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Tom McGuire

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Alan Dylan Smith reaches for the rim over the block. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s 10 shots from beyond the arc accounted for almost half of the boys basketball team’s total points in a must-win game against West Babylon Feb. 2. The 71-53 victory puts the Warriors one win away from making the postseason.

Patrick Billings battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite the scoring frenzy, with six 3-pointers scored in the first half, three from senior Tom McGuire alone, that wasn’t what impressed head coach Joel Sutherland the most.

“It was our intensity on the defensive end,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the best defensive effort we’ve had all season.”

From opening tipoff West Babylon faced surmounting pressure, struggling to clear the ball which led to minimal looks at the basket. After the first eight minutes, the Warriors had already taken a commanding 26-9 lead.

“We definitely prepped for them more than last time — this time we worked on our 1-3-1 [defense] and stopping them at half court,” McGuire said. “The coaches really got us ready and it showed.”

McGuire made his fourth and fifth 3-pointers in the third quarter, ending the eight minutes with eight of his game-high 19 points. Pat Billings, who scored five points in the third, finished with a double-double on 12 points and 21 rebounds. He said the pressure has been difficult to manage, but his Warriors are motivated, and are ready to battle it out Feb. 8 at home against Half Hollow Hills West. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

“It’s just coming down to the wire — we need to win two games and that was in our minds because we don’t want our season to end,” Billings said. “We’ll game plan, we’ll look at some film to see what they do best.”

Dylan Morris Gray lays up for two. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Rob Orzelowski, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second quarter, went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. He said he hopes his team can come into Thursday with the same preparedness so that he can keep playing with his Warriors.

“We were practicing a lot for this — we went over a lot of defenses and offenses, we were switching things up and it worked out today,” Orzelowski said. “We had chemistry, and the shots were falling tonight.”

Comsewogue improves to 10-9 overall and 5-6 in League IV. Half Hollow Hills West sits right above the Warriors in the standings at 7-4, with a 14-5 overall mark.

“We’ve got a tough one on Thursday, so we’re going to prepare for it,” Sutherland said. “[My team] executed in the half-court sets, the guys were rotating and playing together, they shared the ball offensively, it was a joy to see and it was just a total team win. [We have another winnable game ahead of us], and we’re going to come out and throw everything we have at them, and let the chips fall where they will.”

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Behind the relentless play of senior Patrick Billings and sophomore Jaden Martinez, the Comsewogue boys basketball team cruised to an 86-38 nonleague win over cross-town rival Port Jefferson Dec. 11. The Warriors duo shared a game-high 18 points and combined for 22 rebounds in the win.

“It took them a little bit of time to dig in, but once we got going we showed what we’re capable of,” Comsewogue head coach Joel Sutherland said. “We always try to dictate tempo — play at our pace — and I felt in the second quarter we gave up some dribble-drives and some kick-outs and started to fall short of what we wanted to do. We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and played our game.”

Billings scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter alone, as Comsewogue jumped out to a 26-13 advantage after eight minutes. Despite the slow second, the Warriors turned a 37-27 halftime lead into a 68-35 difference at the end of three quarters of play.

“We were passing the ball very well,” Billings said. “We came out of halftime ready to play ball. Defense is our top priority, and this is how we have to play every time. We talked each other up, brought up the energy and trusted each other.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Martinez, senior Dylan Morris Gray and eighth-grader Aaron Talbert disrupted the Royals’ offense, deflecting and stealing several passes. Upon gaining possession, the trio jump-started the Warriors’ fast break offense, knowing when to keep it, or who to dish it off to. Martinez, who finished with five assists and six steals, connected with Billings under the net for a few easy buckets.

“I feel comfortable out there,” said Martinez, who scored 11 points in the monster third quarter and had three 3-pointers in the win. “Our half-court traps, our defense helped us put it all together today.”

Senior Alan Dylan Smith scored 12 points, classmate Tom McGuire tacked on 11 and freshman Liam Gray caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points in the final three minutes of the game on two threes and a perfect 4-for-4 finish from the free-throw line. Talbert came off the bench to add eight points in the win. Port Jefferson junior Grant Calendrille finished with a team-high 10 points. Comsewogue ended nonleague play at 4-2 while Port Jefferson fell to 2-3.

With Comsewogue moving up a league this year, Sutherland said he doesn’t see it as a problem. He expects his team to compete.

“I know what we’re capable of — it’s a matter of putting it together for a full 32 minutes,” he said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but as soon as they understand that when they play together there aren’t many teams as talented, we’ll be a dangerous one.”

The Warriors are back in action Dec. 19 hosting Bellport in the first League IV game of the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

Richard Panico, of Miller Place, speaks as the Friends of Karen’s honoree at the organization's Long Island Gala. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Richard Panico is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

So it took some convincing when Friends of Karen wanted to honor Panico, a Miller Place resident, for his charitable nature during their third annual Long Island Gala on Friday, Dec. 4, at the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown. The organization’s Regional Director, Nancy Mariano, approached Panico earlier this year, asking to spotlight him at the event. Initially, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“I read this somewhere [that] if more than one person knows you did a good deed, it’s no longer a good deed,” Panico said. “So … to me it’s just not necessary to have that kind of ego.”

Panico got involved with Friends of Karen three years ago when he purchased the building on Perry Street in Port Jefferson that the organization operates out of. Currently, Panico’s company Symbio, which provides clinical trial management services for pharmaceutical companies, and Friends of Karen share the building. He turned his efforts toward helping the organization, which aims to offer emotional and financial support to families of children with life-threatening illnesses, but his efforts didn’t start with Friends of Karen.

In 2003, one year after Panico’s company was established, he kickstarted its annual bike-a-thon at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It held the fundraiser for seven years and raised more than $50,000.

“It was good for the company,” said Susan Swamback, an employee of Symbio. “It was good for all of us to feel like a team. … He loves that.”

Swamback also helped with the annual bike-a-thon, but the fundraising stopped after the company didn’t raise as much money as it had hoped, despite its efforts.

Over the past few years, Panico has donated skin creams to families that frequent hospitals and helped one child and his family attend a New York Mets baseball game. Panico’s nephew Tom McGuire added that his uncle also tries to help his family and friends.

During the gala, Mariano said Panico “is the kindest most generous father, husband and friend to all.” Mariano added that the organization was proud to acknowledge Panico at the event.

While the gala was a means to highlight people like Panico, it also helps Friends of Karen raise awareness and money to further its mission. In the organization’s 37 years, it’s helped around 5,500 sick children and their families. Panico said the organization works hard to achieve its goal, and even continued his own effort to help the organization during his honoree speech.

“If you are able to donate — if you’re able to buy raffle tickets, if you’re able to [participate] in the silent auctions, that would be fantastic,” Panico said during the gala. “If you can’t … tell your friends, spread the word.”

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