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Northport High School

Photo from Let. Trotta's office

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta invited Northport High School senior Kaitlyn Ruiter and her parents, Anna and Walter, to the Legislature’s General Meeting on May 23 to recognize Kaitlyn for winning a Grammy as a member of the New York Youth Symphony, where she plays double bass. The New York Youth Symphony won a Grammy for its album, “Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Valerie Coleman.” This is the first youth orchestra ever to win a Grammy. Legislator Trotta congratulated Kaitlyn on this major achievement and expressed his admiration for her musical talent.

Pictured with Grammy winner Kaitlyn Ruiter (center) are, from left, Suffolk County Legislator Stephanie Bontempi, Kaitlyn’s parents Anna and Walter, Northport High School orchestra teacher, Michael Sussino, and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta.

Northport Lady Tigers celebrate their victory. Photo by Steven Zaitz

The second-ranked Northport Lady Tigers lacrosse team advanced to the Suffolk County Division I final match by clobbering the William Floyd Colonials, 12-7, at home on Tuesday Night. They will face fifth-seeded Smithtown East at Stony Brook University on May 31 after the Bulls upset the top ranked Ward Melville Lady Patriots.

In what was a close game for the first six minutes, the Lady Tigers took control of the match with six goals in the last nine minutes of the first half, including two in the last 45 seconds, both by freshman attacker Kate Atkinson. This offensive explosion turned a slim 3-2 Tiger advantage into a 9-3 rout in-the-making. 

Fellow attacker Julia Huxtable had five goals, including the last three of the game for Northport. Left defensive winger Kennedy Radziul had a goal and five assists. Goalkeeper Megan Morris had five saves as the Tigers never allowed the Colonials to crawl back into the game in the second half. 

Senior Grace McCarthy won a whopping 78% of her draws at the dot and this allowed Northport to control the ball in the offensive zone for long stretches. McCarthy also chipped in with two assists, and junior Christina Lauro had two first half goals.

Northport’s record is now 16-2 overall, and Floyd finishes the year at 13-5. Ava Tiedemann scored three goals for the Colonials and Kayden Meyer had two. GK Makayla Inguanta kicked out nine Northport shots.

The Flag Football Force is strong in the reigning Long Island Champion Walt Whitman Wildcats. The Northport Lady Tigers found out the hard way.

On May the Fourth, Whitman blanked Northport 21-0, putting on a dazzling display of defensive dominance and offensive efficiency. The Lady Tigers, who have been beset by a rash of injuries, were on the business end of the Lady Cat light saber and dropped to 3-4-1 on the season and into seventh place in Suffolk Division I.  They will need to win their final two games against Amityville and North Babylon to qualify for the playoffs.

Whitman improved to 5-1 with the home win and are in the hunt for the division crown, which has developed into quite an interesting four-horse race. The Wildcats, along with Hauppauge, Half Hollow Hills and Sayville have a combined record of 24-4 at the start of this week and are fighting for first. The other seven teams in Division I are all below the .500 mark. This list now includes Northport. 

Tiger Head Coach Pat Campbell is not focused on the standings. He still has hope.

“This is our first year doing this thing, and I’m proud of way our girls have fought,” Campbell said. “That team [Whitman] won the Long Island Championship for a reason, and they have a really good defense that flies around the ball and gets to flags quickly. I thought we hung tough, but we made a few mistakes, and they took advantage.”

In what seems to be a trend across the flag football world, defensive touchdowns via interceptions are just as common as offensive touchdowns. That is exactly how the Lady Cats struck early in this game.

With Northport freshman quarterback Grace Gilmartin pinned against her own goal line, Lady Cat linebacker Brittny Cisneros Campos stepped in front of a short Gilmartin pass and waltzed in for a pick-six with 6:19 remaining in the first half. Just like that, the Empire had struck.

“Defense led the way for us today,” said Whitman Head Coach Ralph Milazzo. “Brittny is all over the place and has been the leader of our defense all year.”

Cisneros Campos, an 11th grader who wears number 11, led Whitman with nine flag pulls, four of which were behind the line of scrimmage, against Northport in addition to her interception and was part of a defense that swarmed around the ball from the opening whistle to the final gun. They had three interceptions on the day, four sacks and an incredible 12 total tackles for loss. Lady Cat DL Mary Pohalski had half a dozen of these TFLs.

“I never expected to have a defensive touchdown,” said the giddy Cisneros Campos. “It felt amazing to score one.”

Giving up a defensive touchdown and falling behind early is a pattern that is not unfamiliar to Lady Tiger fans, as this scenario has occurred in games against Half Hollow Hills and Hauppauge — both losses. 

Exacerbating matters, Northport is now on its sixth starting center — the position that is responsible for snapping the ball to and protecting quarterback Gilmartin from the defensive rush. Starting center Isabella Bica was lost to a wrist injury three weeks ago, and Sarah Power, Nina Corbett, Brooke Kershow and Nina Scala have all gone through what has become a revolving door for Campbell at this critical position. 

Stephanie Milonas, who is a quick scatback type of runner and pass-catcher, filled in dutifully on this day. She was fine snapping the ball, but the Wildcat defensive front was easily able to generate constant penetration and chaos in the freshman Gilmartin’s backfield.

“There are no excuses, and we always say, ‘next girl up,’ but we need to do a better job of blocking,” said Campbell, whose offense couldn’t generate much in the way of passing or rushing yards because of the relentless Whitman pressure.

The Wildcats would get another touchdown just before halftime that was set up by another interception, this time by Whitman cornerback Britany Delao Romero, who read a pass intended for WR Kenzie Bliven and returned it all the way to the Tiger 8-yard line. Two plays later, it was 14-0 in favor of Whitman.

As the defense grabbed many of the headlines for the Wildcats, senior quarterback Ava Seifert played an efficient game, completing 21 of 33 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. She sprayed the ball around to five different receivers, including nine completions to Wildcat basketball superstar Iris Hoffman. Seifert is hungry for another long, successful playoff run.

“It would be a really cool way to end my senior year and athletic career at Walt Whitman High School,” said Seifert of the prospect of another Long Island Championship. “Our coaches have put a lot of effort into making us successful and preparing us for each game.”

Milazzo has been pleased by Seifert’s handling of the offense and its ability to play complimentary football with his ferocious defense.

“Ava has been great for us,” Milazzo said. “She’s been in our system for two years with a lot of pressure on her shoulders and she continues to step up and make great plays.”

In its final two games, it is Northport who will need to find a way to step up and make great plays if this young team, made up of mostly underclassmen, is to fulfill their playoff destiny — while they still have control of it.

April is known to be a month when pitchers are ahead of the hitters — but this is getting ridiculous.

The Northport Tigers baseball team was shutout on only one hit on Saturday, 2-0 against West Islip to wrap up a three-game set. Also wrapped up are the Tiger bats, as Lions right-handed pitcher Evan Byrnes pitched the complete game one-hitter and struck out nine. Northport was held hitless through five in their opener against West Islip righty Chris Lospinuso, and they have scored only seven runs in the first three games thus far, losing two of three to West Islip to start the season.

Northport’s lone hit against Byrnes might well have even been a gift from the official scorer, as West Islip right fielder Erick Burciaga was unable to grab Dominick Tetta’s pop fly behind the first base bag in the third inning.

Burciaga raced about 40 yards towards the right field foul line and lunged for the ball, but he closed his glove a split second too early and the ball fell to the grass. Despite the long run, he feels he should have made the catch.

“I should have had it and I wish they ruled that an error,” Burciaga said, “I apologized to Byrnesie because I felt bad, but he was very nice about it. He cared more about winning the game.”

Byrnes still took the opportunity to needle his teammate.

“I told him on the bus the bus ride that he ruined my no-hitter, but he knew I was kidding,” said Byrnes, who is only a sophomore. “In truth, I wasn’t even expecting him to get near that ball. It would have an incredible play.”

Though Byrnes was dominant, West Islip’s offense didn’t exactly burn up the basepaths in this series either, as the Tigers actually outscored them 7-6 in the three games. Northport won the middle game 6-2, but the Lion offense mustered enough to take two of three, as Lospinuso and Byrnes held them in check, allowing only one run in 14 innings. 

The Tiger strung together an effective bullpen game as righties Mike Lombardo, Liam Ryan and Ty D’Amico combined to give up only one earned run. On this day against Byrnes, who improves to 2-0 in 2023 and hasn’t allowed a run in 11 innings, it was one too many.

“West Islip has a great pitching staff and it seems like they do every year,” said Northport head coach Sean Lynch. “In both of the losses, we were in the game until the end, but they found away to scratch out runs when they needed to and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Tiger shortstop Owen Johansen hit a long drive to right after Tetta reached base with his hit, but Burciaga was able to make the catch steps in front of the fence. That’s the closest Northport was to scoring a runoff of Byrnes. 

“I have a feeling he (Byrnes) is going to be one of the toughest guys we face this year,” Lynch said. “I’m hoping our bats start to come alive as the weather gets warmer and we get used to facing live pitching.”

Byrnes was honored by Lynch’s assessment of his performance.

“It’s definitely one of the greatest feelings in the world to have that type of respect from the coach of a top team like Northport,” Byrnes said. “They have a tough lineup with a bunch of guys who can change a close game with one swing, so I’m glad we were able to finish the series with a win.”

Northport will need to string together a few good swings, starting with their three-game set against Half Hollow Hills East that kicked off on Tuesday.

The Long Island Champion Northport Tiger boys lacrosse program notched its first league win,
outlasting Bay Shore, 13-11, on March 28.

Junior Timothy McLam had four goals and an assist, and sophomore Jack Deliberti added three goals. Both are attackers. Senior long pole Andrew Miller controlled both ends of the field admirably, and he had two goals and assist and his teammate on the football team, senior midfielder Macklin O’Brien,was omnipresent
with two goals and three assists.

Goalkeeper Michael Tittman, who is the younger brother of 2021 Tiger goalkeeper and Long Island
champion Andrew Tittman, recorded six saves and was active in orchestrating his men around the cage, as
his brother was. He made several key saves early on, as the Tigers raced out to 7-2 lead by halftime.

But the Marauders hung tough, scoring four goals in a five-minute span in the third quarter and in doing so,
slicing the Tiger lead to 10-7.

But O’Brien scored off a nifty pass from Miller with less than a minute to go in the third to restore a four
goal lead for Northport.

Bay Shore Attacker Peter Urso would score two goals in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough, as
Northport held on to win by two. Tiger face-off specialist Dylan Baumgarth won 14 out of 22 at the ‘X’,
as he has big shoes to fill in that area with the graduation of two-time Long Island Finals M.V.P. Tyler
Kuprianchick. A 64%-win rate is a great place to start for Baumgarth.

Northport is now 2-0 overall and takes on Sachem North on the road on Friday, March 31. Bay Shore is 1-2 and will face Lindenhurst also on Friday.

All photos by Steven Zaitz

Hauppauge High School was the scene this past Saturday for over 200 girls who will participate in flag football this year.  Suffolk County footballers from as far away as East Hampton and Eastport-South Manor were put through their paces at eight different drill stations as they steam ahead toward opening day. 

A little closer to home, Northport, Huntington, Sachem East, Amityville, Patchogue Medford, and of course, host Hauppauge all threw, ran, stretched and caught passes from coaches.  Eagles Head Coach Steve Mileti ran the running back and flag-grabbing drill and Northport Head Coach Pat Campbell and Assistant Coach Perry Marinelli taught receivers how to catch the ball and run routes. 

There was spirit of team building as the groups, comprised of a mash-up of girls from the participating schools, rotated around in 10-minute shifts, laughing and getting to know each other along the way. 

The girls flag football season starts locally on March 29 when Hauppauge travels to Harborfields. Northport’s first game is on April 3 on the road against Half Hollow Hills.

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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.”

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.

When perennial powers Northport and Whitman squared off on Monday evening, not only was it a battle of unbeaten girls basketball teams, but it was also the night of the annual cancer awareness event in Northport called Score for a Cure.

Girls on both teams wore pink warm-up gear and had the names of people in their lives who have been touched by cancer hand-written on their shirts.

Legendary Northport Coach Rich Castellano took the microphone to thank the girls, coaches and fans for their support and fundraising efforts, as he has been stricken — and beaten — the dreaded disease twice in his lifetime. The all-time winningest girls basketball coach in Long Island history is one of the pioneers of the Score for a Cure program.

However, when the brief ceremony was over and the game had begun, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of scoring of the basketball. Neither team registered a point until Whitman Lady Cat Iris Hoffman hit a three pointer for the visitors with almost five minutes gone in the first quarter. Both teams combined to miss their first 11 field goal attempts.

“I can’t remember such a low scoring first quarter,” said the affable Castellano. “I thought we might make history and have a zero-zero game.”

Castellano’s hyperbole aside, he wasn’t far from the truth as the mighty Lady Tigers, who average 65 points a game, had a lonely field goal and a couple of free throws in the first quarter and trailed 8-4 after one.

The second quarter was vastly different.

Hard-nosed point guard Payson Hedges started to find cracks in the Wildcat defense, finding forward Kennedy Radziul inside for a layup and sophomore swingman Claire Fitzpatrick on the wing for a three pointer to start the period. Hedges stole the ball from Hoffman and scored on a driving layup to cap a 10-0 run with three minutes left in the half. Fitzpatrick would make another three-pointer — as would junior guard Kaylee Walsh — and Northport would lead 24-12 at the break.

“We haven’t really been defended better than we were defended tonight,“ Castellano said. “But we started to run some screens down low and Payson was very good at getting the ball to the right person.”

In the first half, starting shooting guard Brooke Kershow was uncustomarily not one of those people, having missed on all four of her field goal attempts. 

But during one important stretch in the third quarter, she righted herself and the Lady Tigers in a big way. After the Wildcats trimmed the Tiger lead to just three in the first 5 minutes of the second half, Kershow hit a long bomb from the wing, a driving, two-handed layup and a mid-range jumper for seven straight points in barely over a minute of basketball. It jolted the momentum back to the Blue and Gold and gave them a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“I had a slow start, but it was sure nice to come out in the second half and help the team,” said Kershow.

Castellano, who has been coaching Northport for over 40 years, is a master of pushing the right buttons when he senses that a player would benefit from sitting and watching.

“I saw something was off with her shooting, so I gave her a breather,” Castellano said. “But Brooke is a great shooter and that little run of hers really turned the game for us at the end of the third.”

But Whitman wasn’t done. They whittled the lead down to three when sophomore forward Brianna Verga scored on a Euro-step layup with three minutes left in the contest to cap a 7-0 spree. The Lady Cats were one possession away from potentially tying the game.

But sharpshooter Walsh bagged a bomb from the left corner to give Northport a 40-34 lead with two minutes to go. Whitman called timeout and Walsh’s joyous teammates smothered her with hugs and high-fives.

“We are all so close as a team and never selfish with the ball,” said Walsh, who comes off the bench for Northport on most nights. “It’s great playing with the starters and knowing that they trust me with the ball. I felt pretty confident taking that shot and it felt great to see it go in, in such a big moment of the game.”

“If Kaylee has an open shot, I’ve told her a million times to take it,” Castellano said. “She is starting to not let the moments be too big for her and after making that one, I think it will help her confidence even more.”

Walsh’s three-bagger would be the dagger in what was a 43-36 final that saw no Lady Tiger score in double figures. Fitzpatrick had 9, as did Hedges who also had 7 assists. Radziul scored 8, Kershow 7 and Walsh’s two three-pointers were good for six. Hoffman led all scorers with 12 and Verga added 10.

What they lacked in offense, Northport made up for with defense and clutch shooting. They are now 9-0 in league play and Whitman drops to 7-1.

“Before every game, I write something on the whiteboard for the girls to think about,” Castellano said. “Today I wrote that I wanted them to find a way to grow. We didn’t play our typical game and we didn’t shoot particularly well, especially in that first half, but we were resourceful, played good pressure defense and hit big shots when we needed to steal back the momentum. So I think they read those words and we grew a little bit as a team tonight.”

A malfunctioning fire alarm caused a 48-minute delay in the middle of the third quarter of the Smithtown West vs. Northport boys basketball game on Saturday.

A close game before the stoppage turned into a rout for the Bulls, as they won 68-41. Northport was ahead 31-27 at halftime and were down by only four with 3:07 left in the third quarter when the alarm bells began to sound.

Smithtown West exploded with 31-8 after play resumed, including an 11-0 run to end the third quarter.

This was a part of a 19-2 run that spanned the end of the first half to the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

Jack Melore scored 26, including 4 three pointers, for the Bulls who remain undefeated at 5-0. Center Patrick Burke had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks for West. Northport’s Andrew Miller scored 18 points, 14 in the first half, as the Tigers dropped their first game of the year and are 4-1. Brendan Carr had 8 points and Emmett Radziul had 6 for Northport.

As for the delay, first responders from Hauppauge and Central Islip were on the scene within minutes and approximately a dozen fully-uniformed firefighters investigated the premises accompanied by Smithtown Central School District officials. It was determined that a faulty smoke detector caused the alarm — the second time in a week such a situation had occurred.

According to SCSD Director of Facilities Dan Leddy, the fire alert system for the entire district is currently being modernized with Smithtown West High School the first building to have a new fire safety monitoring system installed. This work should be completed district-wide before the end of the 2022-23 school year.