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Sports

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Port Jeff sophomore Abigail Rolfe drives the base line in a home game against Southampton Jan. 30. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson held off a late charge by the Southampton Mariners Jan. 30 at home to win 48-37 to stay atop the League VII leaderboard at 12-2.

Sophomore Abigail Rolfe led the way for the Royals hitting five from the floor and eight free throws for a team high of 18 points. Port Jeff senior Samantha Ayotte followed with 10 points, while junior Evelyn Walker did her damage from long range hitting three triples for 9 points total. Brooke Zamek, a junior, netted eight.

The win gives the Royals a two-game lead over 2nd place Mattituck with two games remaining before post season play begins.

The Royals retake the court in a road game against Smithtown Christian Feb. 3 before returning home to take on Greenport/Southold Feb 5. Games times are 4 and 5 p.m. respectively.

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Farhbach, at 99 pounds, puts down his SWR opponent where his team won 47-24. Photo from Mel Jacoby

Syracuse, here they come, and not for the first time.

The Mount Sinai wrestling team after their win against SWR. Photo from Mel Jacoby

On Saturday, Jan. 25, Mount Sinai wrestlers beat Shoreham-Wading River in the finals of the Suffolk County Division II championship 47-24 to advance to the New York State Division II wrestling championship in Syracuse. Mount Sinai won an earlier match against Shoreham-Wading River in the regular season.  

The seniors again dazzled the capacity crowd by scoring pins at their respective weights. They were led by seniors Matt Campo at 170 pounds (34-2), Joe Goodrich at 182 pounds (35-0), Mike O’Brien at 138 pounds (33-4) and Adham Shata at 195 pounds (34-3), who each won their match.  

Taking charge at the lower weights was Brayden Fahrbach at 99 pounds, who won by a pin, while Derrek Menechino, Jack Tyrell and Brenden Goodrich all reversed earlier losses against Shoreham-Wading River to score decisive wins.   

Contributing to the team effort were middle weights Ryan Shanian at 145 pounds and Tristan Nardi at 160 pounds, who each won their matches.  

On the SWR side, the team ends league play with 7-6-1 and 19-4-1 overall.

This was the third year in a row that Mustang wrestlers won the Suffolk County Division II championship.  

Mount Sinai will advance to Syracuse for the New York State Dual Meet Championship at the SRC Arena Feb. 1, where they will defend their New York State title, which they have won the past two years.

Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania is also where Kobe Bryant went to school. Photo from Google Maps

By Benji Dunaief

People sometimes ask, “Where did you grow up?”

I grew up in Lower Merion, an unassuming quiet suburb about 20-30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I attended the local public schools, including Lower Merion High School, or just “LM” for short. Most would probably agree that LM is an above average public school, but they’d also probably agree that it’s not particularly extraordinary, except for one reason. Kobe Bryant went to Lower Merion High School.

Benji Dunaief

My freshman year coincided with the opening of LM’s brand new school building. The old building had been there for over 100 years, and the district had decided to start anew. On my first tour of the new school when I was still an eighth grader, one feature stood out to me above the rest – the soon-to-be-named Kobe Bryant Gymnasium. The gym, paid for in part by a substantial donation from Kobe, was to be a testament to the storied history of Lower Merion sports over the century since the school’s founding.

Of course, that history is heavily punctuated by Bryant’s own legacy. The perimeter of the gym is plastered with murals of Kobe in LM jerseys, his name is scrawled in massive cursive over the entrance and a glass case housing memorabilia from Kobe’s LM career is located just outside the gym. A very well-vacuumed LM embroidered rug was placed at the foot of the case, and my friends and I used to joke that its real purpose was for students to pay respects by bowing down to the “Kobe shrine.”

A few months into my freshman year, LM planned a gym dedication ceremony for the ages. The ceremony was scheduled to coincide with a matchup between the Lakers and the Sixers in Philly, so that Kobe would already be in town. The black-tie event featured a performance from popular local rapper Chiddy Bang, and a myriad of celebrities were in attendance, including several members of the Philadelphia Phillies who showed up to support Kobe, and nearly the entire Lakers team came too. Tickets for students and community members were in the hundreds of dollars.

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw everything, I thought it was way over the top. I thought he was just another celebrity personality in the middle of a big publicity stunt. But then I heard the stories from old teachers who had taught him way back when. Stories about how friendly and eager he was to learn — he still kept in touch with his English teacher. Stories from former classmates and students who had seen him in the halls — always smiling and laughing — or had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him — he always made time to talk with alumn. Then I joined the basketball team, the Aces, (to film games and create video highlights and definitely NOT to play) and saw how he still guided and influenced that team 18 years after he took his last fadeaway in the maroon and white. He aided the team both physically, by gifting crates upon crates of his branded warm-up attire, jackets, and sneakers (even creating special “Aces Edition” Kobe’s), and spiritually, by frequently tweeting to support the Aces and inviting them to his basketball camps. His relationship with head coach Gregg Downer remained strong, and the two frequently talked. Kobe called Downer the most influential coach in his entire career. Studying Downer’s gritty, give-everything-you-got coaching philosophy, it’s not hard to see that helping to shape the scrappy and relentless style of play Kobe became famous for.

Most high schools have notable alumni. For example, Cheltenham High School, which is just on the other side of town, has an insane number of famous alumni, including Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, 15-time Grammy Award winner Michael Brecker, and rapper Lil Dicky. But you would probably not have first associated those people with Cheltenham. When I’m out somewhere wearing Lower Merion apparel, whether in Europe, Canada, Chicago or Los Angeles, people will recognize the name, and it’s usually followed by a “huh, Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant isn’t just an alum of Lower Merion. Kobe Bryant took an active role in shaping the culture and the ideals of Lower Merion and he simultaneously allowed himself to become shaped by it, to the point where there was hardly a way to separate one from the other. Kobe Bryant made Lower Merion his own.

When people ask me “Where did you grow up?” I say, “Lower Merion, I went to Kobe Bryant’s high school.”

Benji Dunaief is director of TBR News Media produced films “One Life to Give” and its sequel, “Traitor: A Culper Spy Story.”

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Jaden Martinez drives the baseline for the Warriors in a 58-44 victory at home against West Islip Jan. 25. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue trailed by two at the half time break before erupting in the third quarter, scoring 10 unanswered points to surge ahead of West Islip at home Jan. 25. The Warrior defense shut the door in the final eight minutes of play to win the League IV matchup 58-44.

Comsewogue senior Jaden Martinez led his team in scoring with 14, Milan Johnson, back in action after an injury, netted 11 and teammates Michael McGuire and Matt Walsh banked 10 points apiece.

In victory the Warriors improve to 5-3 in league, 9-7 overall and are back in action with a road game against Smithtown East Jan. 29. Game time is 4 p.m.

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Shoreham-Wading River freshman Annie Sheehan shoots for two for the Wildcats at home against Bayport-Blue Point Jan 24. Bill Landon photo

The Wildcats had a score to settle against visiting Bayport-Blue Point Jan. 24, having lost to the Phantoms by eight points earlier in the season. Senior Abby Korzekwinski and Sophie Costello, the freshmen, combined for a powerful one two punch netting 15 points apiece winning the league VI matchup 57-50. Shoreham-Wading River senior Hayden Lachenmeyer finished with eight points and freshman GraceAnn Leonard banked seven and with it, clinched a playoff berth.

The win lifts the Wildcats to 8-5, 10-7 overall with three games remaining before post season play begins.

The Wildcats retake the court with a road game against Amityville Jan. 31. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

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With four pins in the match, it was Ward Melville’s Nick Gaffney who led the way for the Patriots with a pin just 16 seconds in. Aidan Toomey did it in 33 seconds, senior Co-Captain Daniel Cassera won his match at the 1:09 mark and Ethan Herschander pinned his opponent 43 seconds into the second period.

With scores like those, the Patriots dominated visiting Hampton Bays, winning 59-14 in a non-league matchup at home Jan. 23. Ward Melville junior Matt Cracchiola, at 126 pounds, notched another win with a 16-0 technical fall who surpassed his 100th career victory earlier in the year and hopes to bring that momentum into the league and county finals. Patriot head coach Garrett Schnettler said Cracchiola will have his work cut out for him as he’ll be competing in the deepest weight classes in the state.

Ward Melville sophomore Christian Lievano, at 99 pounds who in his third year on varsity, is undefeated in Suffolk County this season, and has amassed a career record of 31-3.

The Patriots retake the mat in the Wes Dolon Invitational at Mattituck high school Feb. 1. First bout is 8 a.m.

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Mount Sinai sophomore Gavin Takacs (L) fights for the rebound at home against Sayville Jan. 18. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai Mustangs fell behind 22 points in the 2nd quarter Jan. 18 but battled their way back against Sayville at home to retake the lead a by three in the closing seconds of regulation. It was then that Sayville senior Aidan Arnesen hit a 3-point buzzer beater to force overtime. Mount Sinai surged ahead in the overtime period holding off the Golden Flashes to win it 62-57 at home.

Head coach Ryan McNeely said his team has had some close wins and some close losses but that the close losses were in league play.

“We beat them earlier in [the season] so these two teams matchup very well, but I think our guys are tired of losing those close games,” said the coach. “We’ve got a lot of seniors who’ve been to the playoffs except for [one] year and I think they want to get back to that.”

Mount Sinai senior guard Ryan McNeely, the coach’s son, led his team in scoring with 17 points and talked about the rematch.

“The last time we played them it was very close-we won in overtime, so we knew we could beat them,” said the senior. “Coming into our gym we always play well, we had to keep our composure and we knew we could make a run.”

Mount Sinai seniors Justin Rinck netted 14 points and Nick Cergol banked 10.

The win lifts the Mustangs to 4-7 in League VI, 7-8 overall with five games remaining in regular season play.

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Smithtown East sophomore Carly Bigliani (R) battles down low in a league IV game against Central Islip Jan.17. Bill Landon photo

The Bulls of Smithtown East trailed by 6 at the halftime break, but visiting East Islip dropped the hammer the rest of the way, outscoring East by 22 points to put the game away 58-30 in a League IV matchup Jan. 17. 

Senior guard Katie Biglianni led Smithtown East in scoring with 8 points, her younger sister Carly, a sophomore, netted 6, as did freshman Ava Mueller. Paige Doherty, Briana Durland and Becky Hannwacker all scored.

East Islip remains undefeated in league play at 7-0 while the loss drops the Bulls to 1-6 with five games remaining. Smithtown East retook the court with a road game against Bellport Jan. 22, and lost 37 to 42.

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Port Jefferson sophomore David Ford battles in the paint in a non-league matchup against Southold Jan. 13. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson went toe-to-toe with Southold on their home court, but the Settlers found their rhythm in the final 8 minutes with their three-point play to edge the Royals 50-38 Jan. 13. Port Jefferson freshman Drew Feinstein led the way for the Royals hitting five from the floor, three triples and a free throw for 20 points. Luke Filippi the sophomore, went 2 for 2 from the line along with five field goals netting 12.

The loss drops the Royals to 0-3 in league VII and 2-8 overall. They will retake the court Jan. 15 at home against Southampton. Tipoff is at 6:15 p.m.

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Ward Tucker drives the lane for Harborfields in a 60-29 blowout win over Islip Jan. 10. Bill Landon photo

After a sluggish 1st quarter, Harborfields’ boys basketball team found its stride in the 2nd and pulled away for a 60-29 Tornado blowout over visiting Islip in a league V matchup Jan. 10. Harborfields senior Joe DeSimone led the way nailing four triples, two field goals and sinking three from the line for a total of 19 points. Sean Keys, a junior, followed with eight from the floor and a free throw for 17. Juniors Ward Tucker and Aidan Glackin netted nine points apiece, while adding two points each were Sean Dowd, J.J. Desiderio and Matt Torres. The win lifts the Tornadoes to 4-4 in league and 6-5 overall.

Harborfields retake the court Jan. 13 when they host Rocky Point and will hit the road two days later against West Babylon. Game times are 6 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. respectively.