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Tigers

By Desirée Keegan

Northport goalkeeper Emma Havrilla has a way of firing up her team, and with one swift motion, she lit the match.

Less than a minute into the second half, Northport’s Havrilla moved just slightly to her left to block Amanda Sheradin’s penalty kick, which could have been the difference-maker for Smithtown West, and then dove on the rebound to keep the scoreboard blank.

The No. 2-seeded Bulls had been dominating the ball up to the penalty kick save, but that stop, which was one of Havrilla’s 13, sparked a turnaround.

“We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

—Stephanie Rapp

“I looked into her eyes and I could see the fear; I knew where she was going,” Havrilla said. “It gave our team more confidence. Then, after the first goal we scored, we kept the momentum going.”

No. 1 Northport blanked Smithtown West 3-0 to claim the Suffolk County Class AA title for the first time in three years. The Tigers were eliminated in the semifinals each of the last two seasons.

Past disappointment served as motivation this season, according to at least one Tiger.

“Our team has been working so hard since that loss to Massapequa [in the 2013 Long Island championship game], and we’re finally back here,” defender Stephanie Rapp said. “We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

Rapp was one of two girls tasked with shutting down Smithtown West’s leading offensive threat, Sarah Harrington. Rapp and Harrington had been teammates on a travel team, so Rapp had an advantage over most defenders in the league.

“She’s amazing in the air and with her footwork, so we had to put pressure on her to keep her out,” Rapp said.

The Bulls had a few more chances at a goal, but Havrilla refused to yield.

At 23:23, Victoria Colatosti chipped in what ended up being the game winner.

“After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

—Aija Gipp

“It was back and forth,” Colatosti said of the action in front of the net. “Paige Leonard got a touch at the 18, I saw an open shot and took it, and thank God it went in.”

Northport made it 2-0 on Emily McNelis’ goal with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, and 3-0 on Emily Zeblisky’s goal with four minutes remaining.

“To see our attack finally come together was huge,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said, adding that her team built on its aggressiveness to put the pressure on. “It gives us that confidence going into the next round. After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

Northport will get its rematch against Massapequa Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College. Colatosti is confident, and added that although it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to exciting to be a part of.

“It feels so good to finally be where we should be,” she said. “Losing last year in the semifinals — that shouldn’t have happened, so it feels good to be where we deserved to be and where we’ve been working hard to be.”

Emily McNelis breaks down following the shootout win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Northport was eliminated during the semifinals in penalty kicks last year, so when the No. 1 girls’ soccer team found itself in a similar situation Tuesday, the Tigers fought for redemption.

The victory was sweet, with Northport’s Cybele Laisney, Stephanie Rapp and Caeley Gruhn sending their shots home, and Emma Havrilla making two saves to seal the 3-1 shootout win over Walt Whitman Oct. 24.

Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I haven’t felt this way in a long time,” the junior goalkeeper said following the win. “Once I got one stop I knew I was going to get another. I felt confident.”

Although Northport, 16-1 overall and 14-0 in League II, was going up against a No. 16 seed in Walt Whitman, it wasn’t as easy for the Tigers as it would sound. Northport faced off against its playoff opponent three times this season, most recently, coming away with a 3-1 win Oct. 18.

“It’s always harder to play a team the second time around, let alone the third time, so we knew what we were in for,” said Rapp, a senior defender. “They have drastically increased their gameplay, which was a challenge, but we worked around it and pulled through.”

Laisney said the increased toughness was expected.

“Once you play a team three times they know who you are, they know how you play and they work on how to break you down,” the senior center midfielder said. “So it gets tough.”

Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The two teams battled through two 40-minute halves, two 10-minute overtime session and two five-minute sudden death periods before heading into the shootout. Northport had multiple attempts at goal, the largest coming when junior forward Victoria Colatosti made the goalkeeper come out of the box, and raced between three defenders to the open net, but her last touch went wide amid the swarm of players.

“It’s scary in the first round to have to get to penalty kicks, but there’s a reason this happened,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said. “And our goalkeeper was just amazing. This gives us confidence and gives her confidence moving forward.”

Walt Whitman scored first in the shootout, but Laisney countered.

“We just went through such emotional turmoil,” the co-captain said, adding that scoring the first goal for her team took a huge weight off her shoulders. “It’s nerve-racking, but you get in the zone and you realize it’s this or it’s nothing, so you chose your side and hit it hard. We just could not see ourselves end here.”

She said it wouldn’t have been made possible without her goalkeeper, who blocked Walt Whitman’s next shot.

“Emma is incredible and we could not have done any of this without her,” Laisney said. “She is such a solid, solid rock in our goal and I’m so happy she’s on our team.”

Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rapp, a co-captain, scored the next penalty kick for the Tigers.

“I took one last year and made it in, so I used that as confidence,” she said. “We have a lot of heart and dedication. We weren’t going to let this be our last game.”

Havrilla made another diving block on Walt Whitman’s next shot, and after junior defender Caeley Gruhn scored another, Walt Whitman’s final attempt hit the crossbar to give Northport the win.

“This team is all about heart,” Gipp said. “The girls have a lot of passion and they never give up. I’m proud of them.”

It came down to the Tigers’ mentality, and Laisney agreed with her coach that her team had too much heart to get upset in the first round.

“We love playing soccer so much,” she said, fighting back tears of joy. “We have so much heart and that’s what keeps us going forward. That’s what allows us to have the composure we have to pull through with the PKs. It’s what allows us not to choke and break down.”

Leah Dentale sends the ball back into Half Hollow Hills East's zone.

Last season, the Northport girls’ soccer team didn’t lose their first game until a 1-0 elimination loss in the Suffolk County Class AA semifinals. This season, the girls are on the same track, but this time they’re looking to take it all the way.

Victoria Colatosti controls the ball as she sends it to her feet. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Victoria Colatosti controls the ball as she sends it to her feet. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The visiting Tigers shut out previously undefeated Half Hollow Hills East, 2-0, Sept. 12, to secure their fourth straight win and third straight shutout. Last season, the girls had a shutout in every game leading up to their heartbreaking semifinal loss in a penalty shootout.

Still, the head coach saw plenty of room for improvement.

“There were moments of good stuff, but there were a lot of things that I think we need to work on,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said after the game. “Today wasn’t our best showing. The result was good, but there was a disconnect between players this game.”

At the 9:49 mark of the first half, junior forward Victoria Colatosti scored on a penalty kick she was awarded after she was fouled on a breakaway. Three minutes later, senior forward Leah Dentale scored off a shot she hadn’t planned on taking.

“I got passed the ball, I turned around and was dribbling the ball to goal,” she said. “I was looking for a through ball to Victoria but it wasn’t there, so I took a shot and it went in.”

Heading into halftime leading 2-0, the coach knew they needed to pick up the intensity and switch the field more — or create more motion from side to side with both the ball and the players.

Emily McNelis intercepts a Half Hollow Hills East pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emily McNelis intercepts a Half Hollow Hills East pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Switching the ball, junior midfielder Emily McNelis said, would not have happened if it wasn’t for senior center defender and co-captain Stephanie Rapp.

“I think we settled down — our defense helped us out and we started playing around Half Hollow Hills East,” McNelis said. “Leah’s goal, that was really pretty. The midfield started playing together and Steph Rapp started switching the ball, which was good. I think we just need to switch the ball more and take more outside shots.”

Although they didn’t score in the second half, the Tigers connected more, using their footwork to not only change directions and move the ball around, but also by successfully passing the ball to the open girl while moving up the field.

Dentale got an early opportunity less than a minute into the half, but her shot went wide. Colatosti also had another look when she dribbled through the defense and rocketed a shot to the center of the goal, but the chance was saved by the Half Hollow Hills East goalkeeper Morgan Novikoff.

Stephanie Rapp heads the ball out of Northport's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Stephanie Rapp heads the ball out of Northport’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Once we scored our penalty kick we knew it was ours and did what we normally do,” Rapp said. “We connected the passes well and we adjusted to the field together, because it was a little narrow. Although it took some time, we did it.”

Rapp thinks the current team may be even stronger than last season’s, and she’s not alone. While Gipp still thinks her team needs to work on its togetherness, she said she believes the girls have the potential to go far, and she knows the returners are hungry for redemption after West Islip knocked the Tigers out in the semifinals two years in a row.

“Our defense definitely held it together — they got the shutout again, so that definitely kept us in the game,” she said of her athletes. “They just need to make sure that the defense is connecting with the midfield and the midfield connects with the forwards and we’re moving as a team as the ball transitions. The group coming back is really strong, the girls play great, they’re motivated this year and they have a championship in their sights. We want to get to the county finals.”

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Northport’s Joseph Malico moves the ball while Huntington’s Kevin Gulizio attempts to steal. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Huntington’s Freddy Amador led the way for the Blue Devils Tuesday afternoon with a hat-trick performance that helped his team shut out visiting Northport, 6-0, in the final nonleague game of the season before both teams’ league openers today, Thursday.

Northport's Justin Carrano and Huntington's Kevin Gulizio leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport’s Justin Carrano and Huntington’s Kevin Gulizio leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

The junior midfielder hit the net first off an assist from senior midfielder Kevin Gulizio three minutes into the contest, and the duo paired up again six minutes later but this time Amador fed Gulizio for the 2-0 lead.

“The weather was a factor, it helped us,” Gulizio said. “We played hard, we came out strong and we finished well, but the key was how we started the first 10 minutes of the game.”

With rain that came down in sheets, along with gusty winds, the conditions on the field proved challenging for both teams. Throw-ins from the sideline blew out of bounds, long kicks stalled in the wind and both teams had trouble finding the net for much of the first half.

Despite the weather, Huntington head coach John Pagano expected it to be a tough matchup.

“We knocked them out of the quarterfinals in the playoffs last year, so we figured it would be a tough game,” he said. “But in fairness to Northport, everybody’s trying to see what they have, so you’re mixing and matching and you coach it a little different than you would in a league game.”

Gulizio’s foot gave his team a three-goal lead as the co-captain’s solo shot found the upper left corner of the goal less than 10 minutes into the second half.

Northport struggled to clear the ball and spent little time near Huntington’s goalkeeper, as the Blue Devils amped up the pressure.

“We didn’t come out here expecting to win 6-0,” Gulizio said. “We expected a hard game — they’re a good team — but we got some early goals and that made it hard for them the rest of the game.”

Huntington sophomore defender Edwin Garcia answered next off a cross from senior co-captain and defender Matt Gelb, to extend the Blue Devils’ advantage to 4-0 lead with 26 minutes left in the game.

Huntington's Josh Yanuck redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Huntington’s Josh Yanuck redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Amador drilled a shot unassisted past the keeper for his second goal of the evening, and then scored his hat-trick goal to put the game out of reach.

Unable to score a goal, Northport head coach Don Strasser wasn’t impressed by what he saw of his team.

“We just did not play our best soccer,” he said. “We had an off day — it’s the first time we’ve played on turf this season, but you don’t want to make excuses. And that’s what’s nice about nonleague games, you find your kinks, find what didn’t go right and you try to fix them for the league opener.”

Huntington senior co-captain Mark Rafuse, a defender, said he was surprised by the margin of victory.

“They’re a good team and they came out strong, but they didn’t have a set goalie,” the sweeper said. “So they struggled at that position,” which the Tigers capitalized on.

Northport will travel to Connetquot today, Thursday, for a 4:30 p.m. matchup, and Huntington will host North Babylon at 4 p.m.

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Senior wide receiver Frankie Stola makes a catch during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With five key starters returning, Northport’s varsity football team looks to mix experience with a young rookie quarterback with the hope of making a deeper playoff run this season.

Head coach Kip Lukralle is entering his 31st season with the Tigers, and will lean on key seniors to set the example and to provide the leadership it takes to make another run at the postseason. Last year, the team made it to the semifinal round of the Suffolk County championship.

Senior running back Ryan Elliott rushes up the field with the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior running back Ryan Elliott rushes up the field with the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Returning starter Frankie Stola, a wide receiver, is an All-Division player who will threaten deep down the field. Ryan Elliott, also an All-Division returnee, will handle the running back duties and follow the holes opened by returning lineman Johnny Milanesi.

The trio of seniors will set the tone for the Tigers this season.

“We have strength from the quarterback position and in our skill positions — we’re set [there],” Elliott said. “But we’ll have to work on discipline — staying on sides and our offensive line will be our strength.”

Returning starter Sam Gozelski, a junior, along with senior center and defensive tackle Dylan Keller-Adelman will add balance on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Junior Ryan Walsh will have big shoes to fill in his first year on varsity at the starting quarterback position, but Lukralle likes what he’s seen so far.

“Ryan Walsh has the potential to be very, very good,” he coach. “You’ve got to see this kid throw the ball.”

The 6-foot, 2-inch the 180-pound rookie will be put to the test when the team hits the road to take on Ward Melville in the season opener on Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

“We’re a senior-dominated team so we have the leadership and this team has been to the playoffs,” Walsh said. “I’ve been working with these guys in the offseason to build chemistry and get the timing down, and I feel very comfortable.”

Junior quarterback Ryan Walsh passes the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Junior quarterback Ryan Walsh passes the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Lukralle said he’s concerned about the rash of injuries in the last three or four practices, as he pointed to half a dozen wounded players watching practice from the sidelines, some of whom were on crutches, but said he was hopeful they’d be ready for the opener.

“We’re returning five starters from last year,” the head coach said. “We lost some key people [to graduation], but we have kids who have stepped up. We have decent depth [if we’re healthy].”

Stola said he is also confident in the retuning Tigers.

“Our team has really come together in the last week — you can see it,” he said. “On offense and defense we have a lot of guys coming back so we have experience. We were in the county semifinals last year so we know how to win, and we know what to do in the playoffs.”

Milanesi said he’s happy with the progress made this early in the season, but was most excited about his team’s offensive weapons.

“I’m happy with our quarterback,” he said. “He’s young and he’s gotta cannon.”

Northport's Jake McCarthy fires the ball to first base for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport's Nick Palmerini hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport’s Nick Palmerini hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Another strong pitching performance by Northport’s Nick Palmerini, leading to a 6-3 win Tuesday, helped the baseball team force a decisive game three for the Suffolk County Class AA title.

The Tigers got off to a rocky start, going down two runs in the opening inning, but battled their way back with a sacrifice fly to right field off the bat of junior outfielder Frankie Stola to plate senior shortstop Joe Stockman to trail by one. Northport missed an opportunity to tie the game, and stranded two runners to end the inning.

“We were really aggressive early in the count,” Stockman said after the win. “We struck out a lot in our last game, so we tried not to get too deep into the count, and we got some base hits when it really counted. Tomorrow we just have to come ready to play and we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, getting bats on the ball.”

With runners on first and second, the Tigers went back to work in the bottom half of the second inning. This time, Stockman did the damage at the plate when he ripped the ball through the gap to bring senior pitcher and first baseman Dan Heller home to tie the game. With junior pitcher and shortstop Alex Reuter on third, junior second baseman George Sutherland stepped into the batter’s box. With two outs and a full count, Sutherland jumped on a fastball, drilling it to right field to score Reuter to give the Tigers their first lead of the game. Stola smoked an infield hit to the shortstop and wound up on first on a throwing error as Stockman crossed the plate to keep the rally alive.

Northport's Jake McCarthy fires the ball to first base for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport’s Jake McCarthy fires the ball to first base for the out. Photo by Bill Landon

Junior third baseman Jake McCarthy’s bat spoke next. He drilled the ball deep into the outfield to bring Stola home safely for a 5-2 lead.

“I think we had more confidence after seeing a guy like [Ray] Weber throw [in Saturday’s loss] that prepared us for this game,” McCarthy said. “We were ready for some good pitching, and the home crowd really does affect the game. It really gets us pumped up.”

With one out, West Islip threatened in the top of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right field that put two runners in scoring position, but Palmerini did what he’s done all season and fanned the final batter.

Northport’s margin began to shrink in the top of the fourth when the Lions, with two outs and a runner on second base, drove the ball home to make it a two-run game.

The tension built as West Islip loaded the bases. If the pitching ace was nervous though, he didn’t show it. Palmerini painted the corners and pitched his way out of the jam, as the Lions went down swinging.

“I’ve got a good team behind me so I had to relax and throw strikes,” Palmerini said. “They’re a tough team and the change in our lineup made us wake up, so we changed our game a little bit. For tomorrows’ game, we have to mentally stay focused.”

Tigers player Dan Heller makes a grab at first base. Photo by Bill Landon
Tigers player Dan Heller makes a grab at first base. Photo by Bill Landon
George Sutherland takes a cut for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon
George Sutherland takes a cut for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon

McCarthy’s bat added an insurance run with a shot to dead center field that cleared the fence and then some, to give the game it’s final 6-3 score.

“It was a straight fastball first pitch, and I was expecting that,” McCarthy said.

West Islip stranded two runners in the top of the fifth, went three up and three down in sixth and although the Lions didn’t go down quietly in the final inning, Palmerini, nearing his maximum pitch count, struck out the last two batters for a complete game where he allowed just six hits and one walk while striking out 11.

“We tweaked the lineup today … because our leadoff guy’s been struggling a bit,” Northport head coach John De Martini said. “We were down 2-0 immediately, so we put the ball in play and they made some miscues, but we got some gutty pitching. I’m just so proud of these guys.”

Northport was scheduled to travel to West Islip for the decisive game three on Wednesday.

The Northport baseball team is all smiles after its game-two win over West Islip in the Suffolk County championship series. Photo by Bill Landon
The Northport baseball team is all smiles after its game-two win over West Islip in the Suffolk County championship series. Photo by Bill Landon
Dan Heller catches a pop-up for Northport for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Dan Heller catches a pop-up for Northport for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport's Frankie Stola gets under a fly out. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport’s Frankie Stola gets under a fly out. Photo by Bill Landon

Catcher DL Rodriguez and outfielder Nick Curcio hug it out in celebration of their7-0 Class AA semifinal win over Smithtown West that will send them to the Suffolk County finals. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport players hug it out in celebration of their7-0 Class AA semifinal win over Smithtown West that will send them to the Suffolk County finals. Photo by Bill Landon
Catcher DL Rodriguez and outfielder Nick Curcio hug it out in celebration of their7-0 Class AA semifinal win over Smithtown West that will send them to the Suffolk County finals. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport’s No. 8-seeded baseball team blanked No. 5 Smithtown West, 7-0, to advance to the Class AA county championship behind pitching ace Nick Palmerini, who shut down the Bulls by throwing six shutout innings to lead his team to victory Wednesday.

Senior Joe Stockman started off swinging for the Tigers, as the shortstop ripped the ball down the right sideline for a stand-up double in the first at bat. Junior pitcher and third baseman Jake McCarthy drew a walk, and junior second baseman George Sutherland stepped into the batter’s box. A passed ball at the plate advanced both runners into scoring position, and Sutherland smacked the ball through the gap to bring Stockman home for an early lead.

Smithtown West had several opportunities, but stranded all runners on base.

Nick Palmerini pitched six shutout innings. Photo by Bill Landon
Nick Palmerini pitched six shutout innings. Photo by Bill Landon

Again, Stockman’s bat spoke as he went drove the ball to the opposite side of the field for his second double of the game. Junior outfielder Frankie Stola was up next, and was hit by a pitch and sent to first base.

“The rain delay wasn’t a distraction — we stayed focused, we had a great practice yesterday,” said Stockman of the game being pushed from Tuesday to Wednesday. “[Smithtown West] a good team and great competitors, but we had a great pitcher on the mound both days and we did what we needed to do to get the win.”

Just like in the bottom of the first, Smithtown West’s passed ball pitch put both runners in scoring position in the third. Sutherland had a base hit, plating Stockman, and junior outfielder Matt Lindley found the gap to score Stola for a 3-0 advantage. After Lindley stole second, senior pitcher and first baseman Dan Heller’s bat cracked as his base hit brought Sutherland home. Senior first baseman Tom Neary stepped up to the plate, and after taking the first two pitches, he jumped on the third and kept the rally alive when he rocketed a shot over the right-field fence for a home run and 6-0 lead.

“They had tough pitching in that first game so we had to stay focused mentally at the plate, have good at bats and get the little things done,” Neary said. “We won’t take a day off; we’ll stay focused in practice. We can’t afford to lay back — we’ve got a tough opponent coming up — so we have to work just as hard as we’ve been working.”

Smithtown West had seen enough and a change was made at the mound. The Bulls went through three pitchers on the afternoon in an attempt to stall Northport’s onslaught, which it did.

Second baseman George Sutherland drives in a run. Photo by Bill Landon
Second baseman George Sutherland drives in a run. Photo by Bill Landon

Palmerini retired the order in the top of the next two innings, and Northport threatened in the bottom of the fifth. After plating another runner, Northport put runners on first and second, but an infield heater was fielded for a clean double play to retire the side.

Desperate for a run, Smithtown West advanced both runners into scoring position on a passed ball at the plate. With one out, the runner at third took a healthy lead, and junior shortstop Nick Trabbachi drilled the deep to right field for the sacrifice fly. Lindley, the right fielder, caught the ball on the run and fired the ball toward home plate. The runner on third hesitated, and Lindley’s throw to the plate hit its mark in time to force the runner back to third.

“I was hoping he would go, but he held up and we got out of that inning,” Lindley said. “My pitcher just sets it up every time and we’re always ready for the play. It’s pure adrenaline. [We’re] so excited to make it to the counties.”

Although neither team faced each other in the regular season Smithtown West head coach Al Nucci said Northport was everything he thought they’d be, and then some.

“They threw strikes, they didn’t walk anyone, they challenged us, they were very aggressive and they attacked us early in the count,” Nucci said. “They’re a tremendous hitting team and they strung their hits together. I think they have a very good chance to win the county.”

Palmerini pitched his way out of a jam, stranding two runners to retire the side.

“I had to work back in counts — I got into a little bit of trouble,” Palmerini said. “Their one through four batters are very good, so I had to throw a lot of off-speed pitches and mix it up more than usual.”

First baseman Dan Heller attempts a pickoff. Photo by Bill Landon
First baseman Dan Heller attempts a pickoff. Photo by Bill Landon

McCarthy took over at the mound for Smithtown West’s final shot at the win, and sat the batters down in order.

Northport will travel to No. 2 West Islip for the first of a three-game series on May 28 at noon. The second game will be May 30 at Northport at noon.

“These guys are a loose group — they expect to win and they go out and play to win,” Northport head coach John De Martini said. “I thought we played great defense, we hit the ball well, and more than that, we got some awesome pitching. The kids have done that all year long.”

The Tigers’ tallest player was short on time, and it wasn’t enough to dig his team out of the hole that knocked them out of the playoffs.

The No. 3-seeded Half Hollow Hills West boys’ basketball team took advantage of No. 2 Northport’s early foul trouble, which left star senior center Lukas Jarrett benched for most of the first half with two personal fouls. By the time he returned to the Stony Brook University court for the second half of the Suffolk County Class AA semifinal matchup, the Tigers’ 31-20 deficit only continued to grow.

Northport had finished the season undefeated in League II, at 14-0, and only suffered one loss this season, a 70-48 defeat at Baldwin. The Tigers’ 72-47 loss on Sunday evening proved to be a similar-looking one, with the Colts coming up with big blocks and an array of 3-pointers to stifle Northport. The difference this time, though, was that the 6-foot, 7-inch Jarrett was not around to counter with many blocks of his own, and although the Tigers scored six 3-pointers, the Colts’ Matt Asenjo had six alone, followed by Kian Dalyrimple with five. The two combined for 41 points — almost as much as Northport’s entire team.

When Jarrett returned, he came through with a block to go along with a field goal and two free-throw points. Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea, who had been strong on offense the entire season, took over in Jarrett’s absence, scoring six points in each half for a team-high 12 points. Jarrett finished with nine points. Guards Brennan Whelan, a senior; Kevin Cryer-Hassett and Ryan Magnuson, both juniors; and Justin Carrano, a sophomore, tacked on five points apiece.

Northport was able to close the gap back to 11 points with O’Shea’s field goal at the 6:27 mark of the third, but by the end of those eight minutes the Tigers were down 49-30. Half Hollow Hills West led by as much as 30 points, after a trifecta put the team up 70-40 with 2:35 left in regulation, but O’Shea’s free-throw point, Cryer-Hassett’s 3-point play and junior guard Brett Vansteenbergen’s 3-pointer helped narrow that lead to give the game its final score.

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Sean O’Shea moves the basketball around the paint. Photo by Joe Galotti

By Joe Galotti

After suffering its first loss of the season on Saturday, the Northport boys’ basketball team wasted little time in getting back to its winning ways. On Tuesday night, the Tigers jumped out to an early 17-2 lead on visiting Lindenhurst, and never looked back, as they came away with a 55-41 victory.

The win improved the Tigers’ record to 15-1 on the year, and clinched a League II regular season championship for the program. While Northport’s players realize they have plenty of work ahead of them still this winter, the achievement was certainly not lost on the club.

Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti
Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti

“This is a really great accomplishment for us, because we play in probably the best league on Long Island,” Northport senior guard Brennan Whelan said.

Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“This is huge for us,” O’Shea said. “It’s great knowing that we’ll have a banner up on the wall, and that it will hang there forever.”

O’Shea finished with a game-high 15 points in his team’s win over the Bulldogs, while Whelan dished out 10 assists. The club also got nine points apiece from junior guard Kevin Cryer-Hassett and senior guard Rory Schynder.

In total, 11 different players scored for the Tigers in the contest. Ball movement has been a key for Northport all season long, and on Tuesday the team’s passing and court vision was once again on point.

“We’re an unselfish team by nature, and we also work a lot on passing,” Northport’s head coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “Our guys really do understand that if they move the ball, they get an open shot, and they enjoy playing that way.”

Northport’s veteran group seems to have fully bought into this philosophy.

“We’ve all been playing with each other for a couple of years now, and we always look to make the extra pass, because that’s what makes our offense work so well,” Whelan said.

The Tigers also put together a strong night on their own end of the court, giving up just four points in the opening quarter and 12 points in the first half. This allowed Northport to take a commanding 22-point advantage into halftime, and give rest to its starters down the stretch.

Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti
Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti

Senior forward Lukas Jarrett was a major catalyst on the defensive end, registering five blocks on the night.

“Our defense started everything tonight,” D’Eloia said. “We just really committed to helping each other, and trying to stay in front of them. We made them take tough shots, and that helped generate our offense early on.”

Lindenhurst outscored the Tigers 29-21 in the game’s final 16 minutes, but was never able to draw within single-digits again. Manny Oyakhilome led the Bulldogs with 14 points in a losing effort.

With a league title now in hand, Northport looks to have a strong finish to what has been a memorable regular season campaign to this point.

“We definitely want to go undefeated [in league play],” O’Shea said. “But we also know that we have to take it one game at a time.”

The Tigers, now 10-0 in League II, will next travel to face off against Walt Whitman on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. The Wildcats have struggled of late, but D’Eloia is not overlooking the league rival.

“They’re a very well coached and disciplined team, and they would like nothing more than to knock us off,” D’Eloia said. “So we’re going to prepare for that game the same way we’ve prepared for all the other games.”

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Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport opened its season with a win over Connetquot on their home court Tuesday, defeating the Thunderbirds 62-51 in League II boys’ basketball action.

Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

Connetquot broke out to an early 8-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, which shrunk to a three-point lead with just under two minutes left. The Tigers rallied and took their first lead of the game, edging ahead 11-10 in the last minute of the quarter, but Connetquot, on their final possession, let the clock wind down to two seconds, and hit a jumper at the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the second.

But it would be the last time the Thunderbirds would lead in the contest.

After a sluggish first quarter, Northport senior Lukas Jarrett found his rhythm and the rim, as he helped the Tigers surge ahead 19-12 with just over five minutes left in the half.

Connetquot controlled the inside game early, as they were strong down low and Northport struggled to handle the pressure.

The Tigers opened the second half clinging to an eight-point lead that shrank to five with just under four minutes left in the third. Northport senior Joe Stockman swished a three-pointer from the corner to give his team a six-point advantage, and the Tigers took a 42-36 lead at the 2:28 mark of the third.

Connetquot clawed its way back to open the final quarter trailing just 45-41, but Jarrett rocked the room with a three-pointer to aid the Tigers. Again the Thunderbirds muscled their way to the rim to cut the deficit, 48-43.

Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport head coach Andrew D’Eloia said that Connetquot is a tough, resilient team, adding that the matchups between the two teams are always competitive.

“We knew what to expect and we had to be ready and play all 32 minutes, and we did that,” D’Eloia said. “I thought Brennan Whelan, Sean [O’Shea], Lukas [Jarrett], Rory [Schynder], and Joe Stockman really stepped it up, so it was a real team victory.”

O’Shea, a senior, made his presence known with a long three-pointer from the corner to break out to a 51-45 advantage with just under four minutes left in regulation.

“We knew that they’re a team that likes to pound it inside and they have good shooters, so we prepared for that,” O’Shea said. “I like how we finished at the end. It was a close game. We didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment.”

Jarrett struck again from long distance, as the senior drained his second trey of the game, to put his team out front by 11 with just over three minutes left.

Play was stopped for an injury timeout as Jarrett took an elbow to the nose. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward, with cotton stuffed up his nostrils, sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a physical team,” Jarrett said. “They were good at getting to the loose balls, so we had to match their intensity. Our bench is deep — it’s always been that way, so it’s awesome that when someone gets hurt, our bench can always pick us up.”

In the foul-plagued final minutes, both teams traded points at the free-throw line. Whelan nailed two, and the senior put his team ahead, 60-46.

“We knew they were going to be tough inside and they’re tough players,” Whelan said. “We let them get too many points inside, but we started to play well on defense and we pulled it out there at the end.”

Trailing by 14 points with time running out, Connetquot was forced to foul to arrest the clock, but learned that that was a losing battle with Northport at the charity stripe.

Whelan led his team in scoring with 18 points; Jarrett was close behind with 17 and O’Shea finished with 13.

The Tigers will try to carry the winning momentum into Friday’s road contest at Half Hollow Hills East. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.