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Panthers

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By Bill Landon

It was a catfight between undefeated teams.

The battle of Panthers teams wasn’t decided until the final 40 seconds of the game, and despite Miller Place junior running back Tyler Ammirato leading the way for his football team during its homecoming matchup Oct. 1 against Babylon — scoring all four touchdowns for his team — anything can happen on the gridiron. With 40 seconds left on the clock, a Miller Place fourth-down pass was broken up, Babylon gained possession and took two knees to seal the deal, 29-25.

In his first start at quarterback, junior Anthony Seymour looked like he had been at the helm all season long. He took over under center to replace injured senior Christian McPartland, who broke his arm during the Panthers’ 54-0 blanking of McGann-Mercy Sept. 23.

Ammirato took charge with the ground-and-pound offense, and struck first when he punched through Babylon’s defensive line and bounced outside, traveling 41 yards for the touchdown. With the extra-point kick by senior Eric Cisneros good, the Panthers found themselves ahead 7-0 two minutes in.

Miller Place followed the touchdown by squandering several opportunities to score, like when on a bad snap, Babylon coughed up the ball and junior defensive lineman Joe Panico recovered the ball on the 31-yard line. Or on its’ next possession, when Miller Place was forced to punt and the Babylon punt returner called for a fair catch but bobbled the ball and the Panthers recovered on the Babylon 26-yard line.

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it. We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on.”

—Greg Murphy

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it,” Miller Place’s first-year head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on. Our backup quarterback was tested today, and Anthony [Seymour] stepped it up and he played well today.”

Babylon marched down the field on its next possession. And as the team continued to move the chains, timeout was called with five seconds left in the first half, with the ball at Miller Place’s 3-yard line. Looking to even the score, Babylon plowed up the middle on a handoff, but junior defensive end Alex Herbst plugged the hole to send Babylon into the halftime break scoreless.

As a result of a sustained drive six minutes into the third quarter, Babylon found the end zone on a 5-yard pass to even the score 7-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ammirato went coast to coast on a 75-yard kickoff return to put his team out front 13-7 with 6:05 left on the clock. The point-after attempt failed.

Although neither team scored for the remainder of the stanza, Babylon showed why it hasn’t lost a game this season, They marched down the field again to open the final quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run to give the team its first lead of the game, 14-13.

Miller Place found itself in a fourth-and-1 position, and went for it. To no surprise, Ammirato got the call, bounced outside and jetted into the end zone untouched. Although a 2-point conversion attempt failed, Miller Place was back in front, 19-14.

“[Tyler Ammirato] is a warrior — he’s the heart and soul of this team,” Murphy said. “This was a hard-hitting game, and we knew it would be. Babylon’s a good team with numerous Long Island championships — they’ve been there, they have the swag; so we knew we had to play a perfect game.”

“We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

—Tyler Ammirato

With 7:54 left in regulation Babylon grabbed a 36-yard screen pass for the score. With a successful 2-point conversion, Babylon retook the lead, 22-19.

Miller Place leaned on its premier running back, and Ammirato took the team to the Babylon 8-yard line on a handoff with just over four minutes left in the contest. Ammirato finished the job by punching into the end zone on a 3-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the afternoon. The team lined up for the two-point play, but were stopped again.The Panthers lead 25-22.

On the following possession, Babylon pounded the ball up the center of the field when the quarterback connected with his running back on a swing pass, and the receiver found an opening down the sideline following the 62-yard pass completion, and scored with three minutes left. With the extra-point kick, Babylon regained the advantage,29-25.

The clock was working against Miller Place, so when Seymour spotted senior wide receiver Kevin Gersbeck sprinting down the right sideline, he made sure to hit his mark. Seymour hit Gersbeck in stride, and the Panthers were in business at the 28-yard line with 1:16 left.

Four plays later, on fourth down with 40 seconds left in regulation, Seymour attempted to pass the ball over the middle to Cisneros, but Babylon’s defense broke up the play.

“They were a very tough team, but we knew that coming in,” Ammirato said. “We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

Babylon took over on down, and took two knees to hold on and win the game.

“I think not being able to transition coming out of halftime ate up the majority of the clock, and that was a big difference,” Murphy said. “[Babylon] put one in coming out of the half, but our kids responded well. It was just a great high school football game.”

Miller Place students from the Class of 2016 celebrated their high school careers during the commencement ceremony on Friday, June 24.

Seniors walked under the Panthers blow-up as they made their way onto the field, and listened to speeches from local officials as well as the class valedictorian, Elizabeth Whitlow, and salutatorian, Clara Tucker, before being handed their diplomas.

Panthers pride was on full display with both on-field decoration from the school and music from the band, and by students, who personalized their caps and sang songs of their now alma mater, before tossing their caps in the air in celebration of their hard work that led them to this point.

 

Comsewogue's Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue's Jordan Lisco makes the tag against a Miller Place player at first base. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Jordan Lisco makes the tag against a Miller Place player at first base. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place struggled to keep pace with Comsewogue’s baseball team, as the Warrior bats did the talking in their Class A opening-round playoffs Tuesday afternoon. The Panthers tied the game, 1-1, early on, but 13-5 Comsewogue showed why it’s the League VI champion, as the team wore down Miller Place’s defense and put its opponent away 8-2.

“They’re a tough team, but we came out and played great,” Comsewogue catcher Justin Virga said. “We hit the ball well, played great defense behind our pitcher and we pulled out a win. Today was a hard-fought game.”

Comsewogue wasted no time. Jake Sardinia drew a walk that moved teammate John Braun over to second base, as Jordan Lisco stepped into the batters’ box. Lisco drilled a ground ball through the gap that brought Braun home for the early lead.

“Today we hit the ball, played defense and that’s all you can do,” Lisco said. “We hit the ball with runners on base, which is something we’ve struggled with.”

The Panthers answered back in the top of the second when Cole Francis, on a passed ball at the plate, advanced to third base. Teammate Kevin Kelleher layed down a perfect bunt that plated Francis to tie the game.

Comsewogue's Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Dave Heller slides home safely. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue bats cracked in the bottom of the inning, and Bryan Hurley drove the ball through the gap, sending David Heller, the go-ahead run, to second. With Joseph Ciancarelli at the plate, a passed ball moved both base runners into scoring position. Ciancarelli chopped an infield dribbler and Heller came sliding home, eluding the tag, for the 2-1 advantage. With Hurley on third, Ciancarelli stole second and Braun smacked the ball deep through the infield, bringing Hurley home for a 3-1 lead with one out in the bottom of the third. Then, Ciancarelli found his way home on a sacrifice fly for a three-run lead.

“They came fired up on their home field, so they weren’t just going to give it to us,” Miller Place head coach Rick Caputo said. “Honestly, I’m disappointed in the way my guys played. I think we missed a lot of opportunities, I think we played our worst game of the year and we saved it for the first round of the playoffs.”

Miller Place threatened in the top of the third inning when Matt Paghidas and Tyler Schrimpf advanced to second and third, respectively, on another passed ball. Schrimpf crossed home plate to make it a two-run game, but that was all the team could muster.

The Panthers pressured again in the top of the fifth with base runners at the corners, but the runner on first stretched his lead a little too far, and Comsewogue picked him off on an infield pop-up that was caught, to retire the side.

Mike Stiles fires a pitch from the mound for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Mike Stiles fires a pitch from the mound for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Thomas Bell hurls a pitch from the mound for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon
Thomas Bell hurls a pitch from the mound for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon

With runners on first and third, the Warriors looked to put the game away in the bottom of the sixth inning when Ciancarelli chopped an infield heater to bring Hurley home for a 5-2 lead.

Miller Place made a pitching change as Christian McPartland relieved Thomas Bell on the mound the rest of the way.

“My control wasn’t there all game — my curveball started working later in the game, but they’re a great hitting team and they were putting the ball in play and making things happen,” Bell said.

It was a busy sixth inning for the Warriors, and they weren’t finished yet. Mike Stiles proved he was as deadly at the plate as he was from the mound, and ripped a fastball deep into the outfield, bringing Ciancarelli and Sardinia home with a stand-up double to break the game open, 7-2.

“I knew they were a good hitting team, so I had to get ahead, mix up my pitches and it worked out in the end,” Stiles said. “We hit the ball pretty well, we played pretty good defense — it was a little sloppy in the beginning, but I knew the team had my back.”

Justin Virga smacks the ball for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon
Justin Virga smacks the ball for Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon

Lisco brought Stiles home with a deep sacrifice fly for a six-run lead.

With gas left in the tank, Stiles made short work of the Panthers in the final inning, retiring the side in order for the victory.

“We swung the bats well today, so I was pleased with how we hit the ball and as the game went on, we protected our lead,” Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura said. “I wasn’t happy with our defense — we booted the ball around early in the game, which is uncharacteristic for us, because we’ve been throwing the ball and fielding the ball well all year. Mike [Stiles] did a great job for us. We play again tomorrow, so we have to go right at them, same recipe — come out and play solid baseball and don’t make it too difficult.”

No. 2 Comsewogue expected another strong pitching performance when Braun took the mound against No. 6 Mount Sinai Wednesday, but results were not available at press time.

Miller Place's Alyssa Parrella moves around John Glenn’s Amelia Biancardi. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Miller Place dominated over visiting Elwood-John Glenn amid light rain Tuesday afternoon. The Panthers outscored their opponent 9-1 after 25 minutes of play in Division II girls’ lacrosse action, and despite the Knights scoring six goals in the second half, Miller Place was able to extinguish the rally and put the game away 17-7 to improve to 8-3 in the league and secure a solid playoff position.

The Panthers spread the scoring around in the first half, but senior Kristin Roberto led the way, as the midfielder and captain scored twice. Attacks Olivia Angelo, Julia Burns, Loren Librizzi and Allison Turturro each found the cage, as did midfielder Danielle Plunkett. The two other co-captains, junior midfielder Arianna Esposito and senior midfielder Alyssa Parrella, also split the pipes to dominate the game early.

Arianna Esposito cuts downfield for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon
Arianna Esposito cuts downfield for Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior captain Amelia Biancardi scored the lone goal of the first half for the Knights 12 minutes into the contest.

To combat the deficit, Elwood-John Glenn head coach Janine Bright made a change in her team’s strategy for the second half. Bright said she knew Miller Place was a formidable opponent and that her team would have to fight from whistle to whistle for any chance of winning.

“We have to play a full 25 minute half — not just show up for six minutes in the first half, seven minutes in the second half — we have to play the entire game with full intensity from start to finish,” Bright said. “If we did that, today’s score could’ve been very different.”

Parrella opened the second half by lighting up the scoreboard with two quick goals — the first off an assist by Plunkett and then a solo shot for her hat trick goal, putting her team out front 11-1.

Miller Place head coach Thomas Carro said the leadership from his team’s captains is the reason for the team’s success this season.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time, and the girls are firing on all cylinders right now,” Carro said. “Their positive attitude on and off the field is just contagious. The girls are starting to believe in themselves and as a result of that, they can play with anybody this season.”

Biancardi, from a free position shot, scored again to make it a nine-point game with 16:03 left to play, but Parrella, unassisted, buried another one two minutes later to reopen the gap. Biancardi answered back at the 11:45 mark with a hat trick goal of her own, to bring the score to 12-3.

Miller Place's Loren Librizzi passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Loren Librizzi passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“In previous years, we’ve played them closer, but they played amazing today,” Biancardi said. “They have so much speed on that team and you could see the difference.”

After another Panthers goal, Biancardi struck again after circling the cage and slipping an underhand shot in for the score. On the Knights’ next possession, Biancardi fed the ball to Madisyn Hausch, who found the net as momentum began to shift.

“[The Knights] have a couple of really good players who are not afraid to take it to cage,” Roberto said. “We had to step up and put pressure on them because they can score. We couldn’t take them lightly at all.”

Victoria Tsangaris drove one home from the free position, followed by Hausch’s second goal a minute later, to shave the Panthers’ lead to 13-7, but the Panthers capped off the game by scoring four more goals.

“Early on they were beating us to the ball, so we had to step it up — they came at us strong,” Parrella said. “Everyone’s fighting to make playoffs and we knew that if we played our game we’d come out on top.”

Miller Place's Julia Burns moves the ball around the net and Harborfields' Aishling Brent toward goalie Erin Tucker. Photo by Desirée Keegan

It was a battle until the final seconds.

In a frenzied finish, four goals were scored in the final minute, ending with Harborfields’ varsity girls’ lacrosse player Angela Deren scoring the game-winning goal with 5.6 seconds left for a big 8-7 victory over Miller Place Tuesday.

“It feels great,” said Deren, a senior attack. “Our attack and our riding helped, and our goalie saved us a lot. It was a great team win.”

Deren was right — the Tornadoes’ sophomore goalkeeper Erin Tucker kept her team in the game, coming up with 15 saves on the evening.

She said she felt the excitement as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

Harborfields' Ella Simkins reaches to block a pass from Miller Place's Kelsey Lane. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Ella Simkins reaches to block a pass from Miller Place’s Kelsey Lane. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The energy on the field was amazing,” she said. “It felt like we won states, so it was awesome to be a part of.”

Miller Place started off scoring the first two goals of the game, and by halftime, had a 3-2 advantage.

Harborfields junior attack Mikayla Bergin scored the game-tying goal in the opening minutes of the second half, but Miller Place senior midfielder Alyssa Parrella helped her team edge ahead with her second goal of the afternoon off a foul shot.

“Although it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, I know every single girl on my team put in the hustle and the heart today,” she said.

After Parrella tied the game, 5-5 with 6:40 left to play, she got a foul shot, but Tucker came up with one of her crucial saves.

“I knew I had the support of all of my teammates out there, which gave me the confidence I needed to make the saves when I needed to,” Tucker said. “It felt awesome to be able to help my team.”

Harborfields scored for the advantage, and after assisting on the goal, Harborfields senior midfielder Ella Simkins received a long pass up and across the field from Deren and shot the ball into an open right side for a 7-5 advantage with 55 seconds left to play.

With the game on the line, the Panthers pushed to even the score. Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty said she knew Miller Place had what it took to rally back.

Harborfields' Angela Deren catches a quick pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Angela Deren catches a quick pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew that Miller Place was going to be really good, really athletic, have a lot of speed — we didn’t get off to the start we were hoping for, but what’s most important is that the girls had a team win here,” she said. “We’re a very dynamic team this year. We have a lot of goal scorers, great defenders, great midis, we have that mentality of sharing the wealth as well, which makes us a much harder team to prepare for.”

Parrella said what ignited the team to come back was senior attack Allison Turtorro’s goal after she received a pass in front of the cage with 34.5 seconds left.

“It gave us that much more adrenaline,” Parrella said. “That next draw control was huge for us.”

Miller Place won possession of the draw, and the team sprinted down the field as fast as it could. That’s when Parrella did her thing.

“I just really charged to the net and put in everything I had to score that goal,” she said of her fourth goal of the day.

She scored five goals in the prior game in a 15-4 win over Lindenhurst.

“Everyone went crazy. It was a big moment for us to step up and show other teams what we’re made of,” she said.

Miller Place's Alyssa Parrella hugs the sideline while maintaining possession against Julia Clementi and Falyn Dwyer and crossing the ball into Harborfields’ zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Alyssa Parrella hugs the sideline while maintaining possession against Julia Clementi and Falyn Dwyer and crossing the ball into Harborfields’ zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After a foul forced a turnover in Miller Place’s zone, the Tornadoes had the opportunity to win with seconds left, and did.

“We all came together as a unit and rallied back,” Simkins said. “I feel like we’re all trying to piece together what we lost, so I think that we’re looking really good now, and as the season progresses I see us getting better and better.”

Although losing in the final seconds deflated her team, Parrella said things are coming together for her team, as it adjusts to a new coach and a new outlook on the game.

“Coach [Thomas] Carro told us to keep our heads up — this is only the beginning of what we’re calling our ‘new beginning,’” she said. “Looking back on last year, we definitely had a lot of weaknesses and that’s what Coach Cara really wanted us to focus on was our weaknesses. We’ve been doing stick work 24/7, shooting, working with our goalies, a little bit of everything, which is showing in the progress in our play. I think we’re just becoming a whole new team and we’re looking really good this year, so I hope we surprise other teams.”

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Matt McNulty and the crowd celebrates Miller Place clinching the league title. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

It was senior night on Friday, Jan. 22, and the Miller Place wrestling team pounced on Islip to win 34-31.

With the victory came something even sweeter: the Panther’s first piece of a League VI title in 36 years.

“We graduated a quality group of seniors last year, and I think people expected us to take a hit as far as our dual-meet team,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “In the beginning of the season, we took a couple of losses that we shouldn’t have, and then after Christmas we really started rolling and coming together, and the group bought into what we were doing. The league title was a result of a lot of hard work over many years, and it was awesome to achieve that with this group.”

The Panthers finished last season 13-4 overall, and were 12-4-1 heading into the senior night dual meet, which was the team’s final match of the regular season.

At 106 pounds, senior David Selg found himself down in a match against a good opponent, but pinned him at the 4:36 mark.

“He’s very strong and his pin was huge for us,” Kaszubski said of Selg. “We also had Eddie Marbot, who is probably one of the scrappiest kids we have on the team, have a nice win for us.”

Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

Marbot, a senior who weighed in at 138 pounds, won with a 5-2 decision over his opponent. Needing to win one more match to earn the win and a share of the league title with Elwood-John Glenn and Mount Sinai, sophomore Anthony McNaughton pinned his opponent in 1:25 at 220 pounds to clinch the meet.

“Everyone was celebrating,” Kaszubski said. “The motto of the night was wrestle for each other — wrestle for somebody else other than yourself. The kids really stepped up and it was a cool experience.”

For Marbot, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It was an almost unbelievable experience to be a part of, and something that none of us will ever forget — especially me being a senior,” he said. “To win the league title on senior night was icing on the cake.”

Selg said the team environment became that of a family from the start of the preseason to the present.

“Everyone did what they needed to do,” he said. “When everybody left last year, nobody expected anything, just like coach said, and this year we came back and we were all a family, we stuck together and we won the league title. I’m really proud of my team.”

Marbot added that the camaraderie couldn’t be matched.

“Everyone dedicated their time to improving — going to open mats, going to camps — everyone really came together to build the team,” he said. “And coach Kaszubski, he’s the best coach and teacher that you could ask for.”

The Panthers made it to the postseason as the No. 12 seed, but fell to No. 5 Lindenhurst, 57-9, in the opening round Jan. 27. No. 1-seeded Rocky Point made it all the way through the bracket to claim the Section XI title.

Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

As the wrestlers prepare for leagues and counties, Kaszubski said he has two grapplers, 132-pounder Eric Schreck and 160-pound Joe Bartolotto, who are looking to place high in the county. Selg and Marbot, along with seniors 126-pound Dan Curcio and 154-pound Ryan Ammirato, are also looking to make some noise in the postseason by being league champions and placing in the county tournament.

“We knew we had a good crew,” the head coach said. “It’s nice to see all the hard work over the last couple of years come to fruition. Everyone feeds off of each other and they want to win for each other, so it’s been a blessing to coach these kids.”

For wrestlers like Marbot, being a part of the Panthers’ team is something he’ll never forget.

“I’d be lost without wrestling,” he said. “To end the regular season like this, as a senior, it couldn’t have ended any better. We had a good run. Especially being that no one thought we were going to be anything this year, we really showed everyone.”

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Miller Place senior Danielle Bamnola maintains possession of the ball inside the paint in the Panthers' 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Miller Place girls’ basketball team snapped an eight-game losing streak with its first win since early December and second League VI win of the season, in a 61-18 victory over East Hampton Tuesday.

Miller Place junior Elizabeth Corbin makes her way into East Hampton's zone in the Panthers' 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place junior Elizabeth Corbin makes her way into East Hampton’s zone in the Panthers’ 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Most of the girls’ losses over that streak were close, with the girls losing by four to six points in half of them.

The Panthers’ last win was a 57-32 win over East Hampton on Dec. 11, and since then, the girls have shown they’ve improved by allowing fewer points and tacking on more against the Bonackers this time around.

Senior Milan Hatcher started the game off with two points, and nearly four minutes went by before the next points were put on the board. This time, it was East Hampton scoring a three-pointer, which the Bonackers followed with a long field goal to take a 5-2 lead.

At the 3:02 mark, junior Elizabeth Corbin scored a field goal to pull within one point, and senior Jess Powers tacked on a layup with 1:33 left in the first quarter to give the team a lead it would never relinquish. Sophomore Kelli Ryan scored a layup after a turnover and sophomore Victoria Iavarone swished one free-throw point to give the Panthers a 9-5 lead at the end of eight minutes.

Miller Place sophomore Victoria Iavarone moves the ball downcourt in the Panthers' 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place sophomore Victoria Iavarone moves the ball downcourt in the Panthers’ 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place was forcing turnovers and stealing passes, but both teams were victims of traveling, and both had trouble getting their shots to fall.

Those errors continued into the second stanza, leaving Miller Place unable to score for nearly the first two minutes of play, while the Panthers held East Hampton scoreless across the full eight minutes.

With 6:12 remaining, sophomore Jillian Patterson broke the ice with a long two-point field goal. A minute later, senior Danielle Bamnola scored a layup, and seconds after that, Iavarone tacked on another two points to extend her team’s lead to 15-5.

Corbin netted a field goal, while Bamnola added two free-throw points and Hatcher added another, to bring the halftime score to 20-5.

From there, it was smooth sailing for the Panthers as their shots began to fall in the second half.

Miller Place senior Jess Powers prepares to pass the ball in the Panthers' 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place senior Jess Powers prepares to pass the ball in the Panthers’ 61-18 win over East Hampton on Jan. 19. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place nearly doubled its first-half score in the third quarter alone, tacking on 17 more points while holding its opponent to five, and lit up the scoreboard even more in the fourth, with 24 points to East Hampton’s eight.

Bamnola led all scorers with 15 points. Hatcher finished with 12 and Patterson contributed 11. Corbin tallied eight points on the evening, Powers, Ryan and sophomore Kaylee Deleva added four points apiece and Iavarona rounded out the scoring with three points on the evening.

The Panthers (3-9 overall, 2-6 in conference play) are back in action today when they travel to Hampton Bays (6-1 in League VI) for a 5:45 p.m. tipoff.

Port Jefferson junior Courtney Lewis scores a game-high 23 points in the Royals' 61-55 win

Miller Place's Milan Hatcher knocks down a layup in the Panthers' 61-55 nonleague loss to Port Jefferson. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson's Courtney Lewis drives the baseline in the Royals' 61-55 nonleague win over Miller Place on Dec. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Courtney Lewis drives the baseline in the Royals’ 61-55 nonleague win over Miller Place on Dec. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Behind junior Courtney Lewis’ game-high 23 points, Port Jefferson led most of the way, until late in the third quarter when Miller Place rallied back to take a three-point lead, but the Royals bounced back midway through the fourth, defeating their nonleague challenger on the road Saturday morning, 61-55.

With a roster void of seniors, the Royals played beyond their years as they controlled the tempo of the game, leading 19-10 after the first quarter, and took a 31-25 advantage into the halftime break.

The Panthers closed the gap with two minutes left in the third quarter, when sophomore Ally Tarantino scored a put-back off a rebound to tie the game at 37-37, and senior Milan Hatcher answered next, driving the lane and muscling her way to the rim for the score to put her team out front for the first time in the game, 39-37. Hatcher had a hot hand in the third, scoring 11 of her total 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers. At the end of the stanza, Miller Place held a 40-39 lead.

“I told my players to keep running plays; keep calm, and we had to play good defense because [Port Jefferson has] good shooters,” Hatcher said. “They like to drive and kick out. They’re a good team.”

With 4:09 left in the game, the Panthers clung to a three-point lead, out in front 49-46.

Miller Place's Milan Hatcher knocks down a layup in the Panthers' 61-55 nonleague loss to Port Jefferson. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Milan Hatcher knocks down a layup in the Panthers’ 61-55 nonleague loss to Port Jefferson. Photo by Bill Landon

The free-throw performance was bleak, as both teams left points on the table. With her team leading 50-49, Hatcher went to the stripe shooting two, and missed both.

With just over two minutes left in the contest, still trailing by one, Port Jefferson junior Siobhan Petracca went to the line shooting two, and she too came away empty.

“It was a disappointing loss,” Miller Place senior Jessica Powers said. “We knew exactly what they had. We came up short, which hurt us, and we didn’t play as a team.”

Port Jefferson junior Gillian Kenah, who scored 16 points in the game behind Lewis’ 23, said she was impressed with the Panthers’ offensive effort.

“We played a really solid game — we came out pressing immediately and I think that worked really well for us,” Kenah said. “But they came back at us even after our press, so I applaud them for that.”

Both teams traded baskets, and Lewis went to the line shooting two, hitting the front end but missing the back, to help her team edge ahead 53-51.

Miller Place's Danielle Bamnola goes to the rim in a Dec. 12 nonleague home loss to Port Jefferson, 61-55. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Danielle Bamnola goes to the rim in a Dec. 12 nonleague home loss to Port Jefferson, 61-55. Photo by Bill Landon

“We knew they had some good players, so we had to adjust our defense, but we did well rebounding, which is something we don’t usually do,” Lewis said. “They had two players guarding our best players in a triangle, so we had to adjust to it, to try and break that up.”

At the 1:36 mark, Tarantino, with a dominant performance on the boards, scored on another put-back to tie the game again.

“We expected them to come out strong and they did,” Tarantino said. “We came out a little flat in the first half. Coach told us after the game to keep going up strong [to the rim] and don’t fade away.”

From the 53-53 tie, the game was decided at the foul line, as both teams lost players due to foul trouble.

Port Jefferson freshman Jocelyn Lebron was fouled as she drove the lane with just over a minute left, and scored on her first free-throw attempt. Although she missed the second, Lewis grabbed the rebound for the score to give her team a 56-53 advantage.

“I thought we did very well in handling the pressure from their defense,” Lebron said. “They were what we expected, but we did well on our rebounding and our defensive pressure.”

Lewis tacked on another field goal to help push her team further ahead, 58-53. The junior scored 12 points in the final quarter.

“We missed a lot of foul shots today — we’re much better at the foul line,” Port Jefferson head coach Ed Duddy said.

Port Jefferson's Jocelyn Lebron drives to the basket and scores in the Royals' Dec. 12 61-55 victory over Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Jocelyn Lebron drives to the basket and scores in the Royals’ Dec. 12 61-55 victory over Miller Place. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place senior Danielle Bamnola cut the Panthers’ deficit to four with her foul-line appearance with 28 seconds left, but Port Jefferson’s soccer sensation, junior Jillian Colucci, went to the line shooting two and nailed both to maintain the six-point lead, 60-54.

Bamnola and Petracca traded points at the foul line next, to bring the final score to 61-55.

“They’re very talented with a good fast break, and that group has been together since the eighth grade,” Miller Place head coach Joe Read said. “We’ve held our opponent to 30 points a game this season and today we gave up 50, and that goes to the team aspect of it. We’re playing like individuals, especially defensively.”

Read added that despite the loss, he was happy with his team’s skill level against his opponent.

“I’m not upset with how my girls played today, other than they didn’t play as a team, and that to me was the difference,” he said. “If they can play together, they’re capable of great things.”

Miller Place will host League VI challenger Hampton Bays on Tuesday at 4 p.m., while Port Jefferson will host Mount Sinai on Thursday, in a nonleague game scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

This version corrects the class level of Siobhan Petracca, the total point count of Gillian Kenah, and the date of Port Jefferson’s next game.

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Miller Place senior Allison Turturro sends the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After going undefeated in League III with a 14-0 record, the Miller Place Panthers field hockey team continued to pounce on its opponents.

First, the No. 1-seeded team topped Comsewogue, 4-0, before beating out No. 2 Rocky Point, 1-0, for the Suffolk County Class B crown.

Following the matchup, the Panthers took on Class C’s No.1-ranked and Suffolk County champion Pierson/Bridgehampton, and edged out the opposition, 1-0, for the Small School champion title.

On Sunday, Miller Place traveled to Dowling College’s athletic complex in Shirley to take on Garden City in Long Island Class B championship.

Both goals were scored off of penalty strokes, despite sophomore goalkeeper Ally Tarantino making nine saves in goal.

Miller Place's Kristin Roberto and Comsewogue's Brooke Cespites fight for possession in a semifinal game. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Comsewogue field hockey has come far this season.

After making it to the playoffs with a 9-5 overall record, the No. 4-ranked Comsewogue Warriors made it past the first round of playoffs for the first time in school history, topping No. 5 Bayport-Blue Point, 1-0.

Unfortunately for the girls, their undefeated semifinal opponent, No. 1-seeded Miller Place, wanted to stay that way, and eliminated the team from the postseason with a 4-0 shutout Monday.

Comsewogue's Brooke Cespites and Miller Place's Arianna Esposito fight for possession in a semifinal match. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Comsewogue’s Brooke Cespites and Miller Place’s Arianna Esposito fight for possession in a semifinal match. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s awesome to make history — I’m really proud of our team,” Comsewogue junior defender Megan Turner said through tears. “It’s awesome. I really love these girls.”

Both teams stormed the field, playing with intensity and pressing for possession.

“I think they came out really, really strong,” Comsewogue head coach Katy Dornicik said. “We didn’t have a lot of scoring opportunities, but I feel like in the middle of the field we were evenly matched, we just didn’t come out strong at the end.”

With 26:42 left to play in the first half, Miller Place senior forward Danielle Powers broke the ice when she scored off a corner with an assist from junior Arianna Esposito.

“A lot of their passes were connecting, they were looking up, which was great,” Miller Place head coach Alana LaMorte said. “That’s what we want to do, and their corners were phenomenal today.”

Comsewogue came through with some big blocks off more corners to stay in the game, but after the Panthers called for a timeout, the team kicked it into high gear, leading to another goal off a corner, this time by senior forward Alyssa Parrella, off an assist from sophomore Crystal Esposito.

Miller Place's Emily Contrelli catches a loose ball in a semifinal game against Comsewogue. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Emily Contrelli catches a loose ball in a semifinal game against Comsewogue. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Coming out of the halftime break with a 2-0 lead, Miller Place cheered and shouted to build up the intensity as the team took the field. That strategy worked — the last two goals for Miller Place were again scored off of corners. With 13:59 left to play, Parrella found the right corner of the box from the far left side, off an assist from junior Julia Burns, and rounding out the scoring with less than five minutes left to play was Powers, off an assist from the younger Esposito.

“It feels great, but we’re looking forward to the next one,” LaMorte said of the win. “I think they both came out really intense. I do think that Comsewogue really put up a very big fight. It was not easy for us even though the score differential says otherwise. I think both teams came out tight, we just were able to put it in.”

Miller Place moves on to face Rocky Point in the Class B finals on Thursday at Dowling College at 4 p.m., while Dornicik is forced to say goodbye to some of the girls she’s coached since they were in seventh and eighth grade.

“It’s rewarding to see how far they’ve come now that I’m the varsity coach,” she said. “I’m very proud of them.”

Turner said her Warriors team had a lot of confidence coming into the game and believed it could overthrow its No. 1-seeded opponent. She said the team, the coaches and the fans have been nothing but supportive throughout this season’s journey.

“We were all there for each other, we really tried our hardest and this is definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” she said. “I think it’s a very big self-esteem booster considering how far we made it.”