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Small School

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By Bill Landon

It was a battle of the titans Feb. 27 as the Mustangs of Mount Sinai (21-3), the Class A small school champions, squared off against the Longwood Lions (21-2), the Class AA large school winners, for the overall Suffolk title.

The Lions outpaced the Mustangs for most of the way to capture the overall Suffolk crown at Walt Whitman High School with a 70-45 victory. They will advance to the Class AA Long Island Championship round.

Senior Gabby Sartori, who had led the way for several games in the playoffs, again set the pace of her team in scoring with two triples, two field goals and five from the line for 15 points. Senior Brooke Cergol hit three field goals and two treys for 12 while senior Margaret Kopcienski banked 11.

Mount Sinai lives to fight another day as they too will compete against Nassau County’s best in Class A action March 9 at Farmingdale State College. Tip-off is at noon.

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The Kings Park cheerleading team leaps into the air during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s cheerleading squad has been battling since opening day, when seven of the team members dropped out. And now the girls are struggling to stay healthy.

The team took to the mat, competing for the top spot in Small School Division I against 10 other teams Dec. 18 at Comsewogue High School, and even with two members sidelined, the girls were able to stay solid through the two-and-a-half-minute performance in front of a near-capacity crowd.

The Kings Park cheerleading team performs different stunts while getting the crowd involved in the cheering during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

What has made matters more difficult is getting used to the differences between the Long Island Cheerleading Association and Section XI rule book and scoring sheet, since cheerleading has been recognized as a sport.

“We had to change our routines and it’s a drastic change,” said Kings Park head coach Jennifer Ford. “Section XI caused us to fundamentally change how we do it.”

Kings Park senior Alyssa Ambrosia, a two-year varsity starter, said she’s only known the new scoring system, so for her, that’s an advantage.

“We’ve had to overcome a lot this season,” she said. “We were strong in stunting, but I think we can all improve on our tumbling.”

The Kingsmen finished outside the Top 5, but four-year veteran Jamie Barbarino sees nothing but prospect.

“I know that every single person on our team has potential,” she said. “We can be really, really good out there on the mat, but we need to get better with our [end of the routine] pyramid.”

Senior Olivia Nicoletti has been cheering since ninth grade, and has seen the difference between the two scoring methods.

“You have to do certain types of jumps, certain tumbling, and you do stunts differently,” Nicoletti said. “All the points are awarded differently in individual sections, so it’s much harder. We had some challenges today, [another] one of our girls got hurt, so we had to [animate] one stunt.”

Kings Park looks to put on a better performance once they’re at full strength on Jan. 15 at Mount Sinai High School at 9:15 a.m.