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Alec Rinaldi

Alex Merhige blocks Rocky Point’s Jack Costa’s shot. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields seniors Alex Merhige and Shane Wagner led the way for the top-seeded Tornadoes who blew past host Rocky Point, 64-30, Jan. 31.

League V’s Rocky Point, at 1-9, was no match for Harborfields, which notched its 10th League V victory of the year, to improve to 10-1 with just three games left in the regular season.

Shane Wagner moves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields senior Kyle Stolba sparked the offense early with three straight 3-pointers, and Wagner added a trifecta of his own to lead the Tornadoes to a 29-11 lead after the first quarter.

Always a scoring threat, Rocky Point junior Alec Rinaldi was shut down by the  Tornadoes defense, and wouldn’t find the rim until the second period, where he banked a field goal and a 3-pointer to bring the score to 29-16. Despite holding off Rinaldi, the Tornadoes were limited in scoring.

Wagner tacked on a pair of field goals and another 3-pointer, and Stolba, Merhige and sophomore Pat Williamson hit for two, for a 35-20 lead into the locker room.

“Our goal was to increase the tempo of the game — speed it up as we pressed them the whole game —  and we got a lot of turnovers because of that,” Wagner said. “I thought we played well on defense and we held Rinaldi.”

Merhige said as long as his team plays solid defense and protects the ball, the scoring will come.

“I thought we moved the ball really well, we got some open threes,” Merhige said. “We were finding people on the fast break, we played good [defense and did well] rebounding.”

Rinaldi opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers, and was fouled driving the lane, netting a pair of free throws for all of the eight points the Eagles could muster in the third quarter. He finished the game with 13 points, and junior David Apperson added eight.

Ahead 56-28 going into the final eight minutes of play, Harborfields’ head coach John Tampori let his bench players take it from there. Sophomores Michael McDermott and Ryan Rittberger each banked two points, Williamson struck again and junior Luca Cordova hit a field goal for Harborfields’ final points in the contest.

Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi shoots while Harborfields’ Joe Kelly reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

Wagner led Harborfields with 14 points, Merhige finished with 12 and Stolba tacked on 11.

Tampori said he employed a different defensive strategy that he hadn’t used earlier in the season.

‘We threw a couple of new things out today — like we usually don’t press full court, but we did today because we thought we had an advantage there,” he said. “One of our goals is to be as best as we can be on defense. There’s always room for improvement.”

With the win, Harborfields is 15-2 overall, but is tied with Amityville at 10-1 in the league standings. The Tornadoes will host Miller Place today, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m.

“We shot the ball well tonight, so we got everyone in tonight, which is a great feeling,” Tampori said. “With three games left before the playoffs, we’ll focus on making good decisions with the basketball and playing good sound positional defense.”

Last season, Merhige was sidelined with an injury, and Harborfields won two playoff games to become the Suffolk County champion, before falling to Elmont in the Long Island title game, 41-32, after edging the team 61-60 earlier that season.

With a healthy Merhige back in the lineup, prospects for the postseason may be even brighter this time around.

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Mount Sinai’s Harrison Bak leaps up to the basket while Rocky Point’s David Apperson reaches for the block. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Mount Sinai Mustangs put their patented resiliency and toughness on display on the road this week.

Even after an 11-point Rocky Point run late in the second quarter to pull within five points, Mount Sinai’s boys’ basketball team battled back and hung on for a 53-40 nonleague win on the road Dec. 13.

The Mustangs put together a near perfect first quarter, creating easy layups and racking up points off put-backs to pull ahead 19-9.

Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like the way we started the game — I thought we came out pretty strong,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said, although he was disappointed with the run his team let up. “The same kind of thing happened when we played Riverhead at home last week. We jumped on them early, they made a little run and then we came back again, so I think the boys are good with that. They’re an experienced group. They’re resilient, tough kids.”

After the 11-0 run, Mount Sinai sophomore forward Nick Pintabona swished two free throws with 3.3 seconds left before halftime to end a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. Despite the spree, Mount Sinai maintained a 28-21 advantage.

“We kept our composure, we keep a level head,” Mount Sinai senior center Harrison Bak said. “They got a little scrappy, but we kept cool, came back and won by 13.”

Bak came out to score the first two points of the third on a layup, with an assist from senior point guard Nick Rose. Minutes later, Bak tacked on a 3-point play to further stem the tide.

“We faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and then we made a good run,” Rose said. “I think we were playing really strong. We had a bunch of guys crashing for the rebounds. We were getting the easy put-backs, they were fouling us, we were getting to the free-throw line.”

The Mustangs outscored the Eagles 17-10 in the quarter, and that momentum propelled the team through the fourth, hanging onto the lead despite being edged out 9-8.

Senior forward Cole Harkins led Mount Sinai with 13 points, Bak had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Rose chipped in 11 points with five assists and eight rebounds.

The Mustangs thought their showing on the defensive-side of the ball was effective, holding Rocky Point to under 50 points, but Harkins said he would’ve liked to see his team box out more, and Rose would like to limit the fouls and play better over the screens.

Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team focused on holding down Rocky Point’s top scorer, senior Alec Rinaldi. The Mustangs made several big blocks, forced turnovers and limited Rinaldi, but the guard still scored 16 points to lead all scorers.

The Mustangs improved to 4-0 thus far in all nonleague games, and will play two league games before Christmas break.

McNeely said despite the league growing stronger with the new additions of Southampton and Wyandanch, his team has been playing together all offseason, which might explain its strong start.

“I think that experience is starting to show,” he said. “We’re shooting the ball well. We’re shooting the 3-point shot real well. We have some good guards and we have some good, big guys and we have guys that can kind of play both positions.”

Rose said the team has already been tested, which he sees as a positive.

“It was important that they started to come back because we stuck with it — we faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and we made a good run,” he said. “I want to make the playoffs and I want to make a little run in the playoffs. I think getting there will be our hardest task, but there’s a bunch of teams in our league that we can really get after on defense and attack on offense, and I think it should produce some wins for us.”

By Bill Landon

The fourth quarter showed something the Tornadoes did little of all game: throwing.

Trailing by six points in the final minutes, the Harborfields football team came out hurling the ball against Rocky Point — making a push to tie — but time ran out on a fourth and long for a 20-14 homecoming loss.

Harborfields junior quarterback P.J. Clementi worked the sidelines and gained heavy yardage as the clock wound down to a minute left, airing the ball to junior wide receiver Gavin Buda, whose acrobatic catches and ability to get out of bounds after the grab brought the Tornadoes into Rocky Point’s zone. On a fourth and long, the Tornadoes were unable to convert as time expired.

“Rocky Point came out more physical than us in the beginning and that took away our [speed] and our running game, which forced us to pass, which is fine with us,” Harborfields head coach Rocco Colucci said. “These kids got a lot of heart, they fight to the bitter end no matter what the score is, no matter who we’re playing — they always believe they have a chance to win.”

Rocky Point struck first when junior running back Petey LaSalla punched into the end zone following a 22-yard run three minutes into the game. With senior quarterback Sean McGovern’s extra-point kick good, the Eagles were out front 7-0. McGovern shared the quarterback duties with junior Damian Rivera all afternoon.

“These kids got a lot of heart, they fight to the bitter end no matter what the score is, no matter who we’re playing — they always believe they have a chance to win.”

—Rocco Colucci

The Eagles struggled with their running game, and neither team scored in the second, as Rocky Point squandered a field goal attempt in the seconds before halftime.

Again, it was LaSalla who got the call to start off the scoring for the second half.

Early in the third, the junior broke several tackles, bounced outside and went the distance on a 32-yard run. McGovern’s foot put his team out front, 14-0.

LaSalla said he never doubted the outcome of the game.

“Not for a minute did we think we were going to lose,” he said. “Our defense really stepped up big today. We had a really good back field and we were able to shut them down, which forced them to throw the ball.”

After a sustained drive, Harborfields finally got on the scoreboard when senior running back Mark Malico ran off left tackle and took the ball 1 yard for six points. Harborfields senior kicker Thomas Beslity added another to make it a one-score game to trail 14-7.

“They’re always a tough team — we’ve had trouble with them in the past — obviously we had some trouble with them today,” Malico said of Rocky Point. “We turned it on [late] and we found our niche with our passing game with some nice catches on the sideline.”

On the ensuing kickoff, McGovern fielded the ball on his own 6-yard line, and sprinted up the left side, crosing midfield and jetting down the righ side line for a 94-yard kickoff return to stretch the Eagles lead to 20-7, with the extra-point attempt failing.

“We just had to stay consistent — every man has got to do their job and [not] overdo it,” McGovern said. “We battled through everything today between the turnovers and them coming back in the last two minutes, so we stayed calm and worked together.”

“We battled through everything today between the turnovers and them coming back in the last two minutes, so we stayed calm and worked together.”

—Sean McGovern

Harborfields switched to its passing attack with seven minutes remaining. Clementi worked the routes and the sideline, and connected with senior wide receiver Andrew Loiacono for a 70-yard catch and run to set up the Tornadoes’ next score. Clementi threw a screen pass to sophomore running back Thomas Sangiovanni, and he turned the corner jetted down the sideline for the touchdown. Beslity split the uprights to close the gap, 20-14.

“We analyzed our defense,” Sangiovanni said. “We had to execute the plays perfectly, we had to change a couple of things up and it worked out. [Rocky Point] just played harder than us in the end.”

Harborfields’ defense took a stand and a clock-eating drive forced the Eagles to punt with three minutes left. Rocky Point head coach Anthony DiLorenzo said he wasn’t surprised that the game was decided in the final seconds.

“We knew this was going to be a four quarter football game,” he said. “They’ve put it on film every week. We’ve done [that in only] two games so far, so our message all week was that this was going to be a four quarter game.”

Clementi went to the air picking apart the Eagles’ secondary, moving the chains downfield as he marched his team to Rocky Point’s 30-yard line with 1:37 left in the game.

On fourth down with 38 seconds, Clementi threw a strike to Buda crossing over the middle, but Rocky Point junior linebacker Alec Rinaldi knocked down the pass to seal the win.

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Mount Sinai senior Noah Wessels changes direction in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point’s s

rry Lynch led his team to victory with 30 points in the Eagles’ come-from-behind win over host Mount Sinai, 46-41, in nonleague boys’ basketball action Friday night.

Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Lynch, a senior, went to work early in the opening quarter with three three-pointers and two field goals to help put his team out front 17-10 after the first eight minutes of play.

“We came out hot,” he said. “Everyone was setting screens and we were moving the ball. I was lucky I hit a couple of shots.”

On the other side of the court, Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly carried the load early for the Mustangs, banking a trifecta, a field goal and a pair of free throws for seven of his teams’ 19 points after two quarters of play.

“Harry Lynch is who we’ve keyed on for the last three seasons,” Kelly said. “We played fairly well, but we missed a lot of shots. Had we shot the way we’ve been shooting, we would’ve pulled this one out.”

Lynch remained unstoppable, as he hit his fourth trey and netted a pair of field goals to help his team to a 27-19 advantage by the halftime break.

“We’re lucky to have Harry [Lynch],” Rocky Point head coach James Jordan said. “He was on fire in that first half and he continued in the second half. He’s our general out there so where he goes, we go.”

The Mustangs were fired up coming out of the locker room, though, and because Rocky Point lost the battle of the boards in the first half, Jordan said it forced some adjustments. As a result, Mount Sinai opened the third quarter with an answer for Lynch, as the team closed within one point at the 5:33 mark, 30-29.

Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

“We came out strong in the first half, but we came out a little flat in the second,” Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi said. “We’ve been known to do that, but we stuck with them — we weathered the storm; got right back in it.”

Behind senior Noah Wessels’ six points in the quarter, with four other players contributing, Mount Sinai scored a field goal to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game, 31-30.

The score flip-flopped, and by the fourth quarter it was Rocky Point that was clinging to a one-point advantage, 37-36.

The Eagles looked to finish off the Mustangs, and surged ahead 43-36 with just over three minutes to go, but Mount Sinai battled back and trimmed the deficit to 43-41 with just under two minutes left in the game.

“I didn’t think they were going to be that strong shooting out of the gate,” Mount Sinai senior Vinny Margulies said. “Defensively, we played well the whole game. It’s just that we were shaky shooting throughout the game.”

Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Mount Sinai had the opportunity to tie the game with 46 seconds left on a 1-and-1 opportunity, but missed. As the clock wound down to 20 seconds, Lynch was fouled and confidently swished both to seal the deal. With 4.4 seconds on the clock, Rocky Point senior Colin Kotarski scored once off his appearance at the charity stripe, to give the game its final score.

“Harry Lynch is an outstanding player and he showed that again tonight,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said. “We played him man-to-man and he was getting real good looks and getting shots, so we changed to a zone where we trapped to keep the ball out of his hands to make someone else hurt us.”

Lynch scored six three-pointers on the evening. Rinaldi banked seven points and Kotarski tacked on six.

Topping the scoreboard for Mount Sinai was Kelly with 12, while Wessels and Margulies tacked on eight points apiece.

Rocky Point will have a week off before hosting Shoreham-Wading River next Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 11 a.m. Mount Sinai hits the road Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff at East Hampton.

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Panthers pick off passes, make big offensive moves to annihilate Eagles, 53-14

By Bill Landon

The Panthers pounced early, and often.

On Saturday afternoon, the Miller Place football team outscored Rocky Point 53-14 in their homecoming game. After the pregame parade of floats, the marching band, fire trucks, cheerleaders and the crowning of the king & queen, the Panthers went to work.

Miller Place moved the chains four minutes in and appeared to stall on a 4th-and-19, but a call from the playbook was to go for it, and they did. Miller Place senior quarterback Stephen Farrell faked a handoff and rolled to his right, he was able to see a clear path to senior wide receiver Thomas Bell, who found the end zone for the score.

“We practice that play a lot and it was too far for a field goal, so we might as well take a shot with a play that we practice all week,” Farrell said. “And when it’s run the right way, it looks good.”

With the point after good, the Panthers took an early lead, 7-0.

Rocky Point fumbled the ball on its next possession, and Miller Place sophomore running back Tyler Ammirato, on a long run, put the Panthers in scoring position. Two plays later, Ammirato finished what he started by powering into the end zone for the Panthers second score. With the extra-point kick successful, the team took a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rocky Point fielded the ball on the 1-yard line, and stepped back into its own end zone and took a knee, downing the ball in the Eagles’ own end zone and handing the Panthers two points on a safety.

With 1:36 left in the opening quarter, Miller Place senior running back Kemonte Mosely made something out of nothing when he stalled up the middle and bounced outside, running eight yards to the end zone. With junior Eric Romero-Cisneros’ kick good, the Panthers took a 23-0 advantage into the second quarter.

“Coaches told us to come out here and play our hearts out,” Mosely said. “It’s homecoming, and the last time for our seniors to come out here and make it big. Rocky Point’s our neighbor — we knew it was going to be a big game for us, so we came out here and played hard.”

The Eagles found the end zone on the opening play of the second quarter when senior quarterback Harrison Lynch found sophomore running back Alec Rinaldi for the touchdown. Junior Sean McGovern split the uprights, and his team trailed, 23-7.

From there, it went from bad to worse for the Eagles, as the Panthers continued to light up the scoreboard. First, senior running back Matthew Bell, on a hand off, stepped outside and strolled into the end zone untouched. Rock Point was desperate to stop the bleeding and threw a long ball down the right sideline only to have it picked off by Miller Place senior defensive back and co-captain Mike Bodnar, who ran it back to the 16-yard line. With 8:55 left in the half, Farrell found Matthew Bell, who caught the ball and ran 21 yards for the score and 37-7 lead.

“Words can’t describe how bad we wanted it — we had the heart and the hustle,” Bell said. “We wanted it more and that’s what happened.”

The Eagles couldn’t get any traction, as Lynch searched for an open receiver and threw the ball down the right sidelines, only to have it picked off again, this time, by senior defensive back Kevin Kelleher.

The Panthers took over on the 34-yard line, but were unable to move the chains. With a cold breeze sweeping through, Romero-Cisneros knocked the ball between the posts with 16 seconds left on the clock. His 37-yard field goal helped his team surge ahead 40-7.

On the subsequent kickoff, the Eagles had time for one or two more plays. Desperate to put points on the board before the halftime break, Rocky Point made another long attempt, but Kelleher again saw the pass and snatched the ball out of the air for his second interception on the day.

Thomas Bell opened the second half for Miller Place with an 85-yard kickoff return to put the Panthers deep into Eagles territory. Mosely got the call, again, and delivered. Two plays later, he pushed his way into the end zone, and just 15 seconds into the third quarter, Miller Place head coach Ron Petrie began rotating his bench players with the 47-7 advantage.

“Defensively, we set a tone early; they had a couple of quick three and outs,” Petrie said. “With what we do offensively, we knew we would be able to find some mismatches in the passing game, and I think that’s what opened it up for us.”

In the closing quarter, Ammirato struck again for the Panthers’ final score of the day.

“It was a great win and I’m happy we won for our seniors today,” Ammirato said.

With the missed extra point, the Panthers were out in front, 53-7.

Rocky Point wasn’t out of gas just yet, and the Eagles managed one more score with nine minutes left when senior running back Brandon Combs found the end zone to help bring the final score to 53-14.

Bell said the win was very satisfying.

“They fought hard, we fought hard; it’s all the preparation from our coaches that got us to where we are now,” he said.

Farrell wasn’t surprised by the win, and was proud of his team’s efforts as the Panthers improve to 4-2 in Division III, while Rocky Point dropped to 2-4.

“It just shows how hard we worked and how bad we wanted this win,” Farrell said. “We wanted it for all the fans, and we wanted it for all of us.”

Harborfields ties game to end 3rd quarter, Eagles score three touchdowns to pull away, 48-33

By Bill Landon

The Rocky Point football team pulled out a 48-33 victory in Saturday’s homecoming game, halting a late rally by visiting Harborfields, which tied the game at 27-27 after three quarters of play. The Eagles watched their first-half 27-12 advantage disappear in the third quarter, to make it a new game in the final 12 minutes of play. Rocky Point was able to outscore its opponent with three touchdowns in the final quarter in front of a capacity crowd, to move to 2-3 in Division III.

Rocky Point sophomore running back Peter LaSalla broke free from the line of scrimmage four minutes into the game and jetted down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run and the first score of the game. Although the extra-point attempt failed, the team took an early 6-0 lead.

A minute later, the Tornadoes were unable to convert on downs, and punted the ball away to junior receiver Sean McGovern, who returned the punt 65 yards for the Eagles’ second touchdown of the game.

“We got a big play from Sean on that punt return,” Rocky Point senior quarterback Harrison Lynch said.

McGovern, also the kicker, finished what he started, and split the uprights to help his team break out to a 13-0 lead.

Harborfields answered back when quarterback Cody Cunningham, on a keeper, punched in for the score, but the Eagles blocked the extra-point kick attempt, to trail the Eagles, 13-6.

Lynch and sophomore Damian Rivera shared quarterback duties all afternoon, and Rivera, under center, passed the ball over to Lynch, who broke outside and went the distance for the touchdown. McGovern’s point-after was good, and the Eagles stretched their lead to 20-6.

Harborfields, on the longest sustained drive of the afternoon that consumed four minutes off the clock, ended its march across the field with a score, despite a penalty-plagued campaign that included a 15- yard unsportsmanlike conduct call. The extra-point kick attempt failed again, and the Tornadoes settled for a 20-12 deficit with just over two minutes left in the half.

Rocky Point looked to put the game away when Lynch, on a play-action pass, found LaSalla open down the right sideline. The running back gathered it in on a catch-and-run play, and recorded a 46-yard score. With the point after, the Eagles took a 27-12 advantage into the halftime break, but that lead didn’t last for long.

Harborfields moved the chains to open the second half only to cough the ball up four minutes in, as Rocky Point took possession on their own 25-yard line. Unable to capitalize, the Tornadoes were on the move again.

On a play-action pass, Harborfields quarterback Cody Cunningham found wide receiver Christian Mullings in the end zone for the score, and after a successful two-point conversion, made it a one-score game, 27-20.

On Rocky Points’ ensuing possession, the Eagles fumbled and Harborfields recovered the ball on the 34- yard line with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. On the second play from scrimmage, the Tornadoes cashed in and tied the game 27-27.

McGovern said he was surprised that Harborfields was able to even the score.

“It was a little bit of a shock, but we knew we could get back in it,” McGovern said. “Harry Lynch led us — he motivated. He sure can play; he’s a baller.”

Moving into the fourth quarter, the Eagles knew they had to finish the game the way they started.

“We just had to keep going, so we started the fourth like it was 0-0,” LaSalla said. “We put up the first two touchdowns [to start the game], so we knew we could do it again.”

The Eagles went to work in the final 12 minutes., and Lynch got the ball moving when he fired deep to the senior running back Paul Dominguez for a touchdown pass, as Rocky Point jumped back out in front, 34-27.

Cunningham looking to retie the game, and dropped back to pass, but had to check down, or look for his secondary receivers, and was blindsided just as he released the ball. Rocky Point junior tight end and defensive back Brendan Heggers found himself under the ill-fated pass, and grabbed possession for the interception.

“We came out a little flat after halftime,” Lynch said, “but we picked it up after that interception, and just got things rolling after that.”

The Eagles wasted no time in cashing in on Harborfield’s miscue, and sophomore running back Alec Rinaldi plowed his way up the middle to find the end zone. McGovern split the pipes once again, and the Eagles surged ahead 41-27 with seven minutes left to play.

Harborfields wouldn’t go quietly, and Cunningham bulled his way up the middle for six points, but the extra-point attempt missed. Rocky Point put the game away with just under two minutes remaining when Rinaldi struck again, and the successful point-after brought the final score to 48-33.

“Harborfields is a tough team,” Lynch said. Opening the fourth quarter, the quarterback said: “We gotta get it done. We’ve just gotta find a way to get it done; it’s as simple as that.”

And the Eagles did.

Rocky Point will hit the road Saturday as the team heads to Miller Place. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.