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Harborfields' Robert Pecorelli nails a 3-pointer in the Suffolk County Section XI championship game at Stony Brook University on Feb. 27. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

For the first time in 20 games, the Harborfields’ boys’ basketball team met its match.

Harborfields' Danny Morgan drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Danny Morgan drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

With the Class A champion Harborfields ahead 56-55 with 5.2 seconds left in regulation, the Class AA champion Half Hollow Hills West, went to the free-throw line and swished both opportunities to capture the overall Suffolk County championship title, 57-56, at Stony Brook’ University’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena Friday night.

“It’s been all year that our guys don’t stop fighting and they have a way of just staying in the game, even against a team like Half Hollow Hills West,” Harborfields head coach John Tampori said. “We were able to stay right with them.”

It was a push-and-shove game from the opening tipoff, and neither team was able to break the game open. After Harborfields senior guard Robert Pecorelli launched a deep shot that hit the basket at the buzzer, the game was tied 18-18 at the end of the first eight minutes.

Harborfields senior guard Malcolm Wynter swished his second 3-pointer to open the second quarter, which retied the game at 21-21.

Hills West turned up the heat and edged ahead with a buzzer-beater of its own to end the half up 32-24.

Harborfields' Malcolm Wynter stares down the Half Hollow Hills West defense. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Malcolm Wynter stares down the Half Hollow Hills West defense. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields’ 3-point game caught fire in the third period when Pecorelli banked his fourth trifecta of the game, Wynter drained his third and senior guard Danny Morgan netted his second, as the momentum began to shift.

On Hills West’s next possession, Morgan snatched the inbounds pass, and bolted through the paint for a layup that again tied the game, this time, at 41-41 with less than two minutes left in the period.

Trailing by a point in the fourth, Harborfields senior forward Nick Mitchell got the call off an inside pass, did a spin move in the paint and found the rim to put his team back in front, 50-49, with 5:19 left in regulation. Hills West countered though, to retake a one-point lead.

Wynter’s lightning-fast defensive play matched his high-scoring offense, as the senior sensed where the Hills West’s no-look passes were going. On a seemingly simple inbounds pass, Wynter flashed in front for the steal and went to the rim for the score to retake the lead for his team.

Harborfields' Nick Mitchell scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Nick Mitchell scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Hills West retaliated with two consecutive scores to take a 55-52 lead with just over a minute left, but Mitchell went to the stripe shooting two and split his appearance to make it a two-point game. Wynter struck again with a monster 3-pointer, his fourth of the night, to retake the lead by one with 58 seconds left in regulation.

Trailing by one with 5.2 seconds left, Hills West senior Richard Altenord went to the charity stripe shooting two. The senior calmly sank both for a one-point advantage as Harborfields called time out.

“Hills West — they’re real good,” Tampori said. “Anyone who beats Brentwood and Northport is really good.”

With time for one final offensive possession, Harborfields did what it has done all season, and put the ball in Wynter’s hands. The senior raced to the top of the key in a desperate attempt to find the net, but the buzzer sounded before the point guard could get the shot off.

Harborfields' Alex Bloom scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Alex Bloom scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“We got a little unlucky,” Tampori said. “They had the last possession and they got a foul called and that was the difference in the game.”

Wynter lead his team in scoring with 20 points, Pecorelli put up 12 and Morgan added 10.

Harborfields sets its sights higher when the Tornadoes travel to Long Island University Post for the Long Island Championship on March 6, where they’ll face Elmont for a second time this season. The Tornadoes defeated the Nassau champions 61-60 on Jan. 16 in a nonleague matchup. Tipoff for the championship game on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The Tigers’ tallest player was short on time, and it wasn’t enough to dig his team out of the hole that knocked them out of the playoffs.

The No. 3-seeded Half Hollow Hills West boys’ basketball team took advantage of No. 2 Northport’s early foul trouble, which left star senior center Lukas Jarrett benched for most of the first half with two personal fouls. By the time he returned to the Stony Brook University court for the second half of the Suffolk County Class AA semifinal matchup, the Tigers’ 31-20 deficit only continued to grow.

Northport had finished the season undefeated in League II, at 14-0, and only suffered one loss this season, a 70-48 defeat at Baldwin. The Tigers’ 72-47 loss on Sunday evening proved to be a similar-looking one, with the Colts coming up with big blocks and an array of 3-pointers to stifle Northport. The difference this time, though, was that the 6-foot, 7-inch Jarrett was not around to counter with many blocks of his own, and although the Tigers scored six 3-pointers, the Colts’ Matt Asenjo had six alone, followed by Kian Dalyrimple with five. The two combined for 41 points — almost as much as Northport’s entire team.

When Jarrett returned, he came through with a block to go along with a field goal and two free-throw points. Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea, who had been strong on offense the entire season, took over in Jarrett’s absence, scoring six points in each half for a team-high 12 points. Jarrett finished with nine points. Guards Brennan Whelan, a senior; Kevin Cryer-Hassett and Ryan Magnuson, both juniors; and Justin Carrano, a sophomore, tacked on five points apiece.

Northport was able to close the gap back to 11 points with O’Shea’s field goal at the 6:27 mark of the third, but by the end of those eight minutes the Tigers were down 49-30. Half Hollow Hills West led by as much as 30 points, after a trifecta put the team up 70-40 with 2:35 left in regulation, but O’Shea’s free-throw point, Cryer-Hassett’s 3-point play and junior guard Brett Vansteenbergen’s 3-pointer helped narrow that lead to give the game its final score.

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By Bill Landon

It wasn’t like the Newfield football team to trail in a game, but like the first and only other time they found themselves behind this season, it didn’t last.

Both times were against the Colts of Half Hollow Hills West. The first time was when the two teams faced off in September, when the Wolverines went on to outscore their opponent, 41-13. But this time, the teams were on a bigger stage — the Suffolk County Division II championship. Continuing its quest for a perfect season, Newfield propelled past a 20-18 deficit late in the second quarter to help the team claim its second county title since 2011, with a 58-34 victory at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium Friday night.

“From the beginning of the season you work as hard as you can to get here,” Newfield senior Austin Gubelman said. “It’s a surreal feeling, it really is.”

Gubelman, a tight end, scored first on a short run, and after a failed two-point conversion attempt, Hills West cut the Wolverines’ lead in half with a field goal. Newfield senior Elijah Riley, a wide receiver who has been a one-man wrecking machine this postseason with eight touchdowns in the last three games, scored his first of four touchdowns off a handoff he took more than 50 yards for the 12-3 advantage, after another failed two-point conversion attempt, to end the scoring in the first.

The two teams totaled 952 yards, with 516 coming from Newfield. Riley alone finished the game with 146 yards on 11 carries.

With junior Justin Ottenwalder catching a pass up the middle and carrying it 71 yards for a touchdown run, the halfback, who caught three passes for 154 yards and gained 62 yards on eight carries, helped the Wolverines remain in front. But the Colts responded with another field goal and an interception on a screen pass that was returned for a touchdown. With the extra-point attempt successful, Newfield’s opponent took a 20-18 lead with 1:51 left in the half.

Just like in that September matchup, the Wolverines wouldn’t stay behind for long.

With 20 seconds on the clock, Riley took matters into his own hands. He took a handoff up the middle and found nothing. Bouncing off the wall of defenders, the senior looked for an open hole on his first, second and third attempts before cutting to the outside and finding the corner of the end zone from four yards out to put his team out in front, 24-10. From there, the Wolverines never looked back.

Hills West was on the move to start the second half, but a deep throw to a wide receiver was snatched by Newfield senior safety Denzel Williams. From the 18-yard line, Williams returned the interception up field to the 31-yard line. He finished with 108 yards on nine carries.

Newfield senior Ryan Klemm, the team’s quarterback, dumped a screen pass off to Ottenwalder, who jetted down the left sideline, covering 69 yards for the score. With the extra-point attempt by senior kicker Jacob VanEssendelft successful, the Wolverines extended their lead to 31-20 with 7:22 left in the third.

Klemm said he knew his team had the ability to bounce back, and the Wolverines refocused their efforts after a losing record at the end of last year.

“We knew we had a really talented team and we worked very hard in the offseason,” the quarterback said. “It’s surreal right now. It’s an awesome feeling, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

The Colts fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and Newfield junior Jesse McKeever scooped it up and took off for the end zone. The cornerback was stopped just shy of the goal line, and the Wolverines offensive unit went back to work. Gubelman got the call and plowed his way up the middle for his second touchdown in the game. With a missed point-after attempt, the tight end put his team out front, 37-20.

With just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Half Hollow Hills West quarterback Anthony Lucarelli found the end zone on a keeper and, with the point after, the Colts closed the gap a bit.

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Newfield called on Williams, the Middle Country sprinter, who dashed 64 yards across the field, leading blockers all the way to the end zone. With the kick from VanEssendelft good, Newfield jumped out to a 44-27 advantage.

And after a Hills West three-and-out, Newfield struck again.

With just over a minute left in the third quarter, Riley eluded three tacklers and covered 46 yards for six points. VanEssendelft’s kick split the uprights to blow the game open, 51-27.

Hills West went to the air the rest of the way, and tried to force long passes to make up for lost time. Lucarelli went deep to his wide receiver, who appeared to make the catch but bobbled the ball. Just as deadly defensively at cornerback as he is on offense as a wide receiver, Riley snatched the ball out of the Colts player’s hands for the interception with just over three minutes left in the contest.

The dominant and forceful senior finished the turnover he created with a short plunge into the end zone for his final touchdown of the game. Along with VanEssendelft’s kick, Riley’s score increased his team’s lead to 58-27.

Newfield head coach Joe Piccininni rested his starters on both sides of the ball the rest of the way, and Hills West made the most of the change by scoring one final touchdown.

“Our mistakes were hurting us and we faced a lot of adversity, but we were able to come back tonight,” Piccininni said. “We faced a great football team tonight — they didn’t fall back and they didn’t falter.”

With that, the team was crowned Suffolk County champions, and Newfield will take its undefeated season to the gridiron of Hofstra University on Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. kick off against MacArthur in the Long Island championship game. Although this year looked uncertain after the Wolverines’ 3-6 season last year, Gubelman said he thought his team could do it all along.

“I’ve known my teammates my whole life — we’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old,” he said. “We practice hard the same way we always do, come out with one vision: [to win the] Long Island Championship.”

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Ashley Hart competes in the 100-meter backstroke, where she placed second with a time of one minute, 13.21 seconds. The Patriots lost, 97-81, to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9.Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Unlike years past, the girls swimming team of Ward Melville tasted something it hasn’t sampled in many years — a defeat.

The defending Suffolk County champions fell at Half Hollow Hills, 97-81, Friday afternoon in a League I meet, for the Patriot’s third loss of the season.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Gordon said that in the past, his team would field three or four swimmers in every event, but after losing more than a dozen seniors to graduation this year, this season’s team does not have the depth that past teams in the Patriots’ swimming dynasty had.

Liliana Ayer, who placed second in diving, tumbles off the one-meter board during the Patriots' 97-81 loss to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9. Photo by Bill Landon
Liliana Ayer, who placed second in diving, tumbles off the one-meter board during the Patriots’ 97-81 loss to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9. Photo by Bill Landon

“You saw it here today — they took second, third and fourth in several events, and when you can do that, you’re going to win the meet,” Gordon said of Half Hollow Hills.

Senior co-captain Katie Wang competed in the 200 medley, 50 freestyle and 200 freestyle.

“I felt good in the water,” she said. “I’ve been [focusing] on my technique.”

Placing second in the diving competition was freshman Liliana Ayer, and third place went to fellow freshman Hannah Goldhaber. Rounding out fourth place was the senior Jennifer Yavid, who is playing in her fourth season on the varsity squad.

Junior Ashley Hart competed in the 100-meter backstroke, where she placed second with a time of one minute, 13.21 seconds.

Senior so-captain Casey Gavigan easily won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:27.30, a performance that qualified her for a spot in the NYSPHSAA Championship competition in Ithaca in November. Gavigan has also qualified for the state championship in the 100 backstroke, and will look to defend her title in that event as the reigning state champion.

The co-captain said that despite her personal success, it’s been difficult for the team to live up to its reputation.

“After our championship season last year, we have a huge title to look up to, so it’s a lot of pressure,” Gavigan said. “But so long as all of the girls try their best, the coaches and we as captains are proud of them, and they should be proud of themselves.”

Ward Melville will host Brentwood next, on Thursday. The meet is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m.

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Gorgeous weather and a huge crowd set the stage for a Homecoming Day at Huntington Saturday. The festivities capped off a week that included spirit days, a pep rally, float building and an evening dance in the school gym.

Hundreds of students of all ages turned out for a midday parade through the heart of the village and up New York Ave., accompanied by district trustees and administrators, parents, teachers, family members and alumni. The Blue Devils marching band played along the way, while its booming sounds drew folks out of shops.

“Homecoming in Huntington is a very special thing,” Principal Brenden Cusack said. “It’s a whole community event that brings everyone together. You can feel a true sense of Blue Devils pride throughout the week leading up to the big game. It’s a great experience.”

A crowd of nearly 2,000 watched the Huntington football team battle Suffolk County Division II top-seeded Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday following the parade. The Blue Devils scored first, when senior wide receiver Jahmik Curry received a 10-yard pass from senior quarterback Will Wright and the kick after failed, to raise the hopes of fans, and the teams were tied in the third, 14-14, before the Colts rallied for a 28-20 victory.

Halftime of the football game saw performances by the marching band and the Highsteppers. Royal Court members Vincent Fredericks, Spencer Pashkin, Infinite Tucker, Dan Mollitor, Sarah Fernandez, Cassandra Berwick, Holly LoTurco and Alexandra Berwick were introduced to the crowd before Mollitor and Alexandra Berwick were crowned homecoming king and queen.

“It’s an absolute honor to be named homecoming king by my class,” Mollitor said. “I’ve shared so many incredible moments with them and couldn’t ask to graduate with a better group of people. It will be sad to leave at the end of June. I’ve really enjoyed my time at Huntington High School.”

Senior running back Doug Taylor scored on a 50-yard run for the second touchdown of the day, and senior wide receiver Infinite Tucker received a pass from Wright to complete the 2-point conversion in the third. Half Hollow Hills West returned an interception 31 yards for the score, and senior wide receiver Exzayvian Crowell scored on a 1-yard run and the extra-point attempt was missed, bringing the final score to 28-20.

“It was just a beautiful day featuring a fantastic turnout for a spirited parade,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Thank you to the many from all of our schools who participated. Our Blue Devils fought hard against a top county-ranked team and gained confidence in the process.”

Newfield's Kristen Prevosto challenges Half Hollow Hills West's Grace Walker as she reaches for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Many coaches say that the purpose of nonleague games is for one team to play a better team, or to “play up,” in an effort to raise their game and improve their play by facing a faster team with greater skillsets. Newfield girls’ soccer head coach Ann Marie Hassett agreed in the offseason to a nonleague matchup against Half Hollow Hills West, but this year she sensed something was different.

Newfield's Sierra Rosario battles a Half Hollow Hills West opponent for possession. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Sierra Rosario battles Half Hollow Hills West’s Nicole Gluckman for possession. Photo by Bill Landon

“This is the first year they’re not in our league, so when the coach called and asked if I wanted to play a nonleague game, I paused, because we’ve never beaten them in the eight years I’ve been here,” Hassett said. “But our team has come a long way. We’ve grown; we’ve played well together, so I thought that this time we could beat them.”

Her inclination was right, as on Saturday, for the first time in eight years, the Wolverines outlasted Hills West to claim a shutout victory, scoring three unanswered goals and using defensive play to keep their opponent on their heels.

Ten minutes in, Newfield sophomore midfielder Taylor Regensburger started the scoring when she drove her shot to the back of the net off a feed from eighth-grade midfielder Sierra Rosario, to take the lead 1-0.

Under a hot sun in a game riddled with injuries, Hills West struggled to get the ball to its forwards, as the Newfield defensive pressure was more than the team could handle.

With 11 minutes left in the first, senior forward Michelle Bartolo, a co-captain, set up the next score with a cross pass to Rosario, who chipped it in for the 2-0 advantage.

“It was a really good cross — a really good cross from Michelle,” Rosario said. “I just redirected it and it went in.”

Hassett said Bartolo was playing defense for the first time, and her senior captain did an amazing job in her defensive role.

Michelle Bartolo heads the ball for Newfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Michelle Bartolo heads the ball for Newfield. Photo by Bill Landon

“I was playing defense and there was a free ball so I crossed it in and [Rosario] kicked it in,” Bartolo said.

As time wound down in the final half, Newfield junior midfielder Kristen Prevosto, on a crossing pass, fed senior forward Cori Myers, who shot the ball into the corner of the net.

With their league opening loss to North Babylon in overtime, along with their blowout victory over Riverhead on Friday, the Wolverines improve to 2-1 overall. Newfield will take on Smithtown East next, in League III action at home on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Hassett said that the heavily favored North Babylon team was expected to easily outscore Newfield, but said her team held its own and took the game into overtime. The coach added that the win over Half Hollow Hills West was huge for her team, and said that other teams have taken notice.

“In years past other teams regarded Newfield as an easy win,” Hassett said. “And now, for the first time, other teams are talking about Newfield soccer.”