Kings Park

Kings Park (3-5) squared off against host Hampton Bays (3-4) Saturday night where no decision was made after 32 minutes of play. With both teams deadlocked at 53-53 at the end of regulation, a four-minute overtime period was forced to decide the winner in the League V matchup Jan. 6.

Hampton Bays edged ahead clinging to a four-point lead with 33 seconds left in the overtime period, a lead that shrank to three with eight seconds left. Kings Park senior Thomas Matonti got the call and managed to let a 3-pointer fly that just missed its mark as the final buzzer sounded, with the Kingsmen falling to the Baymen 63-60.

It was the senior core of co-captains that topped the scoring chart for the Kingsmen with Joe Romano’s team high of 23 points, Thomas Matonti did his damage from afar with six triples and a pair of free throws for 20 points and John Flynn added 12.

Having lost to Elwood-John Glenn two days earlier, Kings Park rebounded Tuesday, defeating Islip at home 61-52. The Kingsmen will look to build on that momentum when they retake the court in another league matchup Tuesday, Jan. 16, with a road game against Harborfields. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Meet your new Suffolk County Class A champions. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park ended their regular season atop the Division III leaderboard having suffered its only league loss to Shoreham-Wading River back in September. The Lady Kingsmen looked to settle that score in the Suffolk Class A championship final with a rematch with the Wildcats at Diamond in the Pines Wednesday night Nov. 1.

After a scoreless first half, it was Shoreham-Wading River’s Grace Hillis who would write the Kings Park epitaph first with a 30-yard free kick that found its way in the upper far corner of the net. Then the senior scored the insurance goal 11 minutes later. Despite a ferocious late-game surge by the Lady Kingsmen that kept Wildcat goalie Morgan Lesiewicz busy the rest of the way, Shoreham-Wading River prevailed with a 2-0 victory.

Lesiewicz finished with seven saves in the win to punch the Wildcats ticket to the Long Island Championship round where they faced Plainedge on Saturday, Nov. 4. Yet again the Wildcats rose to the occasion with another 2-0 victory to advance to the New York State championship round in Cortland Nov. 11.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, left, and Marty Buchman, a member of the board of the New York Bicycling Association. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

Suffolk County’s transportation network may soon undergo significant transformation.

In 2020, the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning published its Hike and Bike Master Plan, which calls for 1,200 miles of new pedestrian and biking infrastructure countywide.

To mark Car Free Day on Friday, Sept. 22, county officials joined transit advocates along a bike path in Kings Park, announcing a new program to achieve the goals of this master plan through intermunicipal coordination.

“Today on Car Free Day, I am proud to announce that we are taking our Hike-Bike Master Plan further, taking additional steps to create a safe and comfortable biking environment in Suffolk County,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

The new program, GEAR — Guidance for Enhancing Active Recreation — Up Suffolk, will authorize the county’s Department of Economic Development and Planning to provide free technical and design assistance to municipalities to implement active transportation projects. This undertaking aims to help Suffolk’s towns and villages expand trail access by reconfiguring local roadways.

While various trail networks already exist, Bellone said the GEAR Up initiative could help “fill in the gaps” between existing trail infrastructure.

“Where are the gaps? They’re roads,” he said. “In many cases — most cases even — they’re local roads.”

Bellone said the county government seeks to offer conceptual and preliminary designs, conducted in coordination with local municipalities, tailored to meet a community’s needs. 

These proposals may include corridor designs, bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, curb extensions and flashing beacons, among other design elements.

“We want to create an interconnected biking and hiking network that you can use [to] travel across the county,” Bellone said.

Marty Buchman, a member of the board of the New York Bicycling Association, pointed to the deficiencies of past planning and its impacts today on local communities.

“Suffolk County was never designed for the amount of population that it contains right now,” he said. “The roads were designed for a rural county,” adding, “The situation of cars in Suffolk County is going to get worse.”

Buchman advocated for planners and municipalities to view the bicycle as an alternative to the automobile. He suggested trails could help alleviate several of the challenges drivers experience on roadways.

“I’d like to see more paths — not just recreational paths but paths for transportation,” he said, advising “that a bicycle be looked at as more than just a fitness tool or an outdoors tool but a way for people to get from point A to point B.”

He added, “That’s not going to happen without the required or needed infrastructure.”

Bellone outlined multiple benefits of expanding trail access, such as environmental protection, economic development and downtown revitalization.

Amid escalating fears of a youth exodus from Long Island, Bellone said promoting alternative modes of transit can help the county retain and attract young people.

“We are in a competition for innovators, young people, entrepreneurs and skilled workers,” the county executive said. “We want them living in our downtowns. We want them raising their families here because that will bring more jobs, businesses and sustainable economic growth.”

“You get that when you make investments in the things that improve people’s quality of life,” he added.

Buchman referred to hiking and biking infrastructure as an apolitical policy area: “This is not a political issue,” the transit advocate said. “Republicans ride. Democrats ride. People ride.”

In achieving the goals of the master plan, Bellone said intergovernmental collaboration would remain crucial while working toward the objectives of the 2020 master plan. 

“Having an interconnected hiking and biking network throughout Suffolk County helps every community and family across the county,” he said.

The county will accept applications for the GEAR Up program on a rolling basis.

Kings Park hosted the Wildcats of Shoreham-Wading River in a girls soccer matchup Tuesday, Sept. 19, when the Lady Kingsmen struggled to find the net in this League III contest.

The Wildcats struck 14 minutes into the opening half when freshman Shealyn Varbero stretched the net to take the lead into the halftime break. The Wildcat defense was able to keep Kings Park at bay when sophomore Mia Mangano scored the insurance goal for the Wildcats with 19 minutes left in regulation to lead 2-0 for the final score.

Shoreham-Wading River goalkeeper Morgan Lesiewicz had five saves and Kings Park goalie Alex Scott stopped 14. The win lifts the Wildcats to 4-1 in the early going, and Kings Park drops to 2-1-1.

— Photos by Bill Landon

By Steven Zaitz

Music lovers packed the area behind Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices on Main Street this past Friday, Aug. 11, for the latest installment of the Musical Moments in Kings Park concert series.

Coinciding with sunset, the crowd of about 700 enjoyed “Tequila Sunrise” and other past hits from California soft-rock legends, the Eagles, performed by the local six-piece tribute outfit known as the Eagle River Band.

There was barely an inch of space for one more lawn chair in and around Russ Savatt Park in Village Plaza, as band leaders Paul Graf and Kevin Byrne both ably impersonated Eagle front men Don Henley and Glenn Frey all evening long.

The band played all the hits of the 1970s and ’80s such as “Take It To The Limit,” “Life In The Fast Lane,” and “Desperado,” and formed a warm rapport with the audience as they made light-hearted, self-deprecating cracks at one another throughout the show.

The amiable Graf, who also uses the stage name Paul Henry, was the principal at Smithtown Elementary School from 1988-2012 and has great experience entertaining the masses. One of his annual thrills while serving at Smithtown Elementary was dressing up as Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat with full face paint as well as performing for the students whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve been playing and singing in front of my parents’ fireplace since I was kid,” said Graf, from Mount Sinai. “It’s an honor to be back in Kings Park and playing here again because the people here are always responsive, and they are a great audience.”

Graf was one of the first musicians ever to play at Musical Moments, which is supported by the Kings Park Civic Association. In 2008, the inaugural year of the series, he played as a duet with his friend Jeff Laino on bass guitar in front of a much smaller audience.

“I remember it was pouring raining and there were a few hardy souls in the crowd that night,” said Graf. “But we did our best.”

Fast forward 15 years and the delightful summer breeze, a crowd that was almost backed up onto the train platform and Graf and his five bandmates made for a perfect musical weekend kickoff.

Formed in 2017, Eagle River Band has seen lineup changes on occasion, but now features Jim Cairo (bass guitar and vocals), Mike Draddy (keyboards, guitars and vocals), Steve Lobmeier (drums) and Joe Savio (guitars and vocals) in addition to Graf (guitar, mandolin and harmonica) and Byrne (guitars and vocals). Savio was responsible for many of the famous guitar solos of legendary guitarist Joe Walsh.

The band played for about two hours and the crowd size and enthusiasm grew to a crescendo together with the music, as the band encored and closed with the Eagles’ most-beloved smash, “Hotel California” — and indeed for everyone at Russ Savatt Park in the center of Kings Park, it was “such a lovely place.”

The Kings Park Civic Association is a community group consisting of local residents who volunteer their time and energy to help maintain the highest standards of quality of life in Kings Park. Founded in 1970, KPCA has a long history of acting as a community advocate. 

Carol Kelly is a member of the association and she spearheaded and currently organizes the Musical Moments program. Local sponsors and raffle drawings fuel the project, and the Eagle River Band was the fourth act out of five for this year’s summer program. The country band Urban Rodeo will play the finale Friday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m.

Shoreham-Wading River midfielder Liam Gregorek gets checked. Photo by Bill Landon

Liam Kershis led the way for Shoreham Wading River in the opening round of the Suffolk County Class C playoffs as the Wildcats eliminated Kings Park.

Kings Park had struggled against the Wildcats’ defensive pressure, unable to gain traction in the 17-7 loss at Cutinella Memorial Field Thursday night, May 18.

Kershis tallied an assist with five goals for the Wildcats, while teammate Alec Gregorek netted three assists and three goals. Gregorek’s brother, Liam, notched three goals of his own and tacked on an assist in the SWR victory. Goalie Jaden Galfano had eight saves in net, and Jon Gordon stopped two.

Kings Park senior attack Thomas Hnis recorded three goals and a pair of assists for the Kingsmen. Nick Papa, John Flynn and Tommy Cassar rounded out the scoring for Kings Park.

The win propels the third-seeded Wildcats to the semifinal round of the county playoffs. The team will travel to Bayport-Blue Point — the second seed — on Tuesday, May 23. The game will start at 4 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon