to be competitive this year, but the kids exceeded our expectations.”

Joe Bartolotto following a win. Photo by Ray Nelson

The Panthers, who also served as the host team, were in third place heading into the quarterfinals of the League VI championship, but in the semifinals, the grapplers caught fire. Ten Panthers went through to the finals, with eight getting bonus points and five claiming the top spot. Miller Place, at 241. 5 points, pulled ahead of Islip (230.5) and Elwood-John Glenn (205).

“Our biggest thing was wrestling for each other,” the head coach said. “We preach hard work and the kids really bought in, they committed on the mat, they committed in the weight room, running on their own, we went to camps, and it all came together this season.”

Redemption was on the minds of James Alamia and Joe Bartolotto III, who each placed second in last season’s championship.

“I definitely didn’t want to go out second,” Bartolotto said. “I wanted to end on a good note and get the title my senior year.”

“Good” may be an understatement for the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, who pinned his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents.

“They were pretty quick,” he said. “I just wanted to get those out of the way and focus on the big one — the finals.”

The 160-pounder said he knew it was going to be a good matchup because he’d wrestled his challenger in the dual meet season. He said he prepared for the matchup all week, and it paid off. He won by a 5-1 decision.

Kaszubski said he always knows he can count on his senior standout and team leader in pins.

“He’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever had — he’s a total package kind of kid,” he said of his player, who’s headed to Cornell University to play lacrosse. “His commitment to wrestling has been second to none.”

At 120 pounds, Alamia won all three of his matches by pins. He had a different experience last season. He said he was disappointed in his finals loss after he’d outscored his opponent earlier that season.

“Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

—James Alamia

“The motivation and the will to win helped me,” he said of his finals match, where he was up by 12 points before getting the pin. “Not that the pins were easy, but most of the kids I’d wrestled before and I did a lot better this time around. Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

At 138 pounds, Eric Schreck also had a pin, taking down his first opponent in 1 minute, 40 seconds before a 15-0 technical fall and 11-3 major decision in the finals.

“I had a good day,” he said. “There were tough kids, but I do whatever it takes to win.

I take ‘em down quick in the first and stay on top, try to turn as much as I can.”

The head coach said the handful of disappointments last season fueled the fire for his grapplers to come back strong.

“It was a blessing in disguise having them fall a little short last year,” he said. “They were hungrier than ever, and we have a lot of prolific pinners. We preach putting guys on their back and getting pins and getting bonus points. That’s something that we work on ever day.”

Kyle Klein Jr. also took home a title at 99 pounds, as did James Rado at 126 pounds.

Bartolotto and his teammates agreed that although placing first was the icing on the cake, winning the team title was what mattered most.

“Winning the Most Outstanding Wrestler title felt good as recognition for working hard, but winning the team championship felt better because this was the last team thing we can do this season,” he said. “We’ve been doing things that people didn’t think we’d be able to do.”

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

By Bill Landon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miller Place's Tyler Ammirato lunges into the end zone. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

You can’t catch Tyler Ammirato, or block Kevin Gersbeck.

The Miller Place seniors raced toward victory for their team, touching the end zone five times in a 42-12 victory over Port Jefferson in the Division IV qualifying round Nov. 4.

The No. 3-seeded Panthers will travel to No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River Nov. 11 for a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup.

Miller Place's Kevin Gersbeck jets down the left sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Kevin Gersbeck jets down the left sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought our kids prepared well all week,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said of the days leading up to the seeding-round match. “They did exactly what we thought they were going to do; they performed well.”

After just 12 minutes, Miller Place had a four-score advantage over the Royals.

First, Gersbeck, a wide receiver, returned the ball 72 yards on the opening kickoff for the early score, and Ammirato, a running back, tacked on the second when he broke outside and ran 15 yards with five minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Senior wide receiver and defensive back Eric Cisneros did what he’s done all season, and split the uprights both times to help his team to a 14-0 lead.

Port Jefferson’s running backs tested Miller Place’s defensive line, but time and time again found nothing.

Miller Place junior quarterback Anthony Seymour bowled his way up the middle with 2:44 left on a quarterback keeper for the third touchdown of the game, and the Royals were forced to punt the ball away on their next possession. Gersbeck struck again when he shed two tacklers and bolted down the left sideline. Cisneros, who was perfect on the evening, put Miller Place out front 28-0.

“They’re a tough team — they always put their heart out there,” Gersbeck said of Port Jefferson. “Our hard work and our preparation — we were focused in practice all week so that was a big part of our win.”

Port Jefferson's Brian Mark makes a leaping catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Brian Mark makes a leaping catch. Photo by Bill Landon

The Panthers’ offensive attack featured several players under center. On the next possession, Ammirato took the snap on a keeper, and grounded out 14 yards for the first touchdown of the second quarter.

“They came out and punched us in the face on defense a little bit, but we knew that was coming,” Ammirato said. “They played tough, but I think we wore them down a little bit. We definitely got our job done.”

Again, the Royals struggled for traction and went three and out.

“They’re a very good football team over there, they have excellent athletes — they have some size and they’re coached very well, so I’m not surprised that they came out ready to play,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “I don’t think we played our best game. We played better as the game went on, but after that first quarter, it made it tough to come back.”

Cisneros set up the next score after a catch and run where he was forced out at the 1-yard line, and again, it was Ammirato who finished it, giving the team a 42-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

“Looking at Port Jeff on film, I thought they had some good kids — decent size — but with their lack of numbers, I thought we could wear them down through attrition with the kids we have,” Murphy said. “We took advantage of that first half and we played Miller Place football.”

Forced to go to the air, Port Jefferson junior quarterback Jack Collins started to thread the needle, finding receivers over the middle to move the chains for the Royals. It was their first sustained drive of the game, but Miller Place senior linebacker Shane White put an end to it when he stepped in front of an intended receiver and intercepted the pass.

Miller Place's Anthony Filippetti intercepts the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Anthony Filippetti intercepts the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Murphy had rested his starters to open the second half, and although the Royals were on the move again, the drive was halted when junior safety Anthony Filippetti caught a floater for the Panthers’ second interception of the game. He returned the ball 32 yards.

Miller Place sophomore quarterback Tom Nealis handed the ball off to his running backs to keep the play inbounds while taking time off the clock, but Port Jefferson averted a shutout with just over eight minutes left to play when Collins took matters into his own hands and bulled his way up the middle on short yardage. Port Jefferson failed to complete the 2-point conversion when Miller Place sophomore defensive back Jon Scarlatos stuffed the runner, but with seconds left in the game, Collins threw a strike to senior tight end Brian Mark who scored a 32-yard touchdown as time ran out.

Ammirato said despite the margin of victory, his team still has work to do.

“We’ll study film, practice hard, and go over our game plan every day [for next week],” he said leading up to the game against Shoreham-Wading River. “Our defense has struggled a little all year, but we’ve finally turned that around.”

The Panthers lost to the Wildcats, 27-14, Oct. 14, so Miller Place is looking to improve from its one of just two division losses this season.

“We’ve even been preparing for Shoreham this week in practice, and we’ve been looking for redemption against them since we lost,” Gersbeck said. “It’s going to be a big game.”

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By Bill Landon

It was a catfight between undefeated teams.

The battle of Panthers teams wasn’t decided until the final 40 seconds of the game, and despite Miller Place junior running back Tyler Ammirato leading the way for his football team during its homecoming matchup Oct. 1 against Babylon — scoring all four touchdowns for his team — anything can happen on the gridiron. With 40 seconds left on the clock, a Miller Place fourth-down pass was broken up, Babylon gained possession and took two knees to seal the deal, 29-25.

In his first start at quarterback, junior Anthony Seymour looked like he had been at the helm all season long. He took over under center to replace injured senior Christian McPartland, who broke his arm during the Panthers’ 54-0 blanking of McGann-Mercy Sept. 23.

Ammirato took charge with the ground-and-pound offense, and struck first when he punched through Babylon’s defensive line and bounced outside, traveling 41 yards for the touchdown. With the extra-point kick by senior Eric Cisneros good, the Panthers found themselves ahead 7-0 two minutes in.

Miller Place followed the touchdown by squandering several opportunities to score, like when on a bad snap, Babylon coughed up the ball and junior defensive lineman Joe Panico recovered the ball on the 31-yard line. Or on its’ next possession, when Miller Place was forced to punt and the Babylon punt returner called for a fair catch but bobbled the ball and the Panthers recovered on the Babylon 26-yard line.

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it. We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on.”

—Greg Murphy

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it,” Miller Place’s first-year head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on. Our backup quarterback was tested today, and Anthony [Seymour] stepped it up and he played well today.”

Babylon marched down the field on its next possession. And as the team continued to move the chains, timeout was called with five seconds left in the first half, with the ball at Miller Place’s 3-yard line. Looking to even the score, Babylon plowed up the middle on a handoff, but junior defensive end Alex Herbst plugged the hole to send Babylon into the halftime break scoreless.

As a result of a sustained drive six minutes into the third quarter, Babylon found the end zone on a 5-yard pass to even the score 7-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ammirato went coast to coast on a 75-yard kickoff return to put his team out front 13-7 with 6:05 left on the clock. The point-after attempt failed.

Although neither team scored for the remainder of the stanza, Babylon showed why it hasn’t lost a game this season, They marched down the field again to open the final quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run to give the team its first lead of the game, 14-13.

Miller Place found itself in a fourth-and-1 position, and went for it. To no surprise, Ammirato got the call, bounced outside and jetted into the end zone untouched. Although a 2-point conversion attempt failed, Miller Place was back in front, 19-14.

“[Tyler Ammirato] is a warrior — he’s the heart and soul of this team,” Murphy said. “This was a hard-hitting game, and we knew it would be. Babylon’s a good team with numerous Long Island championships — they’ve been there, they have the swag; so we knew we had to play a perfect game.”

“We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

—Tyler Ammirato

With 7:54 left in regulation Babylon grabbed a 36-yard screen pass for the score. With a successful 2-point conversion, Babylon retook the lead, 22-19.

Miller Place leaned on its premier running back, and Ammirato took the team to the Babylon 8-yard line on a handoff with just over four minutes left in the contest. Ammirato finished the job by punching into the end zone on a 3-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the afternoon. The team lined up for the two-point play, but were stopped again.The Panthers lead 25-22.

On the following possession, Babylon pounded the ball up the center of the field when the quarterback connected with his running back on a swing pass, and the receiver found an opening down the sideline following the 62-yard pass completion, and scored with three minutes left. With the extra-point kick, Babylon regained the advantage,29-25.

The clock was working against Miller Place, so when Seymour spotted senior wide receiver Kevin Gersbeck sprinting down the right sideline, he made sure to hit his mark. Seymour hit Gersbeck in stride, and the Panthers were in business at the 28-yard line with 1:16 left.

Four plays later, on fourth down with 40 seconds left in regulation, Seymour attempted to pass the ball over the middle to Cisneros, but Babylon’s defense broke up the play.

“They were a very tough team, but we knew that coming in,” Ammirato said. “We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

Babylon took over on down, and took two knees to hold on and win the game.

“I think not being able to transition coming out of halftime ate up the majority of the clock, and that was a big difference,” Murphy said. “[Babylon] put one in coming out of the half, but our kids responded well. It was just a great high school football game.”

Miller Place students from the Class of 2016 celebrated their high school careers during the commencement ceremony on Friday, June 24.

Seniors walked under the Panthers blow-up as they made their way onto the field, and listened to speeches from local officials as well as the class valedictorian, Elizabeth Whitlow, and salutatorian, Clara Tucker, before being handed their diplomas.

Panthers pride was on full display with both on-field decoration from the school and music from the band, and by students, who personalized their caps and sang songs of their now alma mater, before tossing their caps in the air in celebration of their hard work that led them to this point.

 

Comsewogue's Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue's Jordan Lisco makes the tag against a Miller Place player at first base. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Jordan Lisco makes the tag against a Miller Place player at first base. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place struggled to keep pace with Comsewogue’s baseball team, as the Warrior bats did the talking in their Class A opening-round playoffs Tuesday afternoon. The Panthers tied the game, 1-1, early on, but 13-5 Comsewogue showed why it’s the League VI champion, as the team wore down Miller Place’s defense and put its opponent away 8-2.

“They’re a tough team, but we came out and played great,” Comsewogue catcher Justin Virga said. “We hit the ball well, played great defense behind our pitcher and we pulled out a win. Today was a hard-fought game.”

Comsewogue wasted no time. Jake Sardinia drew a walk that moved teammate John Braun over to second base, as Jordan Lisco stepped into the batters’ box. Lisco drilled a ground ball through the gap that brought Braun home for the early lead.

“Today we hit the ball, played defense and that’s all you can do,” Lisco said. “We hit the ball with runners on base, which is something we’ve struggled with.”

The Panthers answered back in the top of the second when Cole Francis, on a passed ball at the plate, advanced to third base. Teammate Kevin Kelleher layed down a perfect bunt that plated Francis to tie the game.

Comsewogue's Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue bats cracked in the bottom of the inning, and Bryan Hurley drove the ball through the gap, sending David Heller, the go-ahead run, to second. With Joseph Ciancarelli at the plate, a passed ball moved both base runners into scoring position. Ciancarelli chopped an infield dribbler and Heller came sliding home, eluding the tag, for the 2-1 advantage. With Hurley on third, Ciancarelli stole second and Braun smacked the ball deep through the infield, bringing Hurley home for a 3-1 lead with one out in the bottom of the third. Then, Ciancarelli found his way home on a sacrifice fly for a three-run lead.

“They came fired up on their home field, so they weren’t just going to give it to us,” Miller Place head coach Rick Caputo said. “Honestly, I’m disappointed in the way my guys played. I think we missed a lot of opportunities, I think we played our worst game of the year and we saved it for the first round of the playoffs.”

Miller Place threatened in the top of the third inning when Matt Paghidas and Tyler Schrimpf advanced to second and third, respectively, on another passed ball. Schrimpf crossed home plate to make it a two-run game, but that was all the team could muster.

The Panthers pressured again in the top of the fifth with base runners at the corners, but the runner on first stretched his lead a little too far, and Comsewogue picked him off on an infield pop-up that was caught, to retire the side.

Mike Stiles fires a pitch from the mound for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Mike Stiles fires a pitch from the mound for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Thomas Bell hurls a pitch from the mound for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon
Thomas Bell hurls a pitch from the mound for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon

With runners on first and third, the Warriors looked to put the game away in the bottom of the sixth inning when Ciancarelli chopped an infield heater to bring Hurley home for a 5-2 lead.

Miller Place made a pitching change as Christian McPartland relieved Thomas Bell on the mound the rest of the way.

“My control wasn’t there all game — my curveball started working later in the game, but they’re a great hitting team and they were putting the ball in play and making things happen,” Bell said.

It was a busy sixth inning for the Warriors, and they weren’t finished yet. Mike Stiles proved he was as deadly at the plate as he was from the mound, and ripped a fastball deep into the outfield, bringing Ciancarelli and Sardinia home with a stand-up double to break the game open, 7-2.

“I knew they were a good hitting team, so I had to get ahead, mix up my pitches and it worked out in the end,” Stiles said. “We hit the ball pretty well, we played pretty good defense — it was a little sloppy in the beginning, but I knew the team had my back.”

Justin Virga smacks the ball for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Justin Virga smacks the ball for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon

Lisco brought Stiles home with a deep sacrifice fly for a six-run lead.

With gas left in the tank, Stiles made short work of the Panthers in the final inning, retiring the side in order for the victory.

“We swung the bats well today, so I was pleased with how we hit the ball and as the game went on, we protected our lead,” Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura said. “I wasn’t happy with our defense — we booted the ball around early in the game, which is uncharacteristic for us, because we’ve been throwing the ball and fielding the ball well all year. Mike [Stiles] did a great job for us. We play again tomorrow, so we have to go right at them, same recipe — come out and play solid baseball and don’t make it too difficult.”

No. 2 Comsewogue expected another strong pitching performance when Braun took the mound against No. 6 Mount Sinai Wednesday, but results were not available at press time.

Miller Place's Alyssa Parrella moves around John Glenn’s Amelia Biancardi. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Miller Place dominated over visiting Elwood-John Glenn amid light rain Tuesday afternoon. The Panthers outscored their opponent 9-1 after 25 minutes of play in Division II girls’ lacrosse action, and despite the Knights scoring six goals in the second half, Miller Place was able to extinguish the rally and put the game away 17-7 to improve to 8-3 in the league and secure a solid playoff position.

The Panthers spread the scoring around in the first half, but senior Kristin Roberto led the way, as the midfielder and captain scored twice. Attacks Olivia Angelo, Julia Burns, Loren Librizzi and Allison Turturro each found the cage, as did midfielder Danielle Plunkett. The two other co-captains, junior midfielder Arianna Esposito and senior midfielder Alyssa Parrella, also split the pipes to dominate the game early.

Arianna Esposito cuts downfield for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon
Arianna Esposito cuts downfield for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior captain Amelia Biancardi scored the lone goal of the first half for the Knights 12 minutes into the contest.

To combat the deficit, Elwood-John Glenn head coach Janine Bright made a change in her team’s strategy for the second half. Bright said she knew Miller Place was a formidable opponent and that her team would have to fight from whistle to whistle for any chance of winning.

“We have to play a full 25 minute half — not just show up for six minutes in the first half, seven minutes in the second half — we have to play the entire game with full intensity from start to finish,” Bright said. “If we did that, today’s score could’ve been very different.”

Parrella opened the second half by lighting up the scoreboard with two quick goals — the first off an assist by Plunkett and then a solo shot for her hat trick goal, putting her team out front 11-1.

Miller Place head coach Thomas Carro said the leadership from his team’s captains is the reason for the team’s success this season.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time, and the girls are firing on all cylinders right now,” Carro said. “Their positive attitude on and off the field is just contagious. The girls are starting to believe in themselves and as a result of that, they can play with anybody this season.”

Biancardi, from a free position shot, scored again to make it a nine-point game with 16:03 left to play, but Parrella, unassisted, buried another one two minutes later to reopen the gap. Biancardi answered back at the 11:45 mark with a hat trick goal of her own, to bring the score to 12-3.

Miller Place's Loren Librizzi passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Loren Librizzi passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“In previous years, we’ve played them closer, but they played amazing today,” Biancardi said. “They have so much speed on that team and you could see the difference.”

After another Panthers goal, Biancardi struck again after circling the cage and slipping an underhand shot in for the score. On the Knights’ next possession, Biancardi fed the ball to Madisyn Hausch, who found the net as momentum began to shift.

“[The Knights] have a couple of really good players who are not afraid to take it to cage,” Roberto said. “We had to step up and put pressure on them because they can score. We couldn’t take them lightly at all.”

Victoria Tsangaris drove one home from the free position, followed by Hausch’s second goal a minute later, to shave the Panthers’ lead to 13-7, but the Panthers capped off the game by scoring four more goals.

“Early on they were beating us to the ball, so we had to step it up — they came at us strong,” Parrella said. “Everyone’s fighting to make playoffs and we knew that if we played our game we’d come out on top.”