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Girls Basketball

Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball head coach Adam Lievre’s strategy last season led the Wildcats to a county championship playing their toughest nonleague matchups early on. The Wildcats, a Division VI team, hosted William Floyd, a Division 1 team, to open their season and hit a brick wall. Having lost key players to graduation and with a returning starter sidelined with an injury, Shoreham-Wading River struggled with Floyd’s pressing defense and fast break ability, lost the battle 50-29.

A bright spot for the Wildcats was Alyssa Bell where the junior put together six field goals, a triple and four free throws for a team high of 19 points. When injured returning starter Juliana Mahan is able to rejoin the lineup, it’ll be a much-needed boost for the Wildcats 2023-24 campaign.

Shoreham-Wading River retakes the court with a road game against Cold Spring Harbor Saturday morning, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. followed by another away game against Patchogue-Medford Dec. 6. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. 

— Photos by Bill Landon

The Lady Royals of Port Jefferson, the Suffolk Class C Long Island Championship title holders, advanced to the New York State semifinal round, where they matched up against Section IX champion Millbrook at Farmingdale State College.

Port Jeff faced a stout defense as Millbrook dominated the boards, converting missed shots into points while containing the potent Royal offensive senior corp of Lola Idir, Amy Whitman and Alexa Ayotte to just 27 points between them. 

Millbrook stretched their legs and outpaced the Royals, cruising to a 61-30 victory in the Saturday, March 11 contest.

Atop the leaderboard in Suffolk County’s scoring, Idir finished her varsity career in 4th place countywide, according to Newsday, with 70 field goals, 84 free throws and 83 triples while averaging 21­­.5 points per game. 

Port Jefferson concludes its 2022-23 campaign undefeated in their division at 12-0, with an impressive 16-3 overall record.

— Photos by Bill Landon

In a historic first visit to the Long Island Class A Championship, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats girls basketball team led by a single point with two seconds left in regulation.

However, Manhasset’s Caitlin Barrett went to the foul line, shooting two. Barrett missed the first but hit the second to tie the game at 45-all, forcing overtime.

The Wildcats trailed by three points in the opening minute of the four-minute overtime period. Manhasset was able to contain the Wildcats’ potent offensive pressure, edging ahead to win the game 58-51 at Farmingdale State College on Saturday, March 11.

Senior Sophie Costello led her team in scoring with 18 points. Seniors GraceAnn Leonard and Colleen Ohrtman scored 11 points, and senior Annie Sheehan netted six.

The Wildcats conclude their 2022-23 campaign as Suffolk County Class A champions with an impressive 24-2 record.

— Photos by Bill Landon

It was all for the bragging rights during the overall Section XI championship when the undefeated Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats (23-0), the small school winner, squared off against large school champion Walt Whitman at Island Federal Credit Arena at Stony Brook University on March 4. 

The Wildcats trailed by two points to open the second half. However, they struggled to land their shots, allowing Whitman to slowly edge ahead for the 50-42 victory, handing SWR its first loss of the season. 

Sophie Costello led the Wildcats with 12 points. GraceAnn Leonard followed with 10, and Annie Sheehan and Juliana Mahan banked seven points each. Teammates Colleen Ohrtman, Haylie Abrams and Anabel Keegan netted two points apiece. 

Shoreham-Wading River, the Suffolk Class A title holder, lives to fight another day, advancing to the Long Island Championship round (regional finals) on Saturday, March 11, when they’ll face Manhasset (23-1) at Farmingdale State College. Game time is slated for 2 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

The only undefeated team in Suffolk County at 22-0, the Wildcats found themselves trailing by two points at the halftime break. They would need Annie Sheehan’s free throw appearance to put the Wildcats back out front when the senior sank both to retake the lead 37-36 with 4:16 left in the third quarter. 

A three-pointer from GraceAnn Leonard would re-tie the game at 51-all with four minutes left in regulation. But the Wildcats’ unrelenting defense contained the Lady Kingsmens’ potent offense down the stretch. SWR closed the game for a 63-56 victory, delivering the program its first-ever Suffolk County title. 

Leonard led the Wildcats with 27 points. Sophie Costello added 16, and Sheehan banked 10.

Jaxie Cestone led Kings Park in scoring with 18 points, and Ryan Currier also netted 15.  

The win sends the 23-0 Wildcats to the Long Island Championship round on Saturday, March 11, when they face the Nassau class A title winner at Farmingdale State College. Game time is slated for 3 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

All photos by Steven Zaitz

At the start of the Suffolk County girls basketball title game, everything was taking shape as one would expect.

On the campus of Stony Brook University, Walt Whitman Wildcat superstar guard Iris Hoffman threw up a long brick early in the first quarter against Northport on Saturday afternoon, and Lady Tiger Forward Kennedy Radziul collected the rebound, raced down the court and scored to put Whitman in an 11-0 hole.

The heavily favored top-seeded Tigers, who still have the burning memory of losing in last year’s Suffolk County AA Final to another of their archrivals Longwood, was in a fury. Whitman, who had never made it to a final, seemed as if they were simply happy to be participating in one. 

But over the course of a game, stuff happens. Things change.

Lady Cat guard Casey Wagner picked Radziul’s pocket with six minutes remaining in the half that made the score 19-13 in favor of the Lady Tigers, as this was an early example of the thousand paper cuts that were to come for head coach Rich Castellano and his Tigers, who were looking to win their 11th Suffolk AA title in school history. 

Northport would lead by six, seven, eight and nine for much of the middle third of the game but they could not swat away the pesky Cats. Whitman, despite Hoffman’s departure from the game when she picked up her fourth personal foul, crept all the way back. When Wagner threw a pinpoint baseball pass to forward Kathleen O’Mara to end the third, and then O’Mara hit on a gorgeous reverse layup to start the fourth, the Wildcats led 36-33.

Northport senior forward Sarah Morawski had the best game of her four-year varsity career with five three-pointers and 22 total points, but no other Tiger was in double figures. 

Individual scoring wasn’t top of mind for Castellano and his girls who were craving to play the Nassau County champion. After last year’s loss to the Lady Lions, a game in which they also led heading into the second half, they were determined to scratch and tiger-claw their way back in this one.

Down by five with time melting away fast, Claire Fitzpatrick, who was quiet for much of the afternoon, made a nifty steal and then nailed a big basket from long range that made the score 42-40 with three minutes to go. 

But Hoffman, who was inserted back into the game with her four fouls, stormed down the middle of the floor and hooked a no-look pass to O’Mara in the left corner. O’Mara sank the 15-footer, and the Wildcats went up by four. Forward Emma Creighton, who wears a gigantic knee brace on her left leg, drove freely and aggressively to the rim on the Wildcats’ next possession and suddenly the Tiger deficit crept to five — and time grew short.

Morowski, in her 90th career game and certainly the most bittersweet, calmly hit a three after a Whitman free throw to cut a six-point lead in half to three, 46-43 — a one possession game. When Creighton threw the ball out of bounds for Whitman, the Tigers had their chance to tie with about a minute to go.

Radziul, who does most of her scoring from 10 feet away and in, had a good look for three from the right elbow but the ball hit the back, left side of the rim and fell harmlessly into the hands of  O’Mara. Northport was now a painful runner-up for the second year in a row. The final score was 48-44.

The Lady Tigers and their sparkling 21-2 overall record will have to wait at least another year to play the Nassau AA champion and this loss, piled on top of last year’s heartbreak, will make that wait feel much longer than just one time around the sun.

Meanwhile the Wildcats, who are currently on a 12-game winning streak, will face the winner of Massapequa and Baldwin. Whoever wins that game will travel to Hudson Valley Community College near Albany in the middle of March to compete for the New York State title. 

Shoreham-Wading River survived a late game surge from the Eagles of West Babylon when junior Juliana Mahan scored from the paint to put her team ahead 53-51 in the final seconds of the Suffolk Class A semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Centereach High School.

West Babylon had the final possession of the game. But with three seconds left, the Eagles could not get a shot off, sending the Wildcats to the county championship.

Mahan led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points. GraceAnn Leonard followed with 11, and teammates Colleen Ohrtman and Annie Sheehan each netted eight points.

— Photos by Bill Landon

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Ward Melville, the No. 3 seed found themselves in an uphill battle against Walt Whitman, the No. 2 seed in the Suffolk Class AA semifinal game Feb 22.

Whitman’s relentless defense keyed on Patriot point guard Julia Greek who ranks 14th in the county in scoring, according to Newsday, averaging 17.1 points per game limiting the senior to just eight points. The Patriots trailed by 21 points at the half, a deficit they were unable to erase falling to Whitman, 63-38, at Longwood High School.  

Ward Melville senior Kyra Gianelli topped the scoring chart for the Patriots with 12 points and Grace Balocca netted seven.

The Patriots concluded their 22-23 campaign with an impressive 15-2 record in their division 16-5 overall.  

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Rich Castellano, the legendary Northport Lady Tiger Basketball coach, had many reasons to celebrate on Saturday.

He notched his 736th victory, padding his mind-blowing total as Long Island’s all-time winningest coach. By doing so, his team’s record improved to 20-1 on the year and they advanced to the semi-final round of the Suffolk County Playoffs with their breezy 71-28 victory over Patchogue-Medford. 

It was also Castellano’s birthday — and his players showered their hard-driving skipper with gifts of championship-caliber play pretty much from the opening tap in what was the Tigers final home game of the year.

“It was a great birthday present,” Castellano said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Northport was far from overworked on Saturday against the Lady Raiders as the 43-point margin of victory would suggest, but the Lady Tigers never take a day off.

Tough-as-nails senior point guard and captain Payson Hedges scored on a driving layup in the opening moments of the game and had seven points in the first quarter, as Northport took a 15-9 lead after one. Hedges also made several nifty passes to junior Kennedy Radziul, who led all scorers with 18 points and sophomore Claire Fitzpatrick, to highlight the first quarter.

“Payson is such a complete player,” Castellano said. “She makes the correct pass every time and she sees angles on the court that only a good point guard is able to see.  She also gets rebounds when she needs to and plays great defense. I think she gets the number one star in this game.”

Hedges had five assists and seven rebounds to go along with her 13 points. As she typically does with the sharing of the basketball, she shared the credit with her tight-knit Lady Tiger teammates.

“Our whole team had a great game today,” said the cross-over lacrosse star Hedges. “We stayed focused and played hard all the way through.”

Coming in as heavy underdogs, the Lady Raiders were dealt a harsher blow to their chances when their best player Diamond Pertillar suffered an ankle injury early in the second quarter that sidelined her for the rest of the contest. Pertillar is Pat-Med’s leading scorer, averaging 16 points a game.

After Pertillar’s injury, Northport built a 35-15 lead. But the Tigers didn’t escape the first half without a painful scare of their own. 

Oft-injured senior guard Emma Kezys, who has been with the varsity program since the Lady Tigers won the Suffolk County crown in 2020, hobbled off with a knee injury with only 15 seconds remaining in the half. Kezys, who missed 11 games earlier in the year with a concussion and has also missed time with various knee injuries over the past two seasons, was expected to be available on Wednesday — results not available at press time — when Northport took on William Floyd in the Suffolk semi-finals which was played at Longwood High School in Middle Island.

“Emma is the heart and soul of the team, and she gives 110% all the time,” said Castellano. “She goes out there and in the first five seconds she’s on the floor, she takes a charge. That’s just the way she plays.”

Despite her latest injury, Kezys is confident that she will be cleared to play on Wednesday.

“This game is a big deal and I’ll be ready,” said the four-year letterman. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

With the Kezys injury and a lead that ballooned to 40 points with two minutes left in the third quarter, Castellano removed his starters and gifted every one of his active bench players with some playoff experience. 

The younger kids didn’t miss a beat.

Sophomore Isabella Bica, whose sister Sohpia was also a 10th grader on the 2020 championship team, played 14 minutes and hit a three pointer in the third quarter. Freshmen Jillian Ryan ran the point and had a couple of buckets, and sophomore guard Lily Beamer also got a chance to run the offense. Eighth-grader Ava DeMarco also logged some time and earned a rousing ovation from her teammates simply for making a free throw as time wound down. The Tiger celebration had begun.

Castellano then got a chance to insert players who have been brought up from Junior Varsity for the playoffs. Eighth-grader Riley Cash, freshmen Ella Johnson and Grace Gilmartin and sophomore Sophia Lang, who made a three pointer on her only attempt, all got the pleasure of finishing the ballgame. 

Starter Fitzpatrick, who is still only a sophomore but is a three-year starter, finished with 12 points despite sitting for most of the second half. She was giddy to gift Castellano yet another win, but she wants to shower him with more. 

“I would love to give him a Long Island Championship for his birthday and for everything he does for us,” said the precocious 10th grader. “He absolutely loves us with his whole heart and would do anything for us, and to get him ‘The Chip’ this year would be amazing.”

And that would be a very happy belated birthday present for Northport’s coaching Grand Poobah Castellano. The man with most famous yet ever-graying mustache in Suffolk agreed.

“That would be a great gift.”

Ward Melville senior point guard Julia Greek made history during the Suffolk Class AA quarterfinal playoff game between Ward Melville and Centereach, scoring her 1,000th career point before her home crowd on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The game’s outcome was a toss-up as both teams deadlocked at 45-45 with 1:49 left in regulation. But the Patriots were successful in containing the Cougars’ last-minute surge. 

Ahead by three points in the final 30 seconds, Centereach had no choice but to foul Greek to stop the clock. The senior made the Cougars pay at the charity stripe, securing a 54-46 victory and leading her team to the semifinal round.

Greek again led the way in scoring for the Patriots with four field goals, two triples and eight free throws for 22 points on the day. Grace Balocca added 15, and Catie Edson netted eight.

Centereach freshman Hayley Torres topped the scoring chart for the Cougars with 19 points. Sophomore Meaghan Grieco netted 15, and senior Alexandra Madrigal added six. Centereach concluded its 2022-23 campaign with a respectable 12-8 record.

The third-seeded Patriots will face second-seeded Walt Whitman on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Longwood High School. Gametime is set for noon. Tickets for the game can be purchased at gofan.co/app/school/NYSPHSAAXI.

— Photos by Bill Landon