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Ryan McNeely

School district staff fight for bragging rights while raising money for booster club

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai school district faculty members were pitted against each other March 3 in the Battle of the Educators. Teachers laced up their sneakers and grabbed a ball, donning black shirts on the middle school side, and gray on the elementary/high school team, for the 16th annual basketball game that raises money for the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

Mount Sinai High School Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance Matt Dyroff, who is the event’s organizer, said the week of practice each team had leading up to the game paid off. In the first quarter, each team traded points until the black team hit a triple to retake the lead, 28-27, before going on a scoring frenzy to take a 10-point lead, 37-27, into the halftime break.

“We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause.”

—Matt Dyroff

“We’ve been practicing hard,” Dyroff said. “A couple of outdoor practices in the cold, but the teams got down to work — they buckled down and it was evident in the score tonight.”

Dyroff had a lot of help with the event from Mount Sinai Booster Club member Terese Lumley, the student council members who volunteered their time to help out, and Mount Sinai High School earth science teacher Roger Cardo, who took care of the play-by-play commentary.

With a $5 admission fee and $1 charge to compete in the halftime shooting contest, Dyroff said he hoped the event cold exceed last year’s $3,000 raised, and as students lined both sides of the court to take part in the shooting contest, it seemed the goal may very well be met.

“Each year we’re hoping to improve on the previous year, and preliminary amounts suggest that we’ve approached $4,000 tonight,” Dyroff said. “We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause. No matter what it is.”

Celebrity spectators, in the form of the first-time county championship girls’ basketball team, had fun watching their teachers take the court.

“It’s a fun time, and everyone comes together to watch the game,” senior point guard Victoria Johnson. “Everyone can joke around take trick shots. It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

“Everyone comes together to watch the game. … It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

—Victoria Johnson

There were no trick shots down the stretch though, as both teams battled through the final 25 minutes of play. The gray team shook off the first-half jitters and chipped away at the deficit to retake the lead, 62-61, with less than two minutes left in the game. The black team battled back to take a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds of the game, but the gray team had one last possession.

With the ball in hand, Mount Sinai boys’ basketball head coach Ryan McNeely took matters into his own hands when Dyroff inbounded him the ball, and McNelly let a three-point shot fly with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The ball rimmed out as the buzzer sounded, and with that, the middle school held on for a 67-64 win, to claim the championship trophy for the second year in a row.

Senior center Veronica Venezia said the event was a much-needed respite while she and her Mustangs team prepares for the Long Island championship against Nassau County’s Elmont March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury.

“It’s definitely a fun night watching everyone come out and play — all of the teachers and their families and a lot of people coming out to join our community,” she said. “It’s a good breather — especially because it’s a basketball game — it’s a great night watching our coaches play against each other.”

After the game, Dyroff weighed in on the girls’ unprecedented success this season.

“Going to the Long Island championship is tremendous,” he said. “The district and the community have been so supportive of it. The girls have put in so much time and it’s come to fruition. The off-season workouts, the summer leagues, the spring leagues, getting out to play — this group has progressed each year and to see it culminate in a county championship is huge.”

By Bill Landon

The Tornadoes are already beginning to blow through the bracket.

The eyes of the storm, seniors Alex Merhige and Kyle Stolba, racked up 29 points each as the No. 1-seeded Harborfields boys’ basketball team, which totaled a lucky 13 3-pointers in the win, knocked out No. 8 Mount Sinai, 86-53, in the Class A quarterfinals Feb. 17.

Fresh off a thrilling overtime win the night before, a 70-63 win over No. 9 Comsewogue, the Mustangs’ season comes to an abrupt end.

From opening tipoff, the game was never in question. The Tornadoes flexed their muscles, racking up point after point — draining six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.

Merhige, who finished the game with 12 rebounds and five blocks, wowed the crowd with his second dunk of the game in the second stanza. Stolba, who had a triple double with 10 assists and 10 rebounds, hit his fourth trey of the game, and the Tornadoes took a 30-point lead into the halftime break, 56-26.

“They’re always good competitors — they work hard even when they got down in the first quarter they never gave up on us,” Stolba said of Mount Sinai. “The coach had to wake us up a little in the second just to keep going, we caught fire and I think we showed why we’re the No. 1 seed.”

Stolba started the scoring for the second half with a pair of field goals, senior Joe Kelly hit a 3-pointer and Merhige drained his fourth trey for a 73-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.

“We played great — we moved the ball really well, our defense in the first half was unbelievable,” Merhige said. “We only missed like two three’s in the first half, but our next game definitely won’t be so easy.”

Harborfields head coach John Tampori pulled his starters and the bench took the team to the finish line.

Senior David Maitre answered the call with a field goal and a shot from beyond the arc to help put the win in the record book.

Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said he was proud to see his boys make it as far as they did.

“Some people counted us out when we were 3-6 in the league, but then we won five out of six before this game,” he said. “We knew they were an excellent team and they shot the ball much better than we saw watching tape, but I’m very proud of our guys in how we finished the season.”

Senior Harrison Bak led Mount Sinai with 13 points, and classmate Nick Rose followed close behind with 11.

Senior Shane Wagner made a pair of field goals and three triples to place him second in scoring behind Stolba and Merhige with 13 points.

Harborfields head coach John Tampori said he liked what he saw from his team, and hopes that the boys can keep up the good work.

“Mount Sinai is well coached and they’re a scrappy team that put forth a great effort,” he said. “We’re not that much better than they are, it’s just that tonight was our night. They had a tough overtime win last night and to come here the next day and played us hard and that’s a credit to them.”

Harborfields will play No. 5 Wyandanch at home Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. Wagner said if his team plays like it did against Mount Sinai, they’ll be ready.

“They came out hot, but we came out hotter,” Wagner said of Mount Sinai. “We were hitting shots. I don’t think we missed a shot in the first quarter, maybe a 3-pointer. For the next round, we are definitely mentally ready, and we’re physically ready.”

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Mount Sinai’s Harrison Bak leaps up to the basket while Rocky Point’s David Apperson reaches for the block. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Mount Sinai Mustangs put their patented resiliency and toughness on display on the road this week.

Even after an 11-point Rocky Point run late in the second quarter to pull within five points, Mount Sinai’s boys’ basketball team battled back and hung on for a 53-40 nonleague win on the road Dec. 13.

The Mustangs put together a near perfect first quarter, creating easy layups and racking up points off put-backs to pull ahead 19-9.

Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Nick Rose carries the ball downcourt. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like the way we started the game — I thought we came out pretty strong,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said, although he was disappointed with the run his team let up. “The same kind of thing happened when we played Riverhead at home last week. We jumped on them early, they made a little run and then we came back again, so I think the boys are good with that. They’re an experienced group. They’re resilient, tough kids.”

After the 11-0 run, Mount Sinai sophomore forward Nick Pintabona swished two free throws with 3.3 seconds left before halftime to end a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. Despite the spree, Mount Sinai maintained a 28-21 advantage.

“We kept our composure, we keep a level head,” Mount Sinai senior center Harrison Bak said. “They got a little scrappy, but we kept cool, came back and won by 13.”

Bak came out to score the first two points of the third on a layup, with an assist from senior point guard Nick Rose. Minutes later, Bak tacked on a 3-point play to further stem the tide.

“We faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and then we made a good run,” Rose said. “I think we were playing really strong. We had a bunch of guys crashing for the rebounds. We were getting the easy put-backs, they were fouling us, we were getting to the free-throw line.”

The Mustangs outscored the Eagles 17-10 in the quarter, and that momentum propelled the team through the fourth, hanging onto the lead despite being edged out 9-8.

Senior forward Cole Harkins led Mount Sinai with 13 points, Bak had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Rose chipped in 11 points with five assists and eight rebounds.

The Mustangs thought their showing on the defensive-side of the ball was effective, holding Rocky Point to under 50 points, but Harkins said he would’ve liked to see his team box out more, and Rose would like to limit the fouls and play better over the screens.

Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rocky Point’s Alec Rinaldi drives the baseline as Mount Sinai’s John Clark jumps in front to stop him in his tracks. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team focused on holding down Rocky Point’s top scorer, senior Alec Rinaldi. The Mustangs made several big blocks, forced turnovers and limited Rinaldi, but the guard still scored 16 points to lead all scorers.

The Mustangs improved to 4-0 thus far in all nonleague games, and will play two league games before Christmas break.

McNeely said despite the league growing stronger with the new additions of Southampton and Wyandanch, his team has been playing together all offseason, which might explain its strong start.

“I think that experience is starting to show,” he said. “We’re shooting the ball well. We’re shooting the 3-point shot real well. We have some good guards and we have some good, big guys and we have guys that can kind of play both positions.”

Rose said the team has already been tested, which he sees as a positive.

“It was important that they started to come back because we stuck with it — we faced that adversity where we weren’t hitting shots, and we made a good run,” he said. “I want to make the playoffs and I want to make a little run in the playoffs. I think getting there will be our hardest task, but there’s a bunch of teams in our league that we can really get after on defense and attack on offense, and I think it should produce some wins for us.”

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Mount Sinai senior Noah Wessels changes direction in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point’s s

rry Lynch led his team to victory with 30 points in the Eagles’ come-from-behind win over host Mount Sinai, 46-41, in nonleague boys’ basketball action Friday night.

Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Lynch, a senior, went to work early in the opening quarter with three three-pointers and two field goals to help put his team out front 17-10 after the first eight minutes of play.

“We came out hot,” he said. “Everyone was setting screens and we were moving the ball. I was lucky I hit a couple of shots.”

On the other side of the court, Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly carried the load early for the Mustangs, banking a trifecta, a field goal and a pair of free throws for seven of his teams’ 19 points after two quarters of play.

“Harry Lynch is who we’ve keyed on for the last three seasons,” Kelly said. “We played fairly well, but we missed a lot of shots. Had we shot the way we’ve been shooting, we would’ve pulled this one out.”

Lynch remained unstoppable, as he hit his fourth trey and netted a pair of field goals to help his team to a 27-19 advantage by the halftime break.

“We’re lucky to have Harry [Lynch],” Rocky Point head coach James Jordan said. “He was on fire in that first half and he continued in the second half. He’s our general out there so where he goes, we go.”

The Mustangs were fired up coming out of the locker room, though, and because Rocky Point lost the battle of the boards in the first half, Jordan said it forced some adjustments. As a result, Mount Sinai opened the third quarter with an answer for Lynch, as the team closed within one point at the 5:33 mark, 30-29.

Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

“We came out strong in the first half, but we came out a little flat in the second,” Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi said. “We’ve been known to do that, but we stuck with them — we weathered the storm; got right back in it.”

Behind senior Noah Wessels’ six points in the quarter, with four other players contributing, Mount Sinai scored a field goal to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game, 31-30.

The score flip-flopped, and by the fourth quarter it was Rocky Point that was clinging to a one-point advantage, 37-36.

The Eagles looked to finish off the Mustangs, and surged ahead 43-36 with just over three minutes to go, but Mount Sinai battled back and trimmed the deficit to 43-41 with just under two minutes left in the game.

“I didn’t think they were going to be that strong shooting out of the gate,” Mount Sinai senior Vinny Margulies said. “Defensively, we played well the whole game. It’s just that we were shaky shooting throughout the game.”

Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Mount Sinai had the opportunity to tie the game with 46 seconds left on a 1-and-1 opportunity, but missed. As the clock wound down to 20 seconds, Lynch was fouled and confidently swished both to seal the deal. With 4.4 seconds on the clock, Rocky Point senior Colin Kotarski scored once off his appearance at the charity stripe, to give the game its final score.

“Harry Lynch is an outstanding player and he showed that again tonight,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said. “We played him man-to-man and he was getting real good looks and getting shots, so we changed to a zone where we trapped to keep the ball out of his hands to make someone else hurt us.”

Lynch scored six three-pointers on the evening. Rinaldi banked seven points and Kotarski tacked on six.

Topping the scoreboard for Mount Sinai was Kelly with 12, while Wessels and Margulies tacked on eight points apiece.

Rocky Point will have a week off before hosting Shoreham-Wading River next Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 11 a.m. Mount Sinai hits the road Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff at East Hampton.