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Commack High School

By Steven Zaitz

This week the Commack Girls Fencing team will go for their third straight Long Island championship title.

The journey started on Tuesday, Feb. 6 when they beat Newfield by a score of 14-10 in the Suffolk County semi-finals. The team is led by Coach Jaclyn Sadiker, who was named Coach of the Year by Newsday, and six-year varsity fencer Anna Rohring. Rohring has a career record of 32-4. 

Rohring, Gabby Phelan, Nisa Eriskin, Kayley Chung and Chloe Gullo were all victorious in their individual duels against Newfield.

They will face Ward Melville on Thursday for Suffolk supremacy and if they win that match, they will battle the Nassau champion on Feb.13.

“It would mean the world to all of us to win a third straight Long Island Championship,” Sadiker said. “We consider this team to be like a family and we have 7 seniors. It would be incredible to send off those family members with another title.”

Ward Melville High School will host the Suffolk County Individual Fencing Tournament on Saturday Feb. 10.

Suffolk County residents can call 311 to report an antisemitic incident. File photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Just last week, schools across the North Shore — including Smithtown East, Commack and Port Jefferson high schools — all reported antisemitic language in their buildings.

‘It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior.’

— Renée Silver

Last week, swastikas were found in the boys bathroom at Commack High School and on a desk at Smithtown High School East. This is the second swastika reported at Commack this month — racist graffiti was also found on the bathroom stalls.

Two swastikas were also found on a desk at Smithtown East.

“This news is greatly upsetting, but it is important for our school community to be made aware of such incidents and work collaboratively to oppose hate whenever it occurs,” Smithtown Central School District Superintendent Mark Secaur wrote in a letter.

Jordan Cox, superintendent of the Commack School District, wrote in a letter to families, “Once the responsible individual is found, I am committed to pursuing legal action to the fullest extent,” adding, “Given the current conflict in the Middle East and the many families in our community who are hurting, it is a travesty that something like this occurred.”

Cox plans to take students to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and invited Holocaust survivors to speak to the students. Survivor Renée Silver, 92, told News 12 that she hopes “giving a little background” will help teach the students the harm of their actions.

“It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior,” Silver said.

In Port Jefferson high school, a swastika was found on a desk alongside the Star of David and the word “fight.” The Star of David can be a source of pride for many Jewish people or as a connection to their shared culture and past. It can also be seen as a symbol of support for Israel.

Police reports were filed for each of the incidents at the three high schools, and the county Hate Crimes Unit is involved.

Antisemitism and racist language are spreading at both high schools and middle schools across Long Island. Three swastikas were found in a bathroom at South Woods Middle School in Syosset. A swastika and antisemitic language was written on a whiteboard at the Harry B. Thompson Middle School, also in Syosset. A student was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. 

These incidents occur alongside the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked the Israeli towns neighboring Gaza. Over 11,000 Palestinians and about 1,200 Israelis have died, according to reports.

Antisemitism in Long Island schools mirrors a broader national trend. Since Oct. 7, incendiary language regarding the conflict has increased on social media. 

In addition, antisemitism and other hate crimes across the United States, including college campuses, have left students feeling scared and unsafe. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism recorded nearly a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents for the same Oct. 7-23 period from last year.

President Joe Biden (D) has addressed the uptick in antisemitism in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. “We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens,” he said. “We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”

Several Port Jeff runners participate in the Suffolk County cross-country championships held at Sunken Meadow State Park on Friday, Nov. 3. Photo by Bob O’Rourk

By Samantha Rutt

Each year, the Suffolk County cross-country championships are held at Sunken Meadow State Park, where the county’s best teams toe the line. Runners race a full 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles, around the park, winding meandering trails and climbing daunting hills.

Parents, friends and spectators alike lined the course on a sunny, brisk November afternoon. With a chorus of voices cheering, signs flaunting and cowbells ringing — a cross-country staple — a spectacle emerged as the races unfolded.

For the third straight year, the Northport Lady Tigers emerged victorious at the Suffolk County championships on Friday afternoon, Nov. 3.

Led by freshman phenom Mia Wickard, the Tigers earned 57 points over Ward Melville’s 104. Northport’s commanding win earned the team a spot at the New York State meet start line next Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Suffolk County championship meet is the state qualifier, sending the winning team and the top-five finishers — not from the first-place team, but from each class — to the statewide championship.

“Not sure if I could be prouder of this group of kids,” said Northport head coach Gregg Cantwell. “The girls’ dedication and the depth of our team was key for us on Friday.”

Wickard, Northport’s top finisher, placed third in the Class A race at 19:24.51. Rounding out the scorers were seventh graders Fiona King and Jane Tucker with juniors Kayla Forsch and Maggie Taylor, each running a personal best time.

“Our top six girls [including Cate Coronato] ran their best times on the course — a few by a lot,” Cantwell emphasized of his team’s clutch performance. “We now have six all-county ranking girls, which is the most of any boys or girls team, and I am extremely happy about that.”

Joining Northport’s Lady Tigers next week, the Cougar boys of Commack High School bested their Class A rivals, collecting only 64 points and extending their postseason journey.

“Our goal every season is to try and win a league, division and county championship,” Commack coach Paul Sleavensky said. “This is the first time in program history that we were the Section XI [Suffolk County] champions,” adding, “I’m extremely proud of their performance at the state-qualifier meet.”

The Port Jefferson Royals won the boys Class C race, tallying 19 points over Mattituck’s 62. Junior Colin Veit paced the Royals, earning the individual title, as all five of the high school’s scorers placed within the top six, marking an impressive victory for the team.

“I’m very proud of our team,” said Port Jeff’s coach Andy Cosci. “We have a nice tradition here in Port Jeff, being a very successful program over the years.”

He added, “It’s not easy to win counties, and the team has worked very hard since August to accomplish that goal.”

Smithtown West’s Douglas Antaky and Rocky Point’s Trevor Green, individual champions of Class A and Class B, respectively, will make the trip to the New York State meet. Antaky, a senior, outran his opponents, completing the course in 16:09.53. Green, only a sophomore, earned his first county cross-country title, defeating his competition while running a 16:31.01.

“My goal going into this meet was to break 17 minutes and place in the top five,” Green said. “I definitely was not expecting to win with the great competition in Class B this year.”

For runners advancing into the postseason, this week will involve preparation for the meets ahead.

“The focus for the next week and beyond is going to be that our toughest races are ahead of us and that we have a chance to do something special,” Northport’s coach Cantwell said of his team.

The NYS cross-country championship meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 11, at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School in Verona.

The Commack Cougars boys basketball team continued their march to the Suffolk County AA championship by beating the top-seeded Smithtown West Bulls in the semi-final round on Tuesday night at neutral site Longwood High School. The final score was 48-43.

Commack senior center Ethan Meisel led the Cougars with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and he tied the score with a layup with two minutes left in the game after Smithtown West had been up by as many as 10.

But Commack, the fourth seed, outscored West 22-7 over the final 13 minutes of the game, and key free throws down the stretch by senior guard Mike Gitz after a gigantic offensive rebound by senior power forward Chris McHugh, with 10 seconds remaining in the game, sealed the win for Commack. Junior guard Nick Waga, who appeared to be seriously injured with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, reentered the game to help close out the contest. Waga scored 10 points and handled the crunch-time pressure that West applied in their desperate attempts to create late-game turnovers.

The Bulls were again without superstar center Patrick Burke who dislocated his knee against Northport earlier this month and this gave Meisel, McHugh and forward Matt Rosenoff to freely operate in and around both their offensive and defensive baskets.

West senior guard Jack Melore scored 15 for the Bulls but missed on all four of his three-point shots in the second half. Brothers Lorenzo and Ben Rappa combined for 20 points in the losing effort.

Commack will attempt to win the county crown in the program’s history when they take on seventh-seeded Brentwood, who knocked off third-seeded Bellport, 63-59, earlier in the day. The AA Championship game will be held at Stony Brook University’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. The winner will take on the Small School Champion, who is yet to be determined.

The mighty have officially fallen.

The Commack Boys Basketball team did something nobody had been able to do so far this season – beat the Bulls of Smithtown High School West.

Led by senior guard Mike Gitz, the Cougars dominated the 4th quarter outscoring the Bulls 24-15, in what had been a tight game through three. The final was 68-57. 

Gitz had 12 points in that final period, and it was the second time in two games that Commack dominated a 4th quarter to prevail against a quality league opponent. The Cougars beat the Northport Tigers 62-55 last Saturday in what was also a tight game until late.

With the win, Commack pulls into a tie for first place with Smithtown West, widely regarded as one of the top teams on Long Island, both with records of 10-1 in Conference I play. After dropping their opener to Bay Shore six weeks ago, the Cats have now won 10 in a row.

“The kids really executed the game plan tonight and hit some big shots,” said Commack Head Coach Peter Smith. “This was the first of four road games for us in what will be a tough stretch and I’m glad we started it with a huge win.”

Huge was the theme of the night, and herculean the task of containing Smithtown West Center Patrick Burke, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Burke averages 20 points a game. Commack played a defense by committee against Burke with Cougar power forward Ethan Meisel in the role of committee chair.

“I went out there expecting a battle,” Meisel said. “I just kept focusing on keeping him (Burke) out of the paint. I watched a lot of film leading up to this game to learn what moves he would be looking to make and that helped me in stopping him.”

Burke had 19 points but only three in the 4th quarter.

“Ethan did a great job on Patrick,” Smith said. “But I think we played great help defense tonight, bringing over an off guard to try and keep him bottled up.”

Also bottled up, at least in the 1st half, was Cougar junior guard Nick Waga. Not because of great defense by the Bulls, but because he picked up two early fouls and Smith decided to let him sit. 

 But the fiery Waga started the 2nd half with a bang. With West leading 26-23, he came off a backdoor curl to hit a corner three and tie the game just 10 seconds into the 3rd quarter. That hoop was his first points of the game.  

Waga would finish with 12 points in the quarter, the last three of which coming on a buzzer-beating three pointer to give Commack a 44-42 lead heading into the deciding fourth. He started and ended the period the same way — with long range bombs.

“I had fresh legs and wanted to bring a bunch of energy,” said the 6 foot, 1 inch tall Waga, whose black and blonde wavy coif make him easy to spot on the court. “My teammates motivated me not to put my head down when I was sitting in the first half and we all kept pushing each other to get this win.”

As it was Waga who had fresh legs in the third, it was Gitz who caught fire in the fourth. He hit a runner in the lane to start the period and on the next possession faked out his defender Lorenzo Rappa so badly that Rappa flew in the opposite direction and was absorbed by pick-setting Cougar Chris McHugh, as Gitz casually hit a wide-open three. 

It gave the Cougars a seven-point lead and this move, that drew “oohs” and “aahs” from both Cougar and Bull fans alike, might have been the death blow to Smithtown West’s dreams of an undefeated season. With six and a half minutes remaining, the Bulls called a timeout as the buzz of the crowd was still loud enough to drown out West’s pep band. 

“I work on that move a lot,” said Gitz, who led all scorers with 21. “I try to use jabs and pump fakes to get the defenders off balance. It was great to hear the crowd after making that play and both the basket and the crowd was a big swing of momentum for us.”

The momentum would stay with Commack, as West would never recover. The Cougar lead ballooned to 14 with three minutes remaining in the game when Gitz drove past Rappa in the lane for a layup.

The rest of the game rendered a formality, Commack gladly went to the free throw line to seal it, and for the second straight game, they closed out a quality conference foe and arch enemy.

“We stay true to our game plan and execute down the stretch,” said Gitz on his team’s ability finish off opponents. “Plus, I think we want it more.”

Now the Cougars truly have what they wanted – a victory over the number one ranked team in Suffolk County and first place in the league with six games to go. Is he thinking about meeting the Bulls in playoffs next month?

“We are going to enjoy this win tonight and focus on West Islip on Thursday,” Smith said. “The ship keeps on going forward and you hope for the best.”

On this night, Smith and his Cougars not only beat the best, but now find themselves in a position to merit consideration as the best.

The first three quarters of the Northport Tiger Boys basketball game, Commack had three completely distinct personalities.

The first quarter was essentially a standoff, as the Cougars won it by two. Commack dominated the second quarter, winning it by nine to take a commanding 32-21 lead into halftime. 

But Northport made a huge third quarter charge, outscoring Commack 23-11 to take a skinny one-point lead into the fourth quarter. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the final quarter was all too similar to the second, as Commack — propelled by a strong finish that was led by junior guard Nick Waga — improves to 9-1 in the conference by beating Northport 62-55. They have won nine straight conference games and move into second place behind the undefeated Smithtown West Bulls.

Northport drops to 7-3 in the conference which is good for fourth place in League I. Coupled with last Thursday’s loss to Bay Shore, it was the first time the Tigers have lost back-to-back league games since February of 2019. 

Waga led the Cougars 28 points including a huge three pointer with two and half minutes remaining in the game which broke a 52-52 tie. Senior guard Chris McHugh had 14 points and was two rebounds short of a double-double. 

Senior swingman Brendan Carr led the Tigers with 22 points, hitting four shots from long range. Junior forward Owen Boylan had all 12 of his points on three pointers. 

The Tigers had a non-league game on Sunday against Nassau County’s Sewanhaka, which they won 42-38 and resumed their league schedule against Lindenhurst on Tuesday, Jan 17, and won, 70-25.

Ward Melville won the first set by 10 points, looking to make it a clean sweep in the Suffolk Class AA volleyball championship Monday night, Nov. 7. However, the Commack Cougars edged the Patriots, 29-17, in the second set and 26-24 in the third.

Commack, the No. 4 seed, took command of the fourth set, picking off the Patriots, 25-20, for the county title.

Commack co-captain Mikalah Curran had 26 kills and 14 digs, and her younger sister Kaitlin killed 8, had 15 digs and two service aces.

The win lifts the Commack girls volleyball team to 14-2 this season, and they will take on Massapequa for the Long Island Championship game at Hauppauge High School on Thursday, Nov. 10. First service is slated for 5 p.m.

By Steven Zaitz
In a final tune-up before the regular season, the Northport Tigers football team defeated Commack, 20-10, at Commack Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Tiger senior quarterback and second year starter Owen Johansen threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Emmett Radziul in the second quarter  after Commack opened the scoring on a juggling TD catch by slot receiver Matt Rosenoff from Long Island QB Challenge winner Jeremy Weiss. Johansen hit senior tight end Andrew Miller with a perfectly placed 60-yard bomb down the right sideline for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the first half for Northport. The Tigers would lead 13-7 at the break.
Most of the starters were rested for both teams in a second half that was dominated by Northport. Northport’s Matt Diaz, a senior who was on the Tiger soccer team in 2021, was very active on defense throughout the game as was 2021 All-division linebacker Tim Cleary. RB Giancarlo Valenti, a junior, capped the scoring with a one-yard TD plunge late in the game. Tiger back QB senior Macklin O’brien looked comfortable running the offense in the second half.
The season starts for both teams next weekend when Northport travels to Smithtown West on Friday, Sept. 9 and Commack hosts Sachem North on the afternoon of Sept 10.

Trailing by three at the halftime break, Newfield had a productive third quarter to retake the lead over Commack in a League II matchup at home. The Wolverines kept the Cougars at bay in the final eight minutes to secure a 57-50 victory Jan 13.  

Senior Hamza Yousef led the way for Newfield hitting two triples, five field goals and two from the free throw line for 18 points. Isaiah Brown followed with four from the floor, three at the line for 11 points along with 16 rebounds, and Josh Jacobs the senior along with junior Kyle Milano netted 10 points apiece. Michael Agostino added eight.

The win lifts the Wolverines to 5-2 in league, 7-5 overall, to move third place behind Northport and Ward Melville. The Wolverines retake the court Jan 15 in a non-league matchup at home against Walt Whitman. Game time is at noon.

Commack seniors and their families headed to the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Stadium at Stony Brook University June 25 for their graduation ceremony.

The Commack School District left words of advice for the graduates on the district’s. website.

“Take advantage of all the opportunities that life presents you; push yourself out of your comfort zone every once in awhile; continue to surround yourself with a strong support system while never hesitating to lift others up when they need it; and be sure to utilize these very important words every single day — please, thank you, and I’m sorry. Stay curious, stay humble, stay grounded, and most importantly — stay true to yourself!”