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Erin Tucker

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Madison Brady keeps a Deer Park opponent at a distance as she moves the ball up the court. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Erin Tucker and Hallie Simkins combined for three points from the free-throw line in the final seconds of Harborifelds’ girls basketball team’s 39-37 edging of Deer Park at the Northport invitational shootout Dec. 30, helping to cap off 2017 on a 6-0 undefeated streak in League V.

Hallie Simkins muscles her way to the rim with a Deer Park opponent at her hip reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

The Tornadoes haven’t missed a beat despite losing all five starters to graduation last year.

“This is a completely new team,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “And that was a good win for them.”

Early in the game points were hard to come by for both teams, as Deer Park took a 7-6 lead into the second stanza, which is where the Falcons’ 3-point game came alive. Three consecutive trifectas were scored before Harborfields could answer, giving Deer Park an 8-point lead, 16-8, with three minutes left in the first half.

Harborfields junior Celia Argiriou launched a long distance shot to net her first 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 16-13, but the Falcons outscored the Tornadoes 17-11 in the quarter to take a 24-17 advantage into the locker room.

“At halftime, our coach just told us 7 points is nothing — we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, we’ve got to play harder than them,” Tucker said. “That’s what went through everyone’s mind — do it for the team, and eventually, it will move in our direction. We played a zone coverage we literally put in three weeks ago, and we caused some turnovers that we were able to turn into points.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the forward battled in the paint and scored to make it a 1-point game. One the next possession, Simkins took matters into her own hands and banked two points of her own to give the Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter with 2:28 left.

Erin Tucker shoots uncontested. Photo by Bill Landon

“I just kept thinking, ‘We have the effort, we have the drive, but we just kept fighting and pushing them by doing what we know how,” said Simkins, who finished the third quarter with two consecutive buckets that cut the deficit to 31-26. “[We won because of] our mental toughness — we all really stayed headstrong on the court and we never gave in.”

With 12.6 seconds on the clock, Tucker went to the line shooting two and banked both of her free-throw shots to edge ahead by three. After a Falcons score, the Tornadoes kept their cool, and Simkins split the difference during her team’s final showing at the charity stripe to seal the deal.

Tucker and Simkins topped the scoring sheet with 11 points apiece. Freshman forward Madison Brady, who banked seven, said Lavey’s encouragement at halftime resonated with her and her teammates, who know the program’s positive playoff position its in year after year.

“Coach said we can come back, and we all agreed that we’re better than that first half, and we could come back,” Brady said. “We just have to battle it out every game the whole season to win our league, and hopefully make a run at a county championship.”

Harborfields looks to continue its positive trajectory in 2018 when it hosts Hauppauge Jan. 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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Falyn Dwyer reaches for the rim in Harborfields' 52-41 loss to Islip in the Suffolk County Class A championship game. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields led by 10 points early in the third quarter, but fouls troubled the Tornadoes’ defense, as Islip rallied back, capping off the quarter with a 3-pointer to retake the lead, 35-34. The Buccaneers slowly creeped ahead as a result of opportunities at the foul line, and put the game away 52-41 to win the Suffolk County Class A championship at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, Friday night.

Angela Deren nails a jump-shot on here way to eight points on the night. Photo by Bill Landon
Angela Deren nails a jump-shot on here way to eight points on the night. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields only mustered five points in the first quarter, and with just over six minutes left in the hald, with Islip ahead 11-10, Harborfields senior guard Angela Deren picked off an Islip in-bounds pass and cashed in to put the Tornadoes out front, 12-11. Deren, with the hot hand in the second quarter, nailed her second trey of the period to give her team a 19-13 lead with just over three minutes remaining until the break.

Harborfields sophomore guard Erin Tucker went to the line shooting two and split her appearance, but teammate Grace Zagaja, a junior center, swished both of hers, to give the Tornadoes a 24-16 lead at the end of the eight minutes.

Harborfields junior guard Christiana de Borja hit her first trifecta of the game two minutes into the third period — something she’s done all season long — but the powerhouse point guard found herself in foul trouble as the quarter wore on.

With de Borja committing her fourth personal foul, Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey benched his starter with two minutes left in the third, to save her for the fourth.

The Tornadoes squandered many opportunities at the free-throw line, and Islip, trailing by two, hit a game-changing 3-pointer to retake the lead, 35-34. Despite Harborfields’ crowd chanting during Islip’s next chance at the charity stripe, the Buccaneers swished both attempts to take a three-point lead into the final quarter.

The momentum shifted Islip’s way as the Buccaneers surged ahead 43-34 with 4:51 left in regulation.

Back in action, de Borja banked her second trey of the game to help her team draw with six points, but her defensive pressure was muted, as her next foul would be her last.

Christiana de Borja battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon
Christiana de Borja battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Zagaja and teammate Kate Tardo, a junior forward, also fouled out.

Leading 45-37 with just over three minutes remaining, Islip slowed the pace and let the shot clock wind down. Desperate to stop the clock, the Tornadoes that remained in the game, fouled their opponent, but the strategy failed, as Islip was deadly from the free-throw line.

“They played better than us — they settled in and we needed to make a few shots just to keep the momentum going, but then they got hot and we went cold at the wrong time,”.Lavey said.

de Borja finished with a team-high 11 points, while Deren and junior forward Falyn Dwyer added eight points apiece, and Tucker followed close behind them with seven. With only one senior graduating off the roster, Harborfields can be confident knowing how far the team has come, and know what another year of experience can bring to those returning, to push them further through the bracket next season.

“We couldn’t press as hard as we did earlier in the game,” Lavey said.” We were being the aggressor and then we got tentative on defense because of foul trouble, so that was a problem for us.”

Mount Sinai junior Victoria Johnson scores her 1,000th career point in loss

Mount Sinai's Victoria Johnson scored her 1,000th point in the Mustangs' first-round Class A playoff loss to Harborfields on Feb. 13. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields enjoyed a 22-point lead midway through the third quarter, and despite Mount Sinai rallying to close within seven points with just over two minutes left in the game, the Tornadoes’ girls’ basketball team closed with a late surge of its own, to claim a 58-47 victory in the opening round of the Class A playoffs Saturday morning.

Mount Sinai led 13-12 after eight minutes, but managed just four points to Harborfields’ 19 in the second.

Harborfields' Christiana de Borja gets fouled by Mount Sinai's Olivia Williams during the Tornadoes' 58-47 win over the Mustangs in the opening round of the Class A playoffs on Feb. 13. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Christiana de Borja gets fouled by Mount Sinai’s Olivia Williams. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields point guard Christiana de Borja had the hot hand through the first half, as she drove the lane and muscled her way to the rim, drawing fouls along the way. The five-foot, two-inch junior tallied 13 points over the two quarters.

As Mount Sinai double-teamed de Borja, the Mustangs left the lane opened for Harborfields sophomore guard Erin Tucker, who netted four field goals and a free-throw to add nine more points to the Tornadoes’ 31-17 halftime advantage.

“We always play Mount Sinai in other sports, so we know not to underestimate them, and they came out very strong in the first quarter,” Tucker said. “It’s what we expected. They had a tough second quarter, but we knew they’d come back.”

Three-pointers were flying to open the third quarter, as de Borja banked a pair and Mount Sinai junior guard Victoria Johnson swished her second and third of the game, but still, the Tornadoes edged ahead 43-28 to begin the final quarter.

Harborfields' Falyn Dwyer attempts a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Falyn Dwyer attempts a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mustangs opened the last eight minutes with two fast breaks that paid dividends for Johnson, who was fouled while shooting, and calmly swished both. The back end marked her 1,000th point of her varsity career.

“They’re really tough on defense,” Johnson said of Harborfields. “We ran on them because they’re a very fast team and they were going to try to stop us in the middle. We had one rough quarter, but we gave it our best. We’re a young team so we’ll make a run next year.”

She’s the first basketball player to score 1,000 points as a Mustang.

“That is truly an amazing accomplishment,” Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said. “We are so proud of her.”

Tucker netted two more points at the free-throw line for the Tornadoes, to again make it an 11-point game.

Mount Sinai inbounded the ball, throwing it the length of the court, where freshman guard Margaret Kopcienski gained possession and, with a spin move, found the rim to trim the deficit back to nine points.

Mount Sinai junior center Veronica Venezia made here presence known down low as the she muscled her way to the rim on a put-back to help her team trail by seven with 1:41 left in the game, but the Mustangs would not come any closer.

“The second quarter is where we got hurt, but we’re graduating two seniors and we’re returning 12 — including all five starters — so we’re looking forward to the off-season,” Pappalardo said. “[Harborfields has] great players, and to be with them in the final minutes makes me proud of our team.”

Mount Sinai's Gabby Sartori drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon

In a foul-riddled final minute, both teams traded points at the charity stripe. Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori went to the line shooting three, and the ninth-grade guard swished all of her opportunities.

“They were very good, and we knew they were going to come up strong on defense,” Sartori said. “I was getting face-guarded the whole time, but my team knew what to do. We gave it all we had; we rose the challenge — last year we came here and lost by 30.”

With six seconds left, de Borja, who led her team in scoring with 23 points, put the final points on the scoreboard off of free throws. Tucker finished the game with 12 points.

Atop the leaderboard for Mount Sinai was Johnson with 16 points, followed by Sartori, who sank 13.

“They spotted us 22 points, and we knew they would come back because they have a lot of talented players, but I thought our kids had the resolve to make the big plays to stop those runs,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “Any time we see trouble we get the ball to Christiana de Borja, and having her on the floor is like a security blanket. As much as they were cutting into our lead, I knew we had Chris de Borja on the court.”

Mount Sinai's Veronica Venezia shoots from the top of the key. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai’s Veronica Venezia shoots from the top of the key. Photo by Bill Landon

With the win, Harborfields advances to the next round, where the Tornadoes take on Elwood-John Glenn on the road Tuesday. Tipoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

The girls from Elwood-John Glenn were in the stands throughout most of the game, sitting quietly together as they scouted their next opponent. The squad left midway through the fourth to get ready for their 2 p.m. game.

“It was really a motivator for us having them watching, because we wanted to show them that we’re a force to be reckoned with,” de Borja said. “We’re excited about playing John Glenn. They’ve always been a rival, so we’re excited about that game.”