Sports

The Ward Melville fencing squad edged Centereach, 17-10,  Feb. 3 to clinch the League II title and looks to maintain that momentum for the county finals.

Returning All-County and All-Long Island foilist Christopher Ancona, a senior, led the way for the Patriots, winning all three of his bouts as did sophomore épéeist William Lehr.

The win lifted the Patriots to a perfect 8-0 in league, 12-1 overall. The team then went on to a championship match play at Commack High School Feb. 5, where they won, 14-13.

 

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Newfield senior Mohab Ali captures his 100th career victory Jan. 29. Photo by Sophia Vitale

It was history in the making when Newfield senior and star wrestler Mohab Ali defeated Sachem East’s Luis Valdez Jan. 29 with an 8-2 decision to notch his 100th victory at 195 lbs. Ali’s current season record is 31-2 and his varsity career stands at 100-36. What makes the milestone all that more remarkable is Ali’s freshman year record was 3-21, according to Newfield Head Coach Douglas Lotten.

Senior Hunter Hughes who also won Jan. 29 at 152 pounds tied the Middle Country School District all-time career record at 132 wins. Both wrestlers are ranked number 1 in Suffolk county in their respective weight class. At the state level, Hughes is ranked 5th and Ali is 7th.

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Newfield senior Colin Cassara lays up for two in a home game against Copiague. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield’s Colin Cassara joined that elite group of high school basketball players when he scored his 1,000th point of his varsity career in a road game against Hills East Jan. 25. Cassara was presented a commemorative basketball marking the event in a home game against Copiague four days later.

At a game Jan. 29, the Wolverines scratched out a 2-point lead at the half but struggled in the 3rdquarter falling behind by 11. The Wolverines rallied in the final eight minutes of play but fell short falling to the Eagles 53-49.

Just like he’s done all season, Cassara led the way for the Wolverines scoring five from the floor and went 8 for 9 at the line for 18 points. Teammate Andrew Daniels, the 6’10” senior, netted 17 while  Ziggy Hoe banked 10.

Cassara currently sits in 8th place in Suffolk County in total points scored, with three games remaining in the regular season.

Newfield is set to take the court against Smithtown West at home Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. They will hosting Huntington Feb. 6 with a game time set for 5:45 p.m.

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Lanscaping for new pickleball courts is already underway at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo by Kyle Barr

Pickleball is on the plate for the Port Jefferson Country Club, and while bids still have to come in, village officials said courts in the village proper that were previously considered are currently off the table.

In previous years, some residents called for pickleball courts at other places in the village. Local Port Jeffersonite Myrna Gordon was one who pleaded for such a sport to be accessible in the village. 

She said restricting the courts to the country club has severely limited the number of people who could use them.

“Most people don’t realize that we stand alone up there.”

— Stan Loucks

“Why would you charge village residents for this recreational program?” she said in an email. “No fees should be charged to any village resident for use of the now being built pickleball courts.”

Landscaping has already started at the country club just west of the tennis courts on the left-hand side of The Waterview building. Despite calling the landscaping and removal of bushes and trees “environmental devastation,” she asked why there wasn’t more consideration for a pickleball court next to the basketball courts near Rocketship Park or in the Texaco Avenue Park in Upper Port.

Stan Loucks, the vice mayor and liaison to the country club, said in a phone interview Jan. 24 that the village originally intended to modify the basketball court off of Barnum Avenue and paint lines for pickleball with removable nets available for certain times when not being used for basketball. However, that idea came under “considerable opposition” from people who wanted it to be maintained for children’s use.

Gordon had been one of those critics, writing in a letter to the editor it was “eliminating a space where culturally diverse people come to play pick-up games,” adding the space was already highly utilized. She instead asked why pickleball could not be built next to the basketball courts, but Loucks responded, saying space was a major consideration.

Gordon, in previous letters to the Port Times Record and in talks to the village board, had suggested placing the court structure at the Texaco Avenue Park, which was recently constructed along with the neighboring parking lot. 

Loucks said there was no room for such a court at the park, and it would also take redrawing up plans that were already approved.

The penned-in court complex going in at the country club is measured out to be 64 by 116 feet for three pickleball courts, though a normal-sized, regulation court is only measured at 20 by 44 feet. The Texaco park contains a small play set and basketball court, along with a walking path and some spare seating.

“No fees should be charged to any village resident for use of the now being built pickleball courts.”

— Myrna Gordon

Pickleball is cited as one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. It’s played on a smaller court than tennis and uses paddles instead of rackets to volley a plastic ball back and forth across asphalt courts.

Bids are supposed to come back for the pickleball courts Feb. 6, and potential contractors have already done a walk-through of the property. Loucks is waiting for those bids to come back on a project that could cost anywhere between $85,000 and $128,000, which also includes partially completed landscaping at the country club, at a cost of several thousand to the club itself.

The rest of the funds, the trustee said, would have to be bonded for. Most likely, since the country club cannot issue bonds, the village would apply for the bond and then the country club would use its funds to pay it off. A similar agreement was worked out when the country club installed a new irrigation system for the golf course, which cost around $2 million, or just over the total amount of the club’s entire yearly budget.

The pickleball courts, Loucks said, are a way of hopefully generating more revenue for the country club.

“Most people don’t realize that we stand alone up there,” he said. “We’re trying to make end’s meet — we’re hoping pickleball brings in some additional revenue.”

Rocky Point senior Jimmy Curley (l) runs 3200 meters along with Comsewogue’s Joe Fazio and Kings Park’s Jonathan Englehardt at SCCC Feb. 1. Bill Landon photo

The Mount Sinai Mustangs were the class of the field in the Suffolk County small school championship Feb. 1, sitting atop the leader-board to win the team championship with 66 points at Suffolk County Community College.

Kings Park finished 7th overall just ahead of Comsewogue High School. Shoreham-Wading River junior Blake Wehr placed 2nd in the high jump event clearing 6’ 4” landing the Wildcats 12th in the team standings.

Ruth Gracey and Dr. H. Jean Berger are to be honored later this year by the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. Photos from Michelle Dougherty

Two women from the Port Jefferson and Three Village school districts have been posthumously named to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 for their work organizing girls sports athletics.

Dr. H. Jean Berger and Ruth Gracey were named along with two other women for developing and organizing the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association in 1949, 23 years prior to federal Title IX legislation, which established no discrimination of participation based on sex.

The hall of fame is naming them due to their “persistence and dedication,” which effectively jump-started women’s ability to participate in and coach school athletics throughout the county.

Berger and Gracey, along with Annamae McKeever-Kress and Jeanette Rogers, developed the constitution, policies and rules, guidelines for scheduling and officiating games for the SCGAA. They envisioned and created a senior athletic awards program and developed the coveted Gold Key Award to recognize senior high school athletes.

“The Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame is honored to induct these four trailblazing women for all they accomplished in building a path and platform for girls to success in sports in Suffolk County,” said Chris Vaccaro, the executive director of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. “What they achieved, long before the passing of Title IX, is remarkable and hundreds, if not thousands, of women have dedicated their lives to athletics thanks to what they built more than 70 years ago. This is a posthumous honor for these inductees, but we know they will be with us in spirit that night.”

All four women are being honored at a ceremony May 26 during the hall of fame’s 30th anniversary celebration at Watermill Caterers, 711 Smithtown Bypass in Smithtown. Tickets are $125 for an adult and $75 for a child. More information can be found at suffolksportshof.com.

Ruth Gracey 

Gracey was born in Syracuse in 1906 and attended Syracuse University from 1926 to 1929, majoring in physical education. After, she received a master’s degree in physical education from Adelphi University. 

In 1944 she began her career as the single female physical education instructor at Port Jefferson High School. During this first year at the school, she started the Girls Leaders Club and a year later she was instrumental in creating intramural sports for girls. By the 1948 school year, she was named director of girls physical education and coached soccer, hockey, volleyball, basketball and badminton. In 1949, she helped create the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association, specifically the constitution and by-laws, and helped to establish a girls sports awards program. She retired from Port Jefferson in 1971 and in 1996 was inducted into the Port Jefferson district’s Wall of Fame. She passed away in 1990.

Elizabeth Schwartz, Gracey’s granddaughter and former student, said her grandmother, along with her contemporaries, pioneered the sense that girls and women were just as capable in sports as anybody else. Gracey was one of the first to make field hockey an institution of Long Island sports, Schwartz said, and she also introduced programs for women in basketball and track and even an archery club. 

“She was one of the first to have the overriding idea that sports was a way to take positions of leadership,” Schwartz said, adding it was “a long time coming” to see the names of her grandmother and the other woman added to the wall.

Port Jefferson board President Ellen Boehm said that while she came into the district right after Gracey had retired, she was the one who took girls sports to the next level within the district. She said that before women like Gracey pushed for equality in sports, girls would often play just a few innings of a sport like softball with another school. 

“She was one of the trailblazers in bringing recognition to girls sports,” she said.

Schwartz remembered her grandmother’s memorial, how in a packed house with “people in the rafters” all saying the same thing, that “Ruth was a special person to them, and they were a special person to her.” They all realized, “she had that quality — to make you feel you were the most important person in the world.”

Dr. H. Jean Berger 

Berger was originally from Nebraska but moved to Erie County with her family in 1930. She graduated from Springville-Griffith Institute High School in 1941 and then from SUNY Buffalo State College in 1945 where she majored in physical education. She later attained her doctorate of education degree from New York University.

Her career started in Springville in 1946 before moving on to Bay Shore in 1949, where she developed sports activities for girls at a time when girls athletics was frowned upon.

She would spend most of her career at the Three Village Central School District, and from 1966 to 1980 she worked as teacher, athletic coordinator of girls sports, leadership teacher and clinical supervisor for the K-8 physical education, volleyball coach and adviser to the Girls Leaders Club and Girls Athletic Association. 

In 1949 she was the first president of the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association, and in 1975-1976, she was the president of NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. At various times between 1966 and 1980 she was very involved with Section XI, Suffolk County athletics: vice president, multiple committees, board of directors, volleyball chair, athletic council and Gold Key committee. 

Berger passed away in 2003.

Michele Dougherty was a coach and administrator in the Three Village school district from 1973 to 2007 and worked with Berger for several years until her retirement in 1980. Dougherty said she “had a profound influence on me professionally and on a personal level.” She added, Berger, or Dr. B as she and the students called her, not only fought for the Gold Star Award that she and other women helped introduce in 1953 but helped expand it to cover boys athletics as well.

“She has had a profound influence on girls sports through her historic efforts in developing athletic programs for girls throughout the county,” Dougherty said.

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Port Jeff sophomore Abigail Rolfe drives the base line in a home game against Southampton Jan. 30. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson held off a late charge by the Southampton Mariners Jan. 30 at home to win 48-37 to stay atop the League VII leaderboard at 12-2.

Sophomore Abigail Rolfe led the way for the Royals hitting five from the floor and eight free throws for a team high of 18 points. Port Jeff senior Samantha Ayotte followed with 10 points, while junior Evelyn Walker did her damage from long range hitting three triples for 9 points total. Brooke Zamek, a junior, netted eight.

The win gives the Royals a two-game lead over 2nd place Mattituck with two games remaining before post season play begins.

The Royals retake the court in a road game against Smithtown Christian Feb. 3 before returning home to take on Greenport/Southold Feb 5. Games times are 4 and 5 p.m. respectively.

The Northport Tigers outran the Centereach Cougars, leading by 24 points at the half and then cruised to a 76-43 victory at home in a League III matchup Jan. 28. 

Junior Pat Healy topped the scoring chart for the Tigers with nine field goals, two triples and a free throw for 25 points. Senior Larry Citrola followed with 13 while junior Robby Kennedy banked 11. 

Centereach junior Chris Cartolano and senior Matt Robbert netted 13 points apiece while junior Matt Maxwell chipped in five.

Northport remains undefeated in league play this season and sits atop the leaderboard at 10-0, 17-1 overall with two games remaining before postseason play begins. The loss drops the Cougars to 3-6 in their division and 4-13 overall.

Northport retakes the court with a road game against Smithtown West Jan. 31. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

Centereach is back in action Feb. 1 with a home game against their crosstown rival Newfield. Game time is at 1 p.m.

 

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Farhbach, at 99 pounds, puts down his SWR opponent where his team won 47-24. Photo from Mel Jacoby

Syracuse, here they come, and not for the first time.

The Mount Sinai wrestling team after their win against SWR. Photo from Mel Jacoby

On Saturday, Jan. 25, Mount Sinai wrestlers beat Shoreham-Wading River in the finals of the Suffolk County Division II championship 47-24 to advance to the New York State Division II wrestling championship in Syracuse. Mount Sinai won an earlier match against Shoreham-Wading River in the regular season.  

The seniors again dazzled the capacity crowd by scoring pins at their respective weights. They were led by seniors Matt Campo at 170 pounds (34-2), Joe Goodrich at 182 pounds (35-0), Mike O’Brien at 138 pounds (33-4) and Adham Shata at 195 pounds (34-3), who each won their match.  

Taking charge at the lower weights was Brayden Fahrbach at 99 pounds, who won by a pin, while Derrek Menechino, Jack Tyrell and Brenden Goodrich all reversed earlier losses against Shoreham-Wading River to score decisive wins.   

Contributing to the team effort were middle weights Ryan Shanian at 145 pounds and Tristan Nardi at 160 pounds, who each won their matches.  

On the SWR side, the team ends league play with 7-6-1 and 19-4-1 overall.

This was the third year in a row that Mustang wrestlers won the Suffolk County Division II championship.  

Mount Sinai will advance to Syracuse for the New York State Dual Meet Championship at the SRC Arena Feb. 1, where they will defend their New York State title, which they have won the past two years.

Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania is also where Kobe Bryant went to school. Photo from Google Maps

By Benji Dunaief

People sometimes ask, “Where did you grow up?”

I grew up in Lower Merion, an unassuming quiet suburb about 20-30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I attended the local public schools, including Lower Merion High School, or just “LM” for short. Most would probably agree that LM is an above average public school, but they’d also probably agree that it’s not particularly extraordinary, except for one reason. Kobe Bryant went to Lower Merion High School.

Benji Dunaief

My freshman year coincided with the opening of LM’s brand new school building. The old building had been there for over 100 years, and the district had decided to start anew. On my first tour of the new school when I was still an eighth grader, one feature stood out to me above the rest – the soon-to-be-named Kobe Bryant Gymnasium. The gym, paid for in part by a substantial donation from Kobe, was to be a testament to the storied history of Lower Merion sports over the century since the school’s founding.

Of course, that history is heavily punctuated by Bryant’s own legacy. The perimeter of the gym is plastered with murals of Kobe in LM jerseys, his name is scrawled in massive cursive over the entrance and a glass case housing memorabilia from Kobe’s LM career is located just outside the gym. A very well-vacuumed LM embroidered rug was placed at the foot of the case, and my friends and I used to joke that its real purpose was for students to pay respects by bowing down to the “Kobe shrine.”

A few months into my freshman year, LM planned a gym dedication ceremony for the ages. The ceremony was scheduled to coincide with a matchup between the Lakers and the Sixers in Philly, so that Kobe would already be in town. The black-tie event featured a performance from popular local rapper Chiddy Bang, and a myriad of celebrities were in attendance, including several members of the Philadelphia Phillies who showed up to support Kobe, and nearly the entire Lakers team came too. Tickets for students and community members were in the hundreds of dollars.

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw everything, I thought it was way over the top. I thought he was just another celebrity personality in the middle of a big publicity stunt. But then I heard the stories from old teachers who had taught him way back when. Stories about how friendly and eager he was to learn — he still kept in touch with his English teacher. Stories from former classmates and students who had seen him in the halls — always smiling and laughing — or had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him — he always made time to talk with alumn. Then I joined the basketball team, the Aces, (to film games and create video highlights and definitely NOT to play) and saw how he still guided and influenced that team 18 years after he took his last fadeaway in the maroon and white. He aided the team both physically, by gifting crates upon crates of his branded warm-up attire, jackets, and sneakers (even creating special “Aces Edition” Kobe’s), and spiritually, by frequently tweeting to support the Aces and inviting them to his basketball camps. His relationship with head coach Gregg Downer remained strong, and the two frequently talked. Kobe called Downer the most influential coach in his entire career. Studying Downer’s gritty, give-everything-you-got coaching philosophy, it’s not hard to see that helping to shape the scrappy and relentless style of play Kobe became famous for.

Most high schools have notable alumni. For example, Cheltenham High School, which is just on the other side of town, has an insane number of famous alumni, including Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, 15-time Grammy Award winner Michael Brecker, and rapper Lil Dicky. But you would probably not have first associated those people with Cheltenham. When I’m out somewhere wearing Lower Merion apparel, whether in Europe, Canada, Chicago or Los Angeles, people will recognize the name, and it’s usually followed by a “huh, Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant isn’t just an alum of Lower Merion. Kobe Bryant took an active role in shaping the culture and the ideals of Lower Merion and he simultaneously allowed himself to become shaped by it, to the point where there was hardly a way to separate one from the other. Kobe Bryant made Lower Merion his own.

When people ask me “Where did you grow up?” I say, “Lower Merion, I went to Kobe Bryant’s high school.”

Benji Dunaief is director of TBR News Media produced films “One Life to Give” and its sequel, “Traitor: A Culper Spy Story.”