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Warriors

By Bill Landon

Near the close of the regular season, Comsewogue’s boys basketball team was already secure in the post-season berth being 8-7 in league, but they needed a win at home for a higher seed in the playoff brackets. They got that victory handily against Huntington, notching a 72-44 win on senior night Feb. 7.

Comsewogue junior forward Jaden Martinez led the Warriors in scoring with six field goals, a triple and two from the free throw line for a total of 17 points. In addition, Martinez was just as effective under the boards as he ended the game with 17 rebounds. Junior Mike McGuire followed up with four triples and three from the charity stripe for 15 points while senior guard Devin Rooney netted 11 and junior Nick Stiles banked 10.

Juniors Daniel Danziger and Lex Colato topped the scoring chart for Blue Devils with 15 and 12 respectively while freshman Max Rentsch followed up by netting 11. This game conclude their season at 2-15 in league.

With the win Comsewogue improves to 9-7 in league which makes them the 16th seed
in class AA and will face Longwood, the No. one seed, Feb. 13 at Longwood High School in the opening round of the playoffs. Game time is set for 5:00 p.m.

By Bill Landon

The Comsewogue Warriors girls basketball team came out strong for the first three quarters Jan. 31, but visiting Smithtown East Bulls put their foot on the gas in the final 8 minutes of play outscoring Comsewogue, 19 to 13, to snatch a 40-33 victory.

Smithtown East junior Brianna Durland led the Bulls in scoring with 12 points. She was followed by junior Katie Bigliani and sophomore Katie Illari who banked seven each.

On the Comsewogue side, sophomores Samantha Andresen, Annalise Russo and eighth-grader Danielle McGuire all notched seven points apiece.

With the win, Smithtown East improves to 6-7 in league with three games remaining before the postseason. The Bulls are set to take on the undefeated North Babylon Feb. 5 at 5:45 p.m.

The loss drops Comsewogue to 3-10 in league with three games remaining in the regular season, the last game of which is on the road against Huntington Feb. 7. Tipoff is at 5:45 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Centereach trailed Comsewogue’s boys basketball team from the opening tip off and closed within 4 points late in the game, but the Warriors defense was up to the task, holding off the late surging Cougars for a 71-65 victory on the road Jan. 17. 

Comsewogue junior Michael McGuire seemingly couldn’t miss from long range as the young man nailed seven triples and a free throw for a team high of 22 points. Teammate Milan Johnson netted a pair of treys, 4 field goals and 4 from the line putting up a total of 18; and teammate Liam Gray tacked on 17. Centereach junior forward Matt Robbert topped the scoring chart for the Cougars throwing down 9 field goals and netting 4 from the line.

With their third win in a row, Comsewogue improves to 5-3 in league and 7-5 overall. The Warriors continued their road tour against Deer Park Jan. 21 and were back on their home turf Jan. 23 hosting Bellport at 5:45 p.m. With the loss, Centereach dropped to 4-5 in league 7-5 overall, and were back in action at home Jan. 23.

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Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano addresses the Class of 2018 during graduation June 22. File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson School District has a lot on its plate, and whoever ends up sitting in the captain’s chair is going to need a strong character to deal with it all.

In August Paul Casciano, the district’s current superintendent, announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. By July 1, 2019, a new superintendent will have to fill the position.

“The most important decision a school board makes is who they hire as a superintendent, because that’s basically your CEO,” Casciano said. 

While the board still has to interview candidates in January and February of next year, come May 2019, board President Kathleen Brennan said she expects the board will make its final choice.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently.”

—Kathleen Brennan

In the meantime, the Port Jefferson school board is looking for community feedback on what they would most like from a superintendent. Working with Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the board released an online survey to community members asking them to judge what best qualities they wanted from the head of their school district. Some of the questions ask residents to rate how important a prospective superintendent’s knowledge of finance and business is or how important is their background in education.

While a superhuman superintendent would exhibit five stars in all these qualities, Brennan said the questions are there to gauge how important one quality is compared to another. She added people who work in education might place a greater emphasis on the new superintendent’s educational knowledge versus a local business owner placing more significance on the financial health of the district.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently,” Brennan said.

A superintendent makes the day-to-day decisions for the entire school district, often trying to keep to the vision of the school board, including spending, staffing, facilities and school programs. 

However, the next superintendent of Port Jeff will have to find ways to handle the situation involving the local National Grid-owned power plant. LIPA has alleged the plants in both Port Jefferson and Northport have been overassessed in its payment of millions of dollars in annual property taxes, though Dec. 14 the Town of Brookhaven announced it had reached a settlement with LIPA, promising to reduce the Port Jeff plant’s assessments by around 50 percent over nine years.

The fallout of whatever ends up happening with LIPA has the possibility of directly impacting residents property taxes as well as school funding. Casciano said it will be important in the future to make sure the fallout of LIPA does not fall too much on either the district’s head or on residents.

“The next superintendent is going to need to take a balanced approach,” Casciano said. “We don’t just represent the residents who have children, it affects their taxes and we’re cognizant of that. … On the other hand, our core mission is teaching and learning — our real clients are children — we can’t turn our back on that and call ourselves educators.”

The Port Jeff school district is of much smaller size compared to neighboring districts, though the current superintendent said they enjoy small class sizes and specialized programs. Should a final LIPA decision impact the district negatively, the next superintendent would have to make hard choices on which specialized education programs to prioritize if the economic situation gets any more complicated.

Based on that looming potential crisis, Casciano said a new superintendent is going to need a strong backbone.

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision,” he said. “When it comes to schools which has taxes and kids involved with it, there is a lot greater passion attached to those voices.”

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision.”

—Paul Casciano

Brennan said she expects the incoming superintendent should use the current district administration, which has been cultivated to provide a good support structure to whoever steps into the position.

“We’re not overstaffed administratively, by any means,” the board president said. 

Casciano said while he expects a new superintendent to bring their own ideas and creative solutions to problems, he doesn’t expect them to overhaul on current staff.

“It’s a successful school district, and to come in and think there’s major changes to be made says you don’t really know the district,” he said.

The school board will be hosting a public meeting Jan 3. with Julie Davis Lutz, COO of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, to allow residents to express their thoughts on the necessary skills for the next superintendent. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Miller Place traveled to Warrior nation and outscored Comsewogue, 72-52, in a nonleague matchup Dec. 10.

Miller Place junior Thomas Cirrito led his team in scoring with eight field goals, eight free throws and two triples for 30 points; Thomas Nealis, the lone senior on the squad, banked 16 along with 14 rebounds; and junior Timothy Hirdt netted 12, rebounding 12.

Atop the scoring chart for Comsewogue were Mike McGuire and Liam Gray with 13 points apiece. Both teams opened league play Dec. 12 where the Panthers hosted Wyandanch and Comsewogue took on visiting Centereach, but results were not available by press time.

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By Bill Landon

The Comsewogue Warriors stretched their legs in a 48 to 36 victory over the visiting Port Jeff Royals in a nonleague contest Dec. 6. Danielle McGuire along with teammate Lindsay Hanson topped the leaderboard for the Warriors with 12 points apiece, while Julianna Watson added three triples for nine more. Eighth-grader Lola Idir led the Royals in scoring six field goals, a triple and a free throw for 16 points while Hailey Hearney netted 10. Both teams open league season play Dec. 12 with the Royals at home against Mattituck as the Warriors hit the road to take on Centereach. Game times are 4:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

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Sean Kennedy, Richie Lacalandra score three goals each to knot the game at 7-7

A Warriors run from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth turned a 6-1 deficit into a 7-7 tie, but a final faceoff loss proved costly for the No. 3-seeded Comsewogue boys lacrosse team, as it fell 8-7 to No. 3 East Islip in the Class B semifinals May 23.

“I think the team was just a little nervous at first because of how big of a game it was,” said junior Sean Kennedy, who scored three goals in the contest. “Because usually we’re a really good first-half team.”

The Warriors defense struggled to clear the ball early, going 0-5 on first-half attempts, with the Redmen scoring on three of those turnovers.

But by the end of the second quarter Comsewogue started to figure it out.

“I felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

— Richie Lacalandra

“Once we settled down and we figured out the clear, we came storming back,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “A lot of these kids have been through a lot of hard things in their lives and to see them come out and compete the way they did is tremendous. Especially the seniors, they’re a wonderful group of kids.”

Senior Richie Lacalandra scored the final goal of the first half to break East Islip’s six goal scoring streak and start a 4-0 Warriors scoring spurt. Junior Thomas Heyder scored on an over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shot to start the second half, and Kennedy found the cage before Lacalandra’s goal that pulled the Warriors within one, 6-5, to end scoring for the third.

After an East Islip goal, Kennedy scored from 30 yards out for his third of the game, and Lacalandra added his hat trick goal from the same spot to tie it 7-7 with 7:10 left to play.

“On that play I just thought to myself, ‘I had the short stick on me, and there was a lane to shoot,’ so I stepped in and let it go,” Lacalandra said. “It felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

Goalkeeper Thomas Heller said a halftime pep talk lifted his team’s spirits. He added he spoke to his defense about shaking off the nerves and looking at the second half like a new game. The junior said Kennedy and Lacalandra’s burst of power propelled the team.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle, It shows we fight to the end.”

— Thomas Heller

“Those two kids never quit on themselves,” he said. “And in big situations, they excel.”

The goalkeeper made two saves within a minute to keep the teams in a stalemate, but East Islip did the same on the other end.

“I was seeing the ball well and my defense was giving me good looks,” Heller said. “Our plan against East Islip was to keep our heads on a swivel, stop transitions and keep our sticks in the passing lane, because we knew they liked to feed the cutter, so we tried to eliminate that as much as possible.”

John Sidorski scored his fourth goal of the game with 47 seconds left for East Islip, which won the final faceoff. Comsewogue called timeout and pulled Heller for another man on the field to pressure the Redmen, but came up short, getting the ball back and into East Islip’s zone just as time expired.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle,” Heller said. “It shows we fight to the end.”

Mitchell said he was proud to say that no matter how many curveballs were thrown at his team, and through all the doubt this season, his Warriors showed why they bear the name.

“You get bad bounces in life, you’ve got to deal with it and you’ve got to bounce back — and if I taught them that one thing then I’ve done my job,” Mitchell said. “We had a shot at the end, but their goalie made a great save. It shows a lot of character, and it’s why we call ourselves the Warriors – we never give up.”

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue almost called it a comeback. The girls lacrosse team trimmed a four-goal deficit to one in the final minutes of a first-round Class B playoff game against visiting East Islip May 18, and despite winning possession on the final draw with 20 seconds left, the Warriors failed to find the net, falling 9-8.

“We have awesome players with amazing speed — our seniors Hannah [Dorney] and Brianna [Blatter] stepped up, they played a hell of a game,” Comsewogue head coach Jaqueline Wilkom said. “We had to win that draw and push it down toward the net at the end, but unfortunately the game didn’t end in our favor.”

Dorney, a University of Notre Dame-bound senior, won possession and Comsewogue called timeout with 20 seconds on the clock. With time for one last shot, the Warriors turned the ball over and the Redmen recovered and let the clock run down.

“We’re very young — we have five middle-schoolers and only four seniors,” Dorney said. “We had two key players out for most of the year, so for a while we were a little lost.”

The senior, who came into the game second among Suffolk County scorers with 85 points, four behind Northport’s Olivia Carner, found the net four times and assisted on a goal in her final Comsewogue lacrosse game. She finished the first half with a hat trick, scoring twice on penalty shots and once off an assist from junior attack Julia Fernandes. Her third goal closed the gap to one, 4-3, and even with No. 5-seeded East Islip countering with two goals in just over a minute’s time, No. 4 Comsewogue came back to keep the deficit the same, with the Warriors down 6-5 at the halftime break.

After the Redmen tallied two more scores to start the second, a Comsewogue penalty put the Warriors at even more of a disadvantage, as East Islip capitalized on the opportunity to go up 9-5. Sophomore Olivia Fantigrossi scored her second goal, freshman Nelida Watson assisted Fernandes’ second and Dorney scored on another penalty shot to give the game its final score with 29 seconds left.

“We pump each other up from the sidelines, and our bonding in practice is what helped us get this far,” Dorney said. “We’re a family.”

Mustangs earn No. 1 seed in Class C postseason bracket, which begins May 23 for Mount Sinai. Comsewogue claims No. 2 seed and begins B qualifier play in semis May 23.

Mount Sinai boys lacrosse team members pile up on Tyler Gatz after he scored a buzzer-beating game-winning goal for sole possession of the Division II title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Tyler Gatz took home the Division II title for Mount Sinai.

With the Mustangs down 3-2 in the final minutes, the freshman midfielder assisted on classmate Brendon Ventarola’s game-tying shot before scoring the go-ahead goal as the buzzer sounded for a 4-3 home win over Comsewogue May 11.

Mount Sinai’s Tyler Gatz looks to get around Comsewogue’s Karl Lacalandra. Photo by Bill Landon

The game-winning play called for the ball to end up in the stick of senior JoJo Pirreca, but Gatz said he saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“The play was sideways,” the freshman said. “I saw that they over-pursued me, so I put the stick in my left hand, got top side and just let it go.”

Mount Sinai was tied with Islip at 12-1 atop the league leaderboard heading into Friday’s game. Harborfields and Comsewogue were tied for second (10-2), but the Tornadoes took down Islip earlier in the evening (13-7) to leave the Mustangs to battle it out with the Warriors for sole possession.

“Comsewogue played great defense tonight — they did a great job, so I feel fortunate that we were able to get this win,” Mount Sinai head coach Harold Drumm said. “It’s easy when you win 10-1, but [we were] playing a tough team and things [were] not going our way. Our team showed it had a lot of heart, and that’s what tells you if you have a team or not.”

Comsewogue attack Richie Lacalandra gets checked by Mount Sinai’s Matt Ventarola. Photo by Bill Landon

After a scoreless first quarter, Comsewogue senior Anthony Passarella broke the ice, and juniors Chris Wolfe and Sean Kennedy scored next to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead with 4:11 remaining until the halftime break. Known for its stout defense, Comsewogue remained solid until eighth-grader Joseph Spallina’s solo shot rocked the back of the cage to end of the quarter.

Not wanting his age to be paired with inexperience, the team’s scoring leader proved his prowess when he struck again four minutes into the third on an assist from junior Dominic Boscarino to pull his team within one, 3-2.

“When we were down 3-1 we really weren’t moving the ball,” said Spallina, who ranks seventh among all Suffolk scorers with 76 points on 34 goals and 42 assists.

The freshman said his team wanted to take it slow, thinking back to the lone loss of the season, a 10-9 defeat at the hands of Islip April 11, and wanted to redeem that loss by taking sole possession of the division crown. Comsewogue went a man-down on three separate occasions and Mount Sinai was unable to capitalize.

Mount Sinai’s Joseph Spallina drives past Comsewogue defenseman Zach Gagnon. Photo by Bill Landon

The tables turned when Spallina was flagged for an infraction and served a one-minute penalty to close out the third, and his team again went a man-down with under three minutes left in the fourth, but Comsewogue couldn’t find the net.

“We had one devastating loss against a really good team,” Spallina said of the loss to Islip. “So we were thinking, ‘Just make one stop at a time.’”

Mount Sinai gained possession with less than 40 seconds left and moved the ball around the cage to let time tick off, allowing for just one last shot before a looming overtime period, which is when Gatz made his move.

“They play hard, they’re very well-coached,” Drumm said of Comsewogue. “We know they have great athletes on the field and we knew we had to tighten up a little in the crease, and even down 3-1 we [knew we’d have] opportunities on offense. We needed to keep believing, so I just tried to stay the course.”

The Mustangs earn the No. 1 seed with the win. Mount Sinai will host the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 4 Shoreham-Wading River and No. 5 Sayville in the Class C semifinals May 23 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue, the No. 2 seed, will compete in the Class B semifinals , hosting the winner of the No. 3 East Islip and No. 6 Half Hollow Hills West game May 23 at 4 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s Ejim Nnate eliminated every would-be threat as she swept all four of her track and field events in the Warriors’ 90-60 win at Bellport May 8.

Of her victories, her 33-10 leap in the triple jump and 16-6.75 mark in the long jump were personal bests.

The biggest improvement was in the Warriors’ 4×100-yard relay time. Although second to Bellport’s 49 seconds, the Comsewogue quartet of senior Gabrielle Griffin, junior Gabrielle Savage, sophomore Sabrina Donoghue and freshman Brianna Quartararo finished in 51.4 seconds off its average time of 53. 

“Our 4×100 relay today is a season-best for us,” head coach Matt Brown said. 

The relay team owns the school record and finished sixth at the St. Anthony’s Invitational May 5. According to Brown, the girls are ranked sixth in the county.

Daniella Barchi, who came in eighth in the 1,500 race-walk at the invitational, won the event against Bellport by shaving two seconds off her time for a personal record. Before the Top 10 county race-walker finished a 7:26 time, she ran a 7:28 Saturday.

“I was definitely nervous, because the race-walk is my main event,” Barchi said. “Surprisingly, after competing in the 1,500 run, I felt ready to go. I said, ‘I can do this right now,’ I was so pumped.”

Quartararo, who ran four events, is currently the school record holder in the 400. She finished fourth in the event at the St. Anthony’s Invitational.

Griffin is ranked second in the county in the 400 hurdles, eighth in the 100 dash and 15th in the 200 dash, according to Brown. She is hoping for a shot at qualifying for the state championship in the 400 hurdles in addition to the relay.

The Warriors improve to 4-1 with one meet remaining in the regular season. Brown, who said he’s expecting better jumps for his team in the future, said Comsewogue will have its hands full when the team travels to North Babylon (4-0-1) May 10 at 4 p.m. If the Warriors win, they’ll be in a two-way tie for first in League IV with West Islip (5-1).

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