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Kiera Ahern

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No Suffolk County team averaged more than Kings Park’s 69.5 points per game this season.

That offensive success paid off in dividends as the No. 3-seeded Kingsmen finished the regular season 16-2 overall and took a 12-game winning streak into the postseason, where the undefeated League IV champions took down No. 14 Hauppauge and No. 6 Huntington, making their way to the Suffolk County Class AA semifinals at Stony Brook University Sunday afternoon.

Although challenger Commack, the No. 2 seed, was also 18-2 heading into the game, the usual onslaught that had been expected with Kings Park was non-existent on the Seawolves’ home court.

This was because the Cougars valued defense above all else — something that Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said was lacking from his team’s game Sunday.

“Our help defense was not what it needed to be and we talked about that all year, really,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season, and it’s been something we’ve focused on and we’ve focused on, and today we just didn’t put it all together on the defensive side of the ball.”

Commack scored the first six points of the semifinal game before sophomore guard Sam Schultz swished a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half. The Cougars countered with a field goal and two free-throw points to re-extend the lead. Despite a free-throw point by junior guard and forward Taylor Slicklein, Commack grabbed an offensive rebound to pull ahead 12-4, forcing Edmundson to use one of his timeouts to try and regroup.

The pep-talk proved successful, as Schultz scored a layup and a field goal, Slicklein tacked on a 3-pointer and junior guard Selena Ubriaco tallied a trifecta of her own with 3.6 left in the first quarter to help her team pull within five, 19-14, heading into the second stanza.

“I think we definitely didn’t start as strong as we needed to today, and Commack made the most of it — they started as strong as they could and that allowed them to take the lead in the end,” Schultz said. “We fought back, but it wasn’t enough.”

The deficit only grew from there, with Commack taking a 35-23 advantage into the locker room.

“You’ve gotta take your hat off to Commack they played great defense,” Edmundson said. “Jackie DelliSanti dominated. She’s a phenomenal player. We knew we needed to try and slow her down and we were unable to do that, and that was the big difference.”

DelliSanti was the difference-maker, scoring a game-high 22 points.

In the second half, though, Kings Park mounted a strong comeback effort, outscoring its opponent 15-9 in the third quarter, with help from Schultz, Ubriaco, senior guard Kiera Ahern and Taylor Slicklein’s twin sister Tiffany.

Tiffany Slicklein, who averaged 17 points per game, was held to 13, which helped open the lane for Schultz, who finished with a team-high 17 points herself. Still, the sophomore said the team’s junior co-captain is such a dominant player that despite the heavy guarding, Slicklein was able to excel.

“They have to key on her,” Schultz said of Slicklein. “That allowed me to be more open to the point where it’s hard for them to key on two girls, so I think that helped open up some lanes for everybody. But she definitely made really smart choices and passes and never forced any shots, which helped.”

Despite Kings Park’s strong season coming to a close, the head coach said he’s proud of his girls’ accomplishments.

“They battled all year and they came together as a team,” he said. “We have some freshmen and some seniors and the dynamics don’t always work out well, and with this group, it did. They all came together.”

Schultz said she thinks the outcome may have been different had the team learned from its mistakes early on in the game, but is excited about the future of her team, although the loss of senior starter Kiera Ahern will prove difficult.
“If a couple of shots would’ve fell or if we made that extra pass one or two extra times, I think the outcome could’ve been a little different,” Schultz said. “Now that this season is over all you can worry about is next year, so I’m excited. We’ll have probably a little freshman come up and be a starter, and I think only good things for us next year.”

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Kiera Ahern reaches for the ball on a fast break. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The success of the starters is rubbing off on the Kings Park bench.

In the girls’ basketball team’s monster 90-35 win over Eastport-South Manor Tuesday, every single one of the Kingsmen put points on the scoreboard, aiding in the team remaining undefeated with a 10-0 record in League IV. Kings Park is also on an eight-game winning streak.

“I tell the girls I don’t care who’s on the floor whether you’re our best player or a starter or the 12th girl at the bottom of the bench, when you get out there you play hard and these girls did it,” Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said. “We didn’t have any girls left off the scoring table. We had 11 3-pointers, two girls who never scored before hit 3-pointers tonight, so it’s great when everyone can contribute the way we did. It was outstanding.”

Kings Park junior guard and forward Tiffany Slicklein scored the first 14 points of her game-high 21 in the first quarter, all of which were the first points for her team. She also finished with 16 rebounds and seven assists.

Tiffany Slicklein muscles her way up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Tiffany Slicklein muscles her way up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen used fast breaks and a full-court press to force turnovers and steal passes, and converted nearly every opportunity into quick points.

“We stress defense all the time,” Slicklein said. “Our defense leads to our offense and that clearly happened today.”

By the end of the first eight minutes, Kings Park jumped out to a whopping 30-11 lead.

“We started the game with our full-court pressure to try to get them off their game, and every time we get a rebound or a steal, we want to go,” Edmundson said. “There’s nothing better than having the ball and scoring within three seconds while the other team may have the ball and it takes them 25 seconds to score.”

Kings Park continued to limit its opponents’ opportunities at a basket while tacking on close to as many points as it did in the first, to take a 51-16 lead into the halftime break.

Also doing a stellar job for the Kingsmen was senior guard Kiera Ahern, who collected 14 points in the first half on two 3-pointers, three field goals and two free throws. Ahern ended the evening with a career-best 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“She’s so smart out there,” Edmundson said of Ahern. “She doesn’t get the recognition a lot of the time because she doesn’t put up big points, but she really in so many ways is the glue to this team. I’m just beyond thrilled that she had a game like this.”

Eastport-South Manor was able to keep up with Kings Park and maintain a quick style of play, but that fizzled out during the second half as the speed wore down the players over time.

After Kings Park held its opponent to three points over the first six minutes of the third quarter, Edmundson dove deeper into his bench to give the other players some time. The Kingsmen used this to their advantage as several girls scored for the first time, and five girls came off the bench — seniors Francesca Timpone and Shannon Donovan with juniors Lauren DeLillo, Toni Labrador and Shannon Savage — all to score 3-pointers.

Selena Ubriaco passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Selena Ubriaco passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s nice when you know you have support when you’re coming off the floor that someone else is going to step onto the court and step up and make shots,” Slicklein said.

The bench remained on the court for the final eight minutes of the game, and put up 24 points while holding Eastport-South Manor to 12.

“It’s a great time for us to show off our team skills,” Ahern said. “We’re hoping to win the league, so by making this another statement game it’s a great opportunity to show those teams — and those in the other leagues — that we’re a good team and a tough competitor.”

With the girls playing a makeup game on Monday on account of the weather and with Tuesday’s game being the girls’ “coaches vs. cancer” game, there were a lot of distractions, and Edmundson liked that his team was able to remain focused.

“To play the way they did is a testament to their ability,” he said. “We definitely have the talent, the heart and the dedication to make a county run — we just have to go out there and do it.”

For players like Ahern, she used what the night represented as motivation to shine.

“I played in memory of my uncle and a girl who passed away in our town a couple of years ago and a junior varsity coach,” she said. “I was playing for those who died and survived cancer, so it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to play for them.”

Kings Park is three wins above Hauppauge and Half Hollow Hills West, so if the team can continue its winning ways, the Kingsmen should remain in the top spot. But the girls’ goal is to remain undefeated.

“We’re very confident but we don’t want to get too cocky, so we just want to play our best every day and bring our best to every game,” Slicklein said. “If we continue to do that, I think we’re going to like the outcome.”