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Hoops

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Sohpomore guard Nora Gabel drives the baseline in Comsewogue's triple overtime loss to Westhampton on Jan. 30. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It took three overtime periods to decide the Comsewogue girls’ basketball team’s fate Saturday, when the Warriors fell Westhampton, 59-57, after both teams were deadlocked at 41 points apiece at the end of regulation.

“We all wanted it so bad,” Comsewogue junior Stephanie Collins said of winning the game. “We wanted to come out and have a good last home game. We all just gave it our all. We hit some key shots, but I never thought it would go to three overtimes.”

The Warriors broke out to a 10-2 lead early in the game before the Hurricanes picked up speed, taking a one-point lead into the second quarter. Comsewogue battled back to outscore its opponent 13-7 over the next eight minutes, to take a 25-20 advantage into the halftime break.

Junior forward Samantha Collins reached for the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Junior forward Samantha Collins reached for the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

Westhampton scored five unanswered points to tie the game at 25-25, but Collins went to the line shooting two and swished both to help her team edge ahead 27-25 with just under four minutes left in the third.

In the final seconds of the period, with the game retied at 32-32, the Hurricanes let a fall-away jumper go at the buzzer, which hit its mark to help the team edge ahead 34-32 to begin the final quarter.

Collins went to the line shooting two, and again netted both to tie the game at 34-34 with just over five minutes left in regulation. Collins was 9-for-10 at the charity stripe, and led her team in scoring, along with sophomore Nora Gabel. The two hit the scoreboard with 20 points apiece.

Both teams traded points while the clock unwound, and Westhampton hit a field goal to bring the game to 41-41 with 40 seconds on the clock.

With 3.9 seconds left, Westhampton inbounded the ball only to have it picked off by Comsewogue’s Sofia Colocho. The Warriors immediately called time out.

With time for one more play, Comsewogue junior guard Megan Turner dribbled to the top of the key, but didn’t have a clear look. Head coach Joe Caltagirone barked from the sideline for his team to shoot the ball. Turner didn’t like the look, but let the ball fly. Her attempt just rimmed out at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

“It was a great effort, especially on a Saturday morning coming off a loss to Islip that officially eliminated us from the playoffs, but they came out with everything they had,” Caltagirone said. “Westhampton is very good. They’re stingy on defense, so getting them in foul trouble was big, and to be able to come up with some loose ball rebounds.”

Senior forward and captain Toni Ann Velazquez scores. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior forward and captain Toni Ann Velazquez scores. Photo by Bill Landon

Gabel was busy at the charity stripe netting both in her overtime appearance at the line, to help her team take a 43-41 lead with 2:47 left to play. Westhampton answered back with two points from the line, and with 43 seconds remaining, Gabel swished two more free throws to help her team retake the lead, 45-43. The Hurricanes tried to counter with their appearance at the charity stripe, but split  the attempts, to make it a one-point game.

Again, Gabel went to the line with two attempts, but missed her mark on one, pushing her team ahead 46-44 with 17.3 seconds on the clock.

Desperate to score in the final seconds, Westhampton tried to force a shot and ended up drawing a foul as the clock expired. Westhampton senior Madison Skala matter-of-factly sank both of her shots to retie the game at 46-46, forcing a second overtime period.

Two of Westhampton’s starters fouled out to give Comsewogue an edge, but the Warriors had three players with four fouls.

At the 1:36 mark of the next four minutes, Westhampton edged ahead 50-48 as the clock wound down to 15 seconds. Comsewogue’s final shot from the outside missed, but senior captain and forward Toni Ann Velazquez was right there with the putback to kept the Warriors alive for a final overtime session.

“I think we played a hell of a game,” Velazquez said. “Although we didn’t win, I think it was a great way to end our last home game. That our defense was able to hold them down and not foul as much as they did was very important.”

Gabel opened the third overtime period with another pair of free throws for a 52-50 advantage, but Westhampton answered with a pair of field goals to retake the lead, 54-52. Comsewogue freshman guard Julianna Watson took matters into her own hands as she muscled her way to the rim from the paint for a field goal, but the Hurricanes tacked on a three-point play to pull ahead 57-54 with 27 seconds left in the third overtime period.

Sophomore guard Nora Gabel hits her game-tying trifecta. Photo by Bill Landon
Sophomore guard Nora Gabel hits her game-tying trifecta. Photo by Bill Landon

As the clock wound down to eight seconds, Gabel drained a three-pointer to tie the game, and Westhampton immediately called for a timeout.

“I don’t even know what set that up,” Gabel said. “It’s not a set play, but it was pretty hectic out there, so I dribbled over and found an open shot. We needed three to tie it up, so I went for it, and luckily, it went in.”

In the little time remaining, the Hurricanes inbounded the ball and threw deep to the paint, finding the net as the buzzer blared to win the game 59-57. Comsewogue fell to 3-8 in League V, while Westhampton improved to 7-4.

“We had a couple of miscues early that cost us some opportunities early in the game,” Caltagirone said. “But it was a great game, a clutch shot by Nora for that three, so it was a total team effort.”

Behind scoring leaders Gabel and Collins, Velazquez finished with eight points while Colocho netted five. Watson and Turner rounded out the scoring banking two points each.

Comsewogue will close its season on the road on Feb. 8 against Sayville. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

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The Salvation Army youth league begins Feb. 3 and will take place every Wednesday. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Northport has announced year-round basketball divisions for boys and girls for third-grade to eighth-grade.

Final divisions will depend on enrollment, but each season will be 10 weeks, beginning Feb. 3.

Enrollment is $140 per player, and games will be every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Salvation Army Gym at 319 Clay Pitts Road in East Northport.

Teams of three to four players will play three 10-minute games every week, and every player gets a reversible jersey with enrollment.

There are no coaches, but official and certified referees will be at every game.

The 3-on-3 games will heighten the awareness of applying skills in game-like settings where players will have an increased repetition set on both the offensive and defensive side of play. Through each game, players will be able to address skills that are often overlooked in a 5-on-5 setting.

Since there are no coaches, young players are forced to rely on their own instinct and abilities which facilitates quick growth and development. It is difficult to hide in 3-on-3, so everyone participates. There is an emphasis on fundamental skill sets and an increased competitive advantage.

Some topics addressed in 3-on-3 basketball include movement with and without the ball, screening action, individual and team defense, offensive spacing patterns, and the ability to read and react to players.

The program is geared toward providing all players an opportunity to enhance player development in a supervised, small, controlled setting while actively engaged in a safe and healthy environment and is directed by Long Island standout Ralph Rossetti.

Rossetti has been the recreational director and trainer for the Salvation Army since 2013, and has been training basketball players at the Army since 2008. At the Salvation Army, Rossetti has worked with dozens of boys and girls from the youth level through high school as well as a number of NCAA and professional players.

Registration can be done as a team or individually.

Space is limited, but athletes can register online at www.northportyouthbasketballclub.com/p/3-on-3-basketball-registration.html.

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By Bill Landon

Behind Centereach junior Cassidy Treanor’s 13 points, the Cougars held off a third-quarter charge by Newfield to defeat their crosstown rival 37-24 on their own court Tuesday.

Newfield’s Maria Daume races to the basket. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Maria Daume races to the basket. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach broke out to an early lead, 12-5, as Treanor led her team in the opening quarter by scoring a pair of field goals and a three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Cougars controlled the tempo of the game early as senior Katrina Gangji dominated the boards with 11 rebounds on the evening.

The Wolverines fought back and managed to close within six points, mainly due to senior Maria Daume’s two field goals and sophomore Emily Diaz’s three-pointer with 4:55 left in the second period, but the team still couldn’t come any closer than that until the third quarter.

Diaz said her team tries to forget what has happened in the past and only focus on fixing their mistakes. “At the half, coach told us we had to mark up better, hustle back and finish on our shots,” she said. “But it’s always fun playing against them because we’re all good friends.”

Centereach sophomore Erin Tuomey also made her presence known down low with an impressive rebounding performance under the boards.

“Our team had good communication,” she said. “Everyone was talking and I think we were getting in their heads.”

Trailing 20-12 opening the second half, Newfield abandoned its zone defense and went man-to-man, which caught Centereach off guard.

“It’s pretty tough,” Newfield senior Muariana Milano said of the crosstown competition. “People talk about it so much, but it’s a rivalry — everybody knows each other. We usually play zone, but coach told us to get up in their face and we’re not used to playing like that.”

The Wolverines’ swarming defense turned the tables as Centereach struggled for open looks, forcing them to shoot from outside.

Centereach’s Cassidy Treanor drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Cassidy Treanor drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

“We cut it to four points near the end of the third quarter, but then I think we lost a little energy,” Newfield head coach Jamie Santiago said. “We were dead tired going man-to-man the whole time to try to get back in the game.”

Newfield clawed back from another deficit to trail 29-22 to open the final quarter, but didn’t come any closer the rest of the way.

“Our team tends to play to the other team’s speed, and when that happens, the coach always tells us to slow down,” Treanor said. “Coach told us at the half that we play our best when we play our game, and that’s when you get the win.”

Centereach made an adjustment in the final eight minutes of play, and was able to hold Newfield to just two pints as a result, while Gangji, Treanor and senior Erica Medina combined for eight points to put the game away.

“Defensively, we played very, very well in the first half,” Santiago said. “If we could have made a couple of easy layups and a few free throws, the score would’ve been a little closer.”

Centereach head coach James Steigele said the crosstown rivalry is important.

“It’s always an important game, because both teams come out to play and they play hard,” the coach said. “It’s always a nail-biter.”

With the win, Centereach improves to 6-4 in League III, while Newfield falls to 2-8. With four games remaining in regular-season play, the Cougars are back in action Friday night when they hit the road to take on Huntington at 6:15 p.m. The Wolverines host West Islip on Thursday, Jan. 28, with a 5:45 p.m. tipoff scheduled.

Comsewogue's Tyler Timpanero leaps up to the rim and scores. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields’ boys’ basketball team remains undefeated as the Tornadoes took down Comsewogue in a blowout victory, 69-35, in League V basketball action Tuesday night. The Warriors struggled to keep pace, and despite a third quarter rally, Harborfields was too much to handle.

“We caught them a little flat when we came out, but Comsewogue opened the second half and played like we’re used to seeing,” Harborfields head coach John Tampori said. “My guys, they come to play every day and tonight we shot the ball really well.”

Harborfields' Robert Pecorelli battles Comsewogue’s David Heller on the glass. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Robert Pecorelli battles Comsewogue’s David Heller on the glass. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields led by 10 after three minutes of play, with the Tornadoes finding its three-point rhythm. Harborfields senior guard Robert Pecorelli led the way with four three-pointers, followed by senior guard Malcolm Wynter, who drained three, all in the first quarter, to help the Tornadoes gain momentum and break out to a 34-9 advantage after eight minutes of play.

“We didn’t expect to win by this much,” Wynter said. “We’re in a tough league, but when we play our best we can score and we can stop a lot of teams.”

The Tornadoes’ defensive pressure was relentless from the opening tipoff, and the Warriors struggled to clear the ball. Harborfields junior forward Alex Merhige owned the boards as he led his team with 14 rebounds, highlighted by a two-hand jam on a putback.

From there, the Warriors dug their hole deeper, managing just five more points to the Tornadoes’ 15, for a 49-14 halftime score.

The Warriors opened the second half unlike the first, as their defense came to life, grabbing rebounds while mixing in several fast breaks. Comsewogue senior forward Dylan Cervini led the way, nailing a pair of three-pointers and a free throw for seven points, as teammate David Heller, a sophomore forward and center, banked four. Comsewogue outscored its opponent 16-7 in the third, to begin the final quarter down 56-30.

“We had to keep our intensity up in the second half,” Wynter said. “We obviously slacked off there in the third quarter, but we stayed together, we pushed hard.”

Merhige said his team had to adjust to Comsewogue’s defensive pressure in the third quarter, which proved to be difficult at first.

“They opened the second half guarding us down low, and they boxed out really well and they started grabbing rebounds,” he said. “They came out in the second half and started knocking down threes.”

Harborfields' Alex Merhige scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Alex Merhige scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s rally would be short lived, as the Tornadoes turned up the heat, denying the Warriors a field goal the rest of the way. Comsewogue earned its final five points at the free-throw line.

“We needed better communication on defense and we cleaned that up in the third quarter,” Comsewogue senior guard Travis Williams said. “But we always know what we’re getting from Harborfields. They’re very well coached, so respect to them.”

Joey Carillo, a Comsewogue junior guard, agreed with Williams that Harborfields is a tough competitor and more than his team could handle.

“Coach told us at the half that we needed to work harder, move the ball and trust each other,” Carillo said. “They’re a tough team — if we played like we did in the third quarter, we would’ve had a better game.”

Cervini lead the Warriors with 13 points, followed by Heller with six.

Pecorelli topped the leaderboard with 18 points, Merhige netted 15 and Wynter added 14.

With the win, Harborfields improves to 8-0 in league play, while Comsewogue dropped to 3-5 with four games remaining on its schedule.

Huntington's Katie Reilly maintains possession of the ball as she calls a play, as Jillian Unkenholz defends for Smithtown. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Despite the Smithtown West girls’ basketball team clawing back and taking its first lead of the game with just over five minutes left in regulation, Huntington closed the gap and edged ahead by a point, holding onto the lead in the final minute for a 44-43 League III victory Monday night.

The Bulls opened the third quarter with six unanswered points and trimmed their deficit to four to open the final quarter trailing 31-27.

Anna Gulizio scores for Huntington over the head of Smithtown's Sarah Harrington. Photo by Bill Landon
Anna Gulizio scores for Huntington over the head of Smithtown’s Sarah Harrington. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown West head coach Katie Combs said her team missed many opportunities early in the game.

“Predominantly layups and our free throws killed us today,’ she said. “Had we not done that, we should’ve won that game by 10. We’re a much better team than that, and in the second half, we had to step up and show it.”

With 5:45 remaining in the game, Smithtown West drew within one point when Rebecca Meyers went to the line shooting for two points. The senior forward missed the front end, but nailed the back to tie the game at 33-33. On their next offensive possession, the Bulls took their first lead of the game when junior forward Gabby Horman, on a rebound, banked two points to put her team out in front, 35-33.

“We started getting our steals with our press, which carried over on offense,” said Horman, who led her team in scoring with 12 points. “Coach told us at the halftime that we need to dominate in the second half and get the ball down low.”

Huntington edged ahead by a field goal and a free-throw appearance, but Horman retied the game when she went to the line shooting two and split the opportunity.

Both teams were plagued by penalties in the final two minutes of the game, and both teams traded points at the foul line. Leading by one, the Bulls found the rim to edge ahead 43-40 with 1:33 left in regulation.

“Our girls just worked really hard in that second half,” said Smithtown West freshman Jillian Unkenholz, who scored 10 points on the evening.

Huntington went to the free-throw line next, but came away empty as the score stalled with 55 seconds left on the clock.

Huntington sophomore Alex Heuwetter let a three-point attempt fly with 35 seconds left, and her shot hit its mark to tie the game again, this time, at 43-43.

Huntington's Taylor Moreno tries to force a turnover from Smithtown's Jillian Unkenholz. Photo by Bill Landon
Huntington’s Taylor Moreno tries to force a turnover from Smithtown’s Jillian Unkenholz. Photo by Bill Landon

“We sat back on them a little bit — we got comfortable with where we were at and they took advantage of that,” Huntington senior Taylor Moreno said. “The second wave of our bench came in and that completely changed the whole demeanor of the game, which gave us confidence to make that last push and we were able to come out with the win.”

With less than six seconds remaining in regulation, Huntington senior guard Katie Reilly drove the lane and was fouled, sending her to the charity stripe. She scored on the first, but missed the second opportunity to put her team out front 44-43. Reilly and Heuwetter both topped the Huntington scoreboard with 14 points apiece.

Despite her strong performance in the final quarter, Reilly said the coach wasn’t pleased at the halftime break.

“Well, the subs went in to start the second half — all five of us came out because we were slacking a little bit,” Reilly said. “So coach sent in five new people and they carried us, so it was a real team effort.”

With 4.2 seconds left on the scoreboard, Smithtown West had one final possession, inbounded the ball and passed to the baseline only to have it picked off by the Blue Devils as the buzzer sounded.

“We let them hang around and I think that was our biggest problem — we were content where we were instead of separating ourselves,” Huntington head coach Michael Kaplan said. “The girls who came off the bench really stepped up and contributed to the win, because whoever’s playing the hardest is going to play, and our subs came in and gave us a spark and energy that rejuvenated the rest of the team.”

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Port Jefferson junior Kris Cheslock races to the basket in the Royals' 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Kris Cheslock wasn’t happy with the way he was practicing last Thursday night and walked into the locker room feeling defeated, as head coach Keith Buehler followed behind for a pep talk. The next time they went into the locker room together, Friday night, they were celebrating a huge win.

“We have a terrific relationship,” the Port Jefferson head boys’ basketball coach said of he and his junior forward. “We had a nice man-to-man talk, so for him to have the game he had tonight after what he was battling last night, it touches my heart. I love these kids and I’m just so happy for him.”

Port Jefferson sophomore Thomas Mark dribbles the ball through mid court in the Royals' 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson sophomore Thomas Mark dribbles the ball through mid court in the Royals’ 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Cheslock scored a game-high 34 points and knocked in a layup with 21 seconds left to break a tie, giving the Royals a home court win over Greenport, 60-58.

“It’s a great uplift,” Cheslock said of his game and the team’s win. “I was feeling down last night and this was a great way to come back up.”

He scored 12 of the team’s 19 first-quarter points — adding stats in each category with two three-pointers, two layups and two free-throw points — but the team fell behind 24-19. Both teams were slow to get on the board in the second, but the Royals were able to narrow the gap to 34-31 by halftime.

“It was a tough one and a pivotal game to start the season,” Port Jefferson senior forward Michael Spyrou said. “We’re already 0-1 so it was good to get a win here at home.”

The third stanza proved to be much like the first, with Cheslock scoring eight points, but Greenport maintained its three-point lead, 46-43, by the end of the next eight minutes.

The fourth quarter was when the game caught fire.

With 6:09 left to play, Greenport jumped out to a 52-44 lead.

Port Jefferson senior Michael Spyrou goes for the layup in the Royals' 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson senior Michael Spyrou goes for the layup in the Royals’ 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Spyrou missed a 1-and-1 attempt, but sank the rebound for two points and stole a pass that lead to a Cheslock field goal. Seconds later Cheslock added another to make it a two-point game, 52-50. With 3:27 left to play, he intercepted a pass and nailed a long field goal to tie the game, and the crowd erupted. It didn’t last for long, though, as Greenport scored four points off two free throws and a layup, to maintain a 56-52 edge.

Cheslock swished a field goal to make it 56-54 and Greenport tacked on another two free throws, but Spyrou grabbed a rebound for the score and was fouled, swishing his extra point to make it a one-point game, 58-57.

“Me and my teammate Cheslock got the ball to each other and were able to score,” said Spyrou, who was next in line behind his comrade with 18 points and eight rebounds. “Our teammates were getting us the ball, we were getting the looks we wanted and that’s what we go over in practice and we hope to see out on the court.”

Port Jefferson junior John McLaughlin leaps for posession in the Royals' 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior John McLaughlin leaps for posession in the Royals’ 60-58 win over Greenport on Dec. 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Cheslock finally got what he had been pushing for when, with 21.4 seconds remaining, he nailed another field goal — this time to give his team the lead, 59-58, and ultimately the win. Again the gym shook with excitement.

“It was a rush,” Cheslock said. “It’s electric — everyone is rooting for you in the crowd and it feels great.”

The team and the fans were matching each other’s excitement during the last few minutes of the game.

“I kept telling my teammates not to give up, that we got this, we’re going to win, we’re going to pull through,” he said. “And we did.”

Greenport was fouled with 9.7 seconds left on the clock, but missed both opportunities to tie or grab the lead. With 7.6 seconds left to play, Spyrou tacked on the final point of the game off a free throw.

“I’m very impressed because we’re a young team,“ Buehler said. “They’ve never really been in a game like that, so I was a little scared. … [But] they were resilient, they stuck around, they stayed calm and they won the game.”

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Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport opened its season with a win over Connetquot on their home court Tuesday, defeating the Thunderbirds 62-51 in League II boys’ basketball action.

Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

Connetquot broke out to an early 8-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, which shrunk to a three-point lead with just under two minutes left. The Tigers rallied and took their first lead of the game, edging ahead 11-10 in the last minute of the quarter, but Connetquot, on their final possession, let the clock wind down to two seconds, and hit a jumper at the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the second.

But it would be the last time the Thunderbirds would lead in the contest.

After a sluggish first quarter, Northport senior Lukas Jarrett found his rhythm and the rim, as he helped the Tigers surge ahead 19-12 with just over five minutes left in the half.

Connetquot controlled the inside game early, as they were strong down low and Northport struggled to handle the pressure.

The Tigers opened the second half clinging to an eight-point lead that shrank to five with just under four minutes left in the third. Northport senior Joe Stockman swished a three-pointer from the corner to give his team a six-point advantage, and the Tigers took a 42-36 lead at the 2:28 mark of the third.

Connetquot clawed its way back to open the final quarter trailing just 45-41, but Jarrett rocked the room with a three-pointer to aid the Tigers. Again the Thunderbirds muscled their way to the rim to cut the deficit, 48-43.

Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport head coach Andrew D’Eloia said that Connetquot is a tough, resilient team, adding that the matchups between the two teams are always competitive.

“We knew what to expect and we had to be ready and play all 32 minutes, and we did that,” D’Eloia said. “I thought Brennan Whelan, Sean [O’Shea], Lukas [Jarrett], Rory [Schynder], and Joe Stockman really stepped it up, so it was a real team victory.”

O’Shea, a senior, made his presence known with a long three-pointer from the corner to break out to a 51-45 advantage with just under four minutes left in regulation.

“We knew that they’re a team that likes to pound it inside and they have good shooters, so we prepared for that,” O’Shea said. “I like how we finished at the end. It was a close game. We didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment.”

Jarrett struck again from long distance, as the senior drained his second trey of the game, to put his team out front by 11 with just over three minutes left.

Play was stopped for an injury timeout as Jarrett took an elbow to the nose. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward, with cotton stuffed up his nostrils, sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a physical team,” Jarrett said. “They were good at getting to the loose balls, so we had to match their intensity. Our bench is deep — it’s always been that way, so it’s awesome that when someone gets hurt, our bench can always pick us up.”

In the foul-plagued final minutes, both teams traded points at the free-throw line. Whelan nailed two, and the senior put his team ahead, 60-46.

“We knew they were going to be tough inside and they’re tough players,” Whelan said. “We let them get too many points inside, but we started to play well on defense and we pulled it out there at the end.”

Trailing by 14 points with time running out, Connetquot was forced to foul to arrest the clock, but learned that that was a losing battle with Northport at the charity stripe.

Whelan led his team in scoring with 18 points; Jarrett was close behind with 17 and O’Shea finished with 13.

The Tigers will try to carry the winning momentum into Friday’s road contest at Half Hollow Hills East. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.

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Smithtown's Chris Crespo leaps up to the rim between West Islip defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Defense won the Bulls this basketball game.

The Smithtown West boys’ basketball team came out blocking shot after shot against a tall West Islip team, outscoring the competition 55-28 in its League III opener.

“I loved the defensive intensity. The defense is our backbone this year,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said. “We like to hold a team under 30 points. We have to defend, we have to help each other and play pressure defense, and that’s what gives us extra possessions and gets us extra shots.”

Smithtown's Greg Giordano moves the ball up the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown’s Greg Giordano moves the ball up the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Although the Bulls won by a wide margin, the game wasn’t always that way.

After more than three minutes of play, both teams were scoreless. It wasn’t until the 4:36 mark that senior Matt English nailed the tail end of his free-throw attempts to get the first point on the board.

A minute went by until the team scored again, with senior Doug Levy coming up with a big block before sophomore Chris Crespo intercepted an inbound pass and converted it for two points. After another Levy block, West Islip called a timeout.

“The first half, we didn’t get shots to fall, but we were playing really good defense,” Crespo said. “Shots blocked, a lot of steals, points on turnovers and a lot of good stuff like that, so I think the defense really helped us win this game.”

At the 1:11 mark, English scored on a putback to extend the Bulls’ lead to 5-0, but a West Islip field goal and three-pointer sandwiching junior Kyle LaGuardia’s free throw and field goal off a rebound on his own free-throw miss brought the score to 8-5 at the end of the first quarter.

Nick Grande looks to make a pass for Smithtown. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Nick Grande looks to make a pass for Smithtown. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Crespo started off the second stanza with a three-pointer, and after a West Islip field goal, Levy added a putback and junior Gordon Shouler followed with a three-pointer of his own to extend the team’s lead to 16-7.

“Going into the second and especially in the third quarter, we were really getting our shots to fall,” Crespo said. “And still, the defense continued to remain strong.”

By the halftime break, Smithtown West had doubled West Islip’s score, 24-12.

“We don’t shoot as much as other teams have, but we do have plenty of guys that can shoot and get hot quick,” Agostino said. “We just have to find our rhythm, but this is only our second game.”

English and senior guard Nick Grande powered the Bulls through the third. First, English began the scoring with a putback, and after four West Islip points, Grande started off his scoring for the evening with a field goal.

English swished two free-throw points, and West Islip scored a field goal of its own, but Grande answered back when he converted a putback for two.

West Islip grabbed another rebound, but Grande nailed a three-pointer to extend the Bulls’ lead to 37-18. The two teams traded field goals again and West Islip tacked on a two free throws to bring the score to 39-22.

Gordon Shouler defends for Smithtown. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Gordon Shouler defends for Smithtown. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Everything starts on defense and I think we played four full quarters of defense, so that’s always going to keep you in the game,” Grande said.

What helped the team besides its defense was having a myriad of players that can score. Eight different players contributed to the team’s total score, which isn’t common.

“When other teams are getting fatigued, we’re still rotating new guys in,” Grande said. “It definitely puts a lot of pressure on them to keep up with us.”

Five different players scored in the fourth quarter, and by midway through the final eight minutes, Agostino was able to swap in his bench players to get playing time.

Grande and Shouler finished with 11 points each, Crespo added eight with six assists and three rebounds, and English scored seven points and had seven rebounds.

“Even those guys that are coming in late in the game, they’re doing the same thing,” the head coach said. “They’re defending, they’re being aggressive, they’re rebounding and it’s those constant waves of aggression that are coming at teams that I think can really help us down the line.”

Agostino would like to see some improvements in the team’s offensive game, but so far, he likes what he’s seeing.

“Once that happens,” he said of the progression throughout the season, “I think we’ll be really tough to beat.”

Smithtown West travels to Newfield on Thursday, with tipoff scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

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Kevin Keese reaches for the layup for Smithtown East. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Smithtown East’s comeback effort, despite a 24-point showing from senior forward Kevin Keese, may have fallen short Tuesday with a 59-54 nonleague loss to Sachem North, but the team is optimistic about its chances moving forward.

“I thought we played really hard and that’s our hallmark,” Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling said. “We have to be a team that outworks other teams. I think at times today we got outworked, and that was disappointing, but we never gave up. It’s going to be like this every night. We’re going to work hard like this every night and work on our identity by defending better.”

Sachem knocked down the first three points, but Smithtown countered when junior small forward Sam Wahba made two free throws.

“I thought we could have played a lot better,” he said. “Staying in it speaks of our heart and how hard we wanted it, but at the end of the day we just got to play better defense.”

After forcing a turnover that led to a three-pointer by senior guard Conor Wooley, Keese snatched the ball out of midair and converted the turnover into points of his own when he scored a layup that gave his team its first and only lead of the game, 7-5.

Keese said he agreed with Wahba though, about the lack of defense.

“We all could’ve stepped up on defense,” he said. “We had too many gaps in our defense, and I don’t think we should have lost to this team. We definitely have the skill level there, but tonight we missed a couple odd shots and the defense hurt, too.”

Smithtown East's Connor DeSimone dribbles across the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone dribbles across the court. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Sachem scored the next seven points to pull out in front 11-7 before Smithtown sophomore forward Brian Cosgrove tacked on a layup. Sachem closed out the scoring in the first stanza with a free-throw point to maintain the lead heading into the second.

This was where Keese got down to business.

After opening the scoring with a layup, Sachem countered with a layup and free throw, and two more free throws, for a 17-11 lead, before Keese added two field goals. Keese had a counter for everything, and answered Sachem’s ensuing three-pointer with one of his own. Sachem scored another two points, but Keese drew a foul and missed on the tail end.

“I’m so happy that he’s on our side,” the coach said, laughing. “He’s an outstanding player. No one works harder than him. He gives us everything he’s got.”

Wahba scored a layup with 4:28 remaining until the halftime break, and helped the team close the gap to one point, 22-21. The gap didn’t stay closed for long, though. After Sachem North scored the next six points, Smithtown junior guard Connor DeSimone scored a field goal, but Sachem countered with two of their own to jump out in front, 32-23. By halftime, the Bulls edged closer, but trailed 34-28.

The two teams traded scores in the third, and by the end of the next eight minutes, Sachem re-extended its lead, 45-36.

Fouls continued to plague Smithtown, as the opening foul led to another Sachem point, but Keese continued to rack up the points with two free throws and a field goal that sandwiched a Sachem two-point shot.

Smithtown tacked on four more points before Sachem scored, and with 2:08 left to play, DeSimone scored a layup to make it a three-point game, 53-50,

“They fought to the very end,” Reyling said. “The game looked like it could have been over a couple of times. We made some shots and fought back and forced some turnovers. We gave ourselves the chance to tie the game, having the ball down by three twice, the shots just didn’t fall for us.”

Fourteen seconds later, DeSimone scored a long two-point shot to again make it a one-point game. Sachem was able to tack on six points off of foul shots, though, and Smithtown missed two free throws and several three-point attempts. Keese scored the final two points for Smithtown with 16 seconds left on the clock.

“We started off hot and then we kind of lost it in the middle, but we definitely didn’t fold at the end, so it showed some good signs for us,” Keese said. “It’s huge for a young team like us. We’re finding out our strengths and weaknesses, and to keep up the intensity was huge. I think we’re starting to mesh as a team better, so it looks promising.”

Comsewogue sophomore Victoria Blaney shoots while Rocky Point's Madison Hrysko defends. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue sophomore Nora Gabel makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue sophomore Nora Gabel makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Behind Nora Gabel’s 23 points and eight steals, the Comsewogue girls’ basketball team led coast to coast in Tuesday’s League V opener on the road at Rocky Point, turning a 9-4 lead after one quarter to a 43-22 victory.

Comsewogue controlled the tempo from tipoff, dominated the time of possession and hit the scoreboard over and over.

By halftime, the Warriors battled their way up to a 20-8 lead, but Comsewogue head coach Joe Caltagirone said he knew Rocky Point would be athletic, despite not knowing how they’d be offensively.

“They put a little ball pressure on us and they contested all of our shots,” Caltagirone said of Rocky Point, adding he was pleased with how his team played defensive. “Offensively, I think we have a little ways to go to get to where I want to be this season.”

Despite several turnovers in the first half, the Warriors got their rhythm in the second as the team found the rim. Gabel, a sophomore guard, lit up the scoreboard for Comsewogue with 11 points, which included a pair of three-pointers. Rocky Point senior forward Julia Jauhiainen scored all of her five points in the third quarter, as her team trailed 33-13.

With 5:52 left in the game, Comsewogue worked to unwind the clock, and the teams traded points as time expired.

Gabel, who nailed three treys on the evening, said that she was surprised by the margin of victory.

Comsewogue freshman Julianna Watson goes up for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue freshman Julianna Watson goes up for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“In the huddle before the game, I said we have to be hungrier than they were,” Gabel said. “So we went out there and played our hardest and we left it all out on the court.”

Following Gabel for the Warriors was junior guard Megan Turner with seven points, and forwards Sam Collins, a junior, and Victoria Blaney, a sophomore, chipped in four points apiece.

“They’re a strong team, but I don’t think we played up to our standards,” Turner said. “Defensively we’re strong, but our offense needs a little work.”

Rocky Point senior guard Michaela Peacock and junior center Allyson Greenstein matched Jauhiainen with five points each.

Rocky Point head coach Scott Lindsay said Comsewogue is always a tough team to play because they’re physical and have two strong guards.

“They play a strong defense up top, which caused a little problem when they started pressing,” Lindsay said. “With our second group, I was really impressed with how they were moving the ball. We’re improving from game to game — they played hard the whole way and I think we’re building on something here.”

Comsewogue will host Harborfields in its first home game of the season on Thursday. A 5:45 p.m. tipoff is scheduled.