Tags Posts tagged with "Northport Lady Tigers"

Northport Lady Tigers

The incomparable Sophia Bica of Northport. Photo by Steven Zaitz

Recently, three student-athletes from Northport High School shared their experiences with playing sports during the pandemic.

Emma Blanco

Emma Blanco, senior

Four weeks and only eight games — that is all the Northport Lady Tigers got this season.

Compared to the four months that we usually get for a basketball season, you can definitely say that this year was something different. The Covid-19 pandemic was something that no one saw coming, and it hit everyone hard. Last year, our season was cut short right before we were about to play the Long Island Girls Championship game. This year we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to get on the court again after so much uncertainty about resuming high school sports. COVID-19 was something that no high school sport had ever experienced, and as the winter season was the first that could play, we were the guinea pigs. The masks, social distancing, weekly testing and contact tracing was new territory for everyone.

In the past, we would have been practicing and playing in both summer and fall leagues. These programs not only help us grow as a team skills wise, but give us more time to bond as teammates. 

Luckily, all the girls who returned this year had played on the varsity team last year or had been pulled up from the junior varsity team for playoffs in 2020. I knew from the first practice that all the girls were excited, motivated, and ready to get on the court again, and we were determined to make the best of the short season that we were given.

The uncertainty that surrounded the season was definitely stressful. Hearing about other teams that could not play because they were in quarantine after a teammate tested positive — we knew that the season could be taken away just as fast as it started.  The optimistic and positive attitude that our team had from the beginning was so crucial to our team’s success. We all knew how important it was to follow the guidelines so that everyone stayed healthy during the season.

Due to COVID restrictions, fans were not allowed at any of our games. We ran a fundraiser that allowed all of our families and fans to purchase cardboard cutouts that would be placed in the stands during all of our home games.  It was nice to look out into the stands and see familiar faces, but it did not come close to comparing to the roaring crowds that were in the stands the previous year. Our team filled the void by keeping a positive attitude on and off the court. Although this was not the season that everyone had hoped for, it was an unforgettable experience that will go down in Northport Lady Tiger history.

I am so grateful that I had the chance to lead the team as co-captain and to play as a Northport Lady Tiger one last time before graduating in both basketball and field hockey. I will always look back on my years as a Lady Tiger with the fondest of memories.

Emma Blanco plays girls basketball and was captain in 2021 and was part of the 2020 Suffolk County Championship team. She was named All League II in 2021 and Suffolk County All-Academic team with an average over 100.

She also plays field hockey and was part of the Suffolk County and Long Island Championship team in 2021.

Sophia Yearwood

Sophia Yearwood, junior

Having an opportunity to play in the 2021 season gave us hope and relief. As a team we all began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was proud to be on the court with teammates who demonstrated such resilience and determination. We had to accept a new reality which was having less time to sharpen our skills, prepare, and bond as a team for this season.

We did face some adversity, as we had injuries, quarantines and losses that could have and should have been wins. However, we relied on one another to keep us strong and focused, while continuing to develop as a team. Our coaches emphasize the importance of teamwork and encouraged us to inspire and motivate each other.

I remember the day of our first game this season. I think we were all so excited that it was in fact happening when there had been so much doubt. I remember proudly putting on my uniform and walking into the gym.  It was such a great feeling to see all my teammates dressed in their uniforms as well ready to play! I could feel the energy, anticipation and emotion that filled the room. It actually felt like we were all returning home after being away for way too long.

Sophia Yearwood plays on the girls basketball team and was part of the 2020 Suffolk County Championship team and a three-year starter, All County in 2020 and 2021 and on Newsday’s Top 100 players on Long Island. She is also a starter for the varsity volleyball team.

Sophia Bica

Sophia Bica, junior

The best word I could use to describe playing sports during the pandemic is ‘differen.t’

Every team had to adjust to the new rules made by the state such as getting tested before games and wearing masks as we played. I think the toughest thing teams had to deal with was the testing because it would take a lot of time out of the day.  Also, if the team that you played had somebody with a positive COVID-19 test, your team would get quarantined too.

I can confidently say that everybody involved was more than willing to do all of these things just so we could have a season. Although a couple of teams only played one or two games, my teams were fortunate enough to play full seasons although it was very different from what we are used to. But all of the girls, players and coaches, on every team, came together to make the most of it.

Sophia Bica plays on the girls basketball team. She is a three-year starter, All County in 2020 and 2021 and on Newsday’s Top 100 players on Long Island. She was a Suffolk County Basketball Champion in 2020. She is captain of the field hockey team that won both Suffolk County and Long Island Championships in 2021 and was this year’s Suffolk County Player of the Year for field hockey as well as First Team All Long Island and All New York State.

All photos by Steven Zaitz

by -
0 959

By Steven Zaitz

The Power Triangle may be gone, but success roars on for the Lady Tigers.

The Northport girls basketball team picked up right where they left off pre-pandemic, as they opened the short season last Friday with an 80-32 dismantling of the Lindenhurst Bulldogs.

Daniella Pavinelli, Kelly McLaughlin and Kerry Dennin, highly decorated players that led the Lady Tigers to the Suffolk County championship in 2020, are now freshmen
in college.

However, Coach Richard Castellano has seen this movie. He has been putting together championship caliber teams for four decades and is fully aware that each player’s tenure with the team, no matter how talented they are, is so very finite.

“Yeah, we lost a few players,” said the affable Castellano in a fit of understatement. “But every team does. We try to put five girls on the floor who can score and five girls who can play defense. If we share the wealth and share the basketball, we are successful. And today we were.”

The players have obviously bought in to this style of ball as ten different Tigers registered points in this opening day rout that took place at Lindenhurst.

Juniors Sophia Bica and Sophia Yearwood led the way, combining for 40 points and 15 rebounds. As the first half lead ballooned to 20, it was Sophia and Sophia slicing and dicing through Lindenhurst’s defense, which seemed to be in no mood to guard anyone. Bica had 21 points to lead Northport with Yearwood booking 19. They both rested the entire 4th quarter.

Junior forward Allison Soule was a terror around the rim with 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, and team captain Emma Blanco had 10 points. Natalia Donofrio and Rachel Mincone added a thick layer of icing on the cake combining for 12 points in the 4th quarter, with Donofrio canning two 3-pointers, and Mincone injecting her signature brand of energy despite the lopsided score.

Lindenhurst forward Kelly Griffin, who led all scorers with 23, scored 18 of those in the first half, as the Tiger defense clamped down on her as the game wore on. The rest of Griffin’s teammates combined for only 9 points for the entire game and the Bulldogs failed to score even a single point in the 4th quarter.

“She (Griffin) was second in Suffolk County in 3-point goals last year, and we knew we had to key on her,” Castellano said. “We didn’t defend as well as I know we can in the first half.”

That might seem a little bit of a harsh critique for a team that pitched a shutout for an entire quarter of basketball, but Castellano has built both a reputation and a program that constantly strives for excellence. He and his Lady Tigers are never satisfied.

“I’m blessed to have girls who buy into the design of sharing the ball and finding the open person,” he said. “It’s something that we as a program always take pride in.”

To punctuate this resounding victory, the next day, Bica and Yearwood were listed in Newsday’s Top 100 girls basketball players on Long Island for 2021. Lindenhurst’s Griffin is also on the list.

“It is an honor to be mentioned along with these talented female athletes,” Bica said. “It is very encouraging to see that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. I have been fortunate enough to work with great coaches and trainers who helped me develop into the player I am today.”

As has been the protocol, there were no fans in the stands as Section XI is doing everything in its power to allow high school athletics to continue uninterrupted. They have provided livestreams to many high school events that can be found on the Section XI website, www.sectionxi.org.

The Lady Tigers have a grueling schedule in the next 10 days, playing seven games.

“It doesn’t make for a lot of practice time,” Castellano said. “But these are crazy times for everyone, and we have to make the best of it.”