Tags Posts tagged with "Steven Zaitz"

Steven Zaitz

Jack Melore, who led the West team with 18 points, splits the Smithtown East triple team. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

It was a wire-to-wire win but with a twist. On Jan. 6, in their annual battle for the key to the city, the Smithtown West Bulls boys basketball team defeated their red-clad Bull brothers to the East, 56-42. With the win, Smithtown West remains undefeated at 9-0 and 6-0 in Suffolk Division III as Smithtown East falls to 6-3 and 3-2 in league play.

Smithtown West’s multisport senior, Jack Melore, led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Lorenzo Rappa  had 15 points and six assists, and his brother Ben Rappa chipped in nine points. 

Lorenzo Rappa goes high against Gjon Lleshaj in Smithtown West’s 56-42 victory over Smithtown East on Jan. 6.

After junior Blue Bull forward, John Giotis, hit a backdoor layup just eleven seconds into the game, Smithtown West had a lead they would never surrender. The team continued to build on their lead, outscoring the red-Bulls, 11-4, at the close of the first quarter. West’s Jack Melore scored seven points in the first quarter and had 14 of his total 18 in the first half.

Despite this, Smithtown East refused to go quietly into the weekend. East senior forward, Will Tufo, hit a long two-pointer to open the second half. Teammate Ben Haug, who led all scorers with 22, bullied his way in the paint to cut a seven-point halftime deficit to only four. 

Nevertheless, West clamped down and arm-barred the red team from coming inside the paint. Blocked shots and quick hands by Melore and Ben Rappa stifled East’s offense for a long stretch of the third period. A steal by West senior guard, Max Nicholas, with two seconds left in the third led to a fast break and two free throws. Nicholas sank them both to put the home team up by eight, as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Junior forward John Giotis of Smithtown West goes strong to the rim against Smithtown East center Tom Fanning in West’s 56-42 win on Jan. 6. Photo by Steven Zaitz

The final quarter was dominated by the Rappa brothers of Smithtown West. Ben Rappa fired the opening salvo of the fourth by hitting a corner three, raising the lead to a baker’s dozen, one of the only three-point shots made in the game for either team. The blue-Bulls commanding lead seemed to have made each tick of the clock grow louder for the boys from the East, as only six minutes remain on the game clock.

Lorenzo Rappa slashed diagonally through the lane with two minutes remaining to make the score 50-37. Swingman Michael Cascione made an acrobatic layup to give the white and blue team its final points with under a minute to go. The crowd erupted at the sight of Cascione’s athleticism as the 12-piece pep band’s trumpet section blared ‘The Children of Sanchez’ to celebrate their school’s crosstown victory. 

It was West’s ninth straight win over East, dating back to February 2016.

“It always means a little more beating them,” said Melore, who is also one of the finest football players in Suffolk county. “Our team takes great pride and always believes in our defense. The Rappa twins did a great job anchoring it.”

Liam Sevey of Northport looks to score. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

Junior pivot Owen Boylan led the Northport Tigers basketball team to a victory over Connetquot with 12 points and 10 rebounds last Wednesday night, Dec. 13. The final score was 47-34.

In a game that was close throughout, Northport never trailed, and Boylan hit a three-pointer with three minutes remaining to give the Tigers a 10-point lead. It sealed the game as the Thunderbirds never got closer.

Point guard Jojo Cipollino had 8 points and 9 assists and forward Brendan Fenlon had 7 points.

This win put Northport at 1-0 in League II play. They have split their subsequent two matches, a loss to Bay Shore on the road, 54-33, and a bounce-back win at home against Newfield, 60-40. They are 2-1 in league play, and after a nine-day holiday break, the Tigers will play Pierson on Dec. 27 at Northport.

By Steven Zaitz

Every coach on any level will tell you that there is no “I” in team.

But for the Walt Whitman Lady Wildcat basketball squad, there certainly is an Iris.

All Long Island point guard, captain and bona fide floor commander Iris Hoffman of the 2022 Suffolk County champions scorched the Lady Tigers on opening night at Northport for 23 points, including a long three-pointer to seal the game with 27 seconds remaining. The final score was 46-40 in a rematch of the county final — also won by the Lady Wildcats in comeback fashion — that took place at Stony Brook University nine months ago.

In a back-and-forth game that saw five different lead changes, the Lady Tigers — who have a star of their own in senior forward Kennedy Radziul — trimmed a six-point Wildcat lead to one in the final minute of the game. Radziul, who finished with 20 points and 13 in the 4th quarter, hit a left-handed layup, made a leaping steal at midcourt and converted a three-point play when she scored and was fouled.

All of this occurred in 15 seconds and not only brought Northport to within one point, but it also pitched the home crowd into a frenzy. Whitman called a timeout as Radziul’s teammates mobbed her for her momentum-shifting heroics. The score was 41-40 with 48 seconds to go in regulation time when the Wildcats would next inbound.

“Coming out of the timeout, I knew I was going to have the ball in my hands,” said Hoffman, who has played on the Whitman varsity team since the eighth grade. “I had an open shot early in the possession, but I didn’t take it because I wanted to run more clock. We worked the ball around, making their defense move. I got the ball again and was wide open. The second the ball left my hand, I knew it was going in.”

Hoffman was right — and it gave the reigning champs a two-possession essentially lead to seal the game.

“Iris is a special player, and she showed why tonight,” said Northport head coach Rich Castellano, who was denied his 737th career victory. “They are one of the toughest teams in the county, and we hung in against them. We just turned the ball over too much tonight.”

The Lady Tigers committed 18 turnovers as they are still trying to configure their situation at guard. Payson Hedges and Emma Kezys graduated last June and there were some definite signs of opening night jitters in Castellano’s backcourt that led to giveaways and easy baskets for the Lady Wildcats.

Despite the sloppy play, Northport took a 17-15 lead into halftime. Senior captain Kaylie Walsh hit two bombs in the first quarter and another in the second to lead all scorers in the first half with nine points. Hoffman had eight.

Whitman forward Kathleen O’Mara had two quick buckets to start the third quarter that would spark a 15-5 run and give Whitman a 30-22 lead with two minutes to go in the period. Northport would get points from only one player in the quarter, and it was sophomore forward Grace Gilmartin with 7, who showed good mobility and hustle coming off the bench.

“I told the girls at halftime that whoever won the third quarter was going to win the game,” said Castellano. “We play the same type of tight game with this team every time we face them, and two of their stars really played well in that quarter. It was too much for us to overcome.”

The senior O’Mara finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and the lead for the team from South Huntington would balloon to 13 with seven minutes remaining in the game. It looked like things were getting away from the Lady Tigers.

But Radziul made Castellano’s prophecy come true, as this game would go down to the wire. She hit a spinner in the lane and a three pointer to make it a six-point game with three minutes on the clock. 

The Wildcat lead would stay at six until Radziul’s one-person, lightning ambush to cut it one with less than a minute to go. But Hoffman made sure that was as close as the Lady Tigers would get.

“I always want the ball in that situation,” Hoffman said. “I’ve been playing point guard since my sophomore year, and I think that I thrive under the pressure,” adding, “I’m used to it.”

If there is one thing the Lady Tigers — who were 21-2 last season and undefeated at home — are not used to, it is losing.

Smithtown East High School hosted the 11th annual Smithtown Craft & Gift Fair from Dec. 2-3.

Over 100 vendors assembled in the school gymnasium, displaying handcrafted work and related gift items. Those in attendance were greeted with a plethora of options from jewelry, decorative wreaths, candy, organic soaps and more.

— Photos by Steven Zaitz

We start with an adrenaline-packed adventure at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Discover the excitement of a fearless group braving the frigid waters for a valuable cause.

Then, catch the heat as tensions rise between the Brookhaven Town Board and the municipality’s cable service provider. We’ve got the latest on the town’s television showdown.

Later, take a trip through history with our sportswriter, Bill Landon, as he reflects on the JFK assassination’s foggy memories, marking its 60th anniversary this week.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, join us in a call to action. We’re rallying our readers and listeners to support local mom and pops on National Small Business Saturday.

Tune in to The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR for a special Thanksgiving edition.

Visit tbrnewsmedia.com to read these stories and more. Follow us on:

By Steven Zaitz

In a game of punch-counterpunch, it was the Sachem North football team that got last licks against Ward Melville on Nov. 10 in Lake Ronkonkoma, knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs and ending their season.

Sachem North running back Lucas Singleton’s six-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the fourth quarter propelled the Flaming Arrows to a 27-21 victory in the Suffolk Conference I semifinal game. They will face top-seeded William Floyd, who destroyed Longwood 49-13 on Saturday, at Stony Brook University to decide the Suffolk County championship for Conference I. This will be Sachem’s first trip to the finals since winning the Long Island Championship in 2013. Ward Melville was the 2022 county champion.

In a game filled with wild haymakers and explosive plays by both teams, Ward Melville managed to answer Sachem North touchdown for touchdown, erasing seven-point deficits on three separate occasions. But the Patriots were unable to stop the Flaming Arrows on 3rd down in the game-deciding drive that led to their postseason ouster.

Arrow QB Anthony Vino, who missed the final six games of the regular season due to injury, launched the first salvo in this one, hitting WR Brayden Tappin for a 40-yard score to start the game. Patriot QB Ethan Burgos hopped through a small crease and sprung himself 49 yards for a game-tying touchdown later in the first quarter.

WR Shane Reilly got behind the Ward Melville defense and Vino hit him for a 36-yard score midway through the second quarter. Burgos answered again, finishing off a 65-yard drive with a one-yard keeper. The drive was aided by two 4th and short conversions, one of which was a completion to WR Brody Morgan that deflected off the helmet of teammate Griffin Kramer, went straight up in the air and fell into the arms of a surprised and thankful Morgan, who was brought down at the Sachem 43-yard line.

Six plays later, Burgos took it in to tie the score at 14 with a minute to go in the half. It would become untied in short order at the start of the third quarter.

On the first play from scrimmage, Singleton took a handoff from Vino and immediately sensed that his path around left tackle was blocked off. He bounced it to the right, toward the Patriot sideline, and had only green astroturf in front of him. Eighty yards later, he was celebrating in the end zone with his teammates because he had given Sachem North yet another touchdown-sized lead.

After a Patriot three and out, Sachem was on the precipice of expanding their lead to two touchdowns as they drove the ball deep into Ward Melville territory. But do-it-all linebacker/running back/emergency kicker Daniel Brausch Jr. made a leaping interception in the end zone for the green and gold with five minutes left in the third quarter to keep it a one-score game.

“I saw the quarterback [Vino] step back, and when he threw the ball, I knew I had a chance to make a play for my team,” said Brausch, a senior.

He would make more plays for his team. After his interception, the Patriots would march 80 yards — all on the ground — in seven minutes, and it would be Brausch who would cap the drive with a one-yard plunge, tying the score at 21.

“Being a two-way player is an honor because it means the coaches believe in me enough to put me in those positions,” Brausch said. “I look at it as having twice the number of chances to make plays to help us win games.”

Brausch would help in even more ways than just those two. 

When Morgan, who is the Patriot kicker in addition to playing wide receiver, was injured in the first half of the game, Brausch took over on kickoffs and extra points. He made both of his kicks, and one of his kickoffs was nearly recovered by Ward Melville. He also returned kickoffs on special teams.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, Ward Melville had forced the Flaming Arrows backward and Vino and company faced 3rd and 12 deep in their own end. A stop by the Patriots would likely result in getting the ball with good field position to get the go-ahead and potential winning score.

But in one of the most important and explosive plays of the game, Vino rolled right and hit WR Andrew Eaton for 24 yards and a 1st down. This was a Patriot backbreaker. Sachem would convert three more 3rd downs, consume eight minutes, and score on a six-yard run by Singleton with a smidgin over two minutes left in the game.

Brausch would block the extra point, which created the possibility of Ward Melville, with two minutes left and three timeouts, winning the game with a last-minute TD and an extra point conversion.

The Patriots moved the ball to midfield in short order. Burgos scrambled to the Sachem 35 with just over a minute remaining. But on 3rd and long, after a long delay caused by timeouts taken by both teams, the shotgun snap of center Bobby Ehlers flew over Burgos’ head. The quarterback did well to track it down and throw it away. But it was a waste of a valuable down, and it brought up 4th and 10 and the Patriots’ last chance.

Would they get off the mat and survive for yet a fourth time in this game?

Burgos dropped back but didn’t find anyone open. He tap-danced down the right sideline, cut back into the middle of the field and lunged forward. Would it be enough?

Despite his effort, the ball was spotted about three quarters of a yard short of the sticks. Sachem ball. The game was over.

“That last drive was tense,” said Burgos. “We had a limited amount of time and were trying to do everything as quickly as we could. It was a tough way for the season to end.”

By Steven Zaitz

Three wasn’t enough, so they went out and got number four.

The Northport Lady Tiger field hockey team — whose team motto is “never enough” — won its fourth consecutive Class A Long Island championship on Sunday, Nov, 5, beating Nassau champ Massapequa, 5-0. The game was played at Northport High School.

Senior forward Kenzie Bliven scored 20 seconds into the game off a long drive up the field and a pass by junior middie Caeley Monez. Northport would never look back, scoring two more in the first half – one by Monez and another Bliven.

The three-goal lead for the Lady Tigers might as well have been 30 as Massapequa’s offense was bottled up by Northport midfielders and defenders. Senior captain defenders Emily Maloney and Caitlin O’Malley, along with sophomore Nina Corbett and senior Sam Ferrara, tended to the backline and made sure goalkeeper Mariselle Camillone’s crease was clean for most of the game. Middies Sophia Cox, Lily Beamer, Ruby Hasbrouck and captain Madison Maxwell also played well on both sides of the ball. Camillone made two saves while Massapequa earned only four penalty corner opportunities.

Conversely, Northport had 16 penalty corners and fired 25 shots at Massapequa’s overworked goalkeeper Colleen Emanuele, as Julianna Tietjen and Mary Breckling scored in the second half — and the party in the stands and on the sidelines was on.

Tiger head coach Gina Walling inserted several of her bench players so that they could experience playing in a Long Island championship game.

With the Long Island championship in its hip pocket, there is still work to be done. Northport will return to Centereach High School, Walling’s alma mater and the site of the last two state tournaments, next weekend to compete for the Class A New York State title. If they win, it will be their third straight.

They will face Buffalo-area Orchard Park on Saturday, Nov. 11, at noon. If they are fortunate enough to win that game, they will play the next day against the winner of Mamaroneck High School of Westchester County and Windsor, which is a suburb of Binghamton.

Ward Melville running back Griffin Kramer rumbles through the Lindenhurst line on Nov. 3. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

Fortune really does favor the bold.

Clinging to a 14-10 lead with less than five minutes to go in its first-round playoff game against perennial powerhouse Lindenhurst on Nov. 3, the Ward Melville football Patriots were desperately trying to run out the clock.

But after two unsuccessful running plays and facing 3rd and 12 from their own 15-yard line, the very real possibility of punting the ball back to the Bulldogs with plenty of clock and likely a short field stared Patriot head coach Chris Boltrek directly in the face. He took a timeout to discuss his options with his staff and senior quarterback Ethan Burgos.

Conventional and conservative football wisdom would be to run the ball, melt the clock as much as possible, and let your defense — which had shut the Bulldogs out in the second half — seal the victory. 

So much for conventional wisdom. 

With a stacked box, Burgos took the snap on this fateful third down play, wheeled around and handed it to senior wideout Jackson Weber on a jet sweep option pass. Weber sprinted to the far sideline, stopped, and threw the ball to a crossing WR Brody Morgan, who caught the ball and was knocked out of bounds at the Patriot 38-yard line. It was plenty good enough for a first down, with the clock now whittled down to three minutes.

“It’s a play we practice every week,” said Boltrek. “If it’s not set up perfectly, then Jackson simply runs the ball and we punt it back to them. If the defense attacks the run, it opens things up for our receivers behind them.”

Coach Boltrek makes it sound logical and easy, but there is still a matter of risk and execution, especially at such a critical juncture of the game.

“When the play was first called after the timeout, I was nervous because I knew no matter what, I couldn’t throw an interception in that spot,” said Weber. “But I knew I had to come up big to make the play for my team. Brody did a great job of getting open, and I’m happy my coach had confidence in me to make a big play.”

Burgos, who threw for a touchdown in the first quarter and ran for the game-winner to start the fourth, managed the game like an old pro, mixing up runs, passes and the occasional trickeration to confuse and surprise the Lindenhurst defense.

“They were a tough and physical opponent, and guys on both sides were willing to give it their all,” said Burgos. “But many people still don’t give the Ward Melville football program the respect that it deserves. I hope this win changes that somewhat, and our goal for the rest of the playoffs is to earn even more respect.”

One player who earned the respect of everyone who watched this particular game was RB/LB Griffin Kramer, who seemingly never came off the field for Ward Melville. He had 60 yards rushing as a punishing fullback and made 12 tackles on defense    three of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a sack of Bulldog QB Christian Capogna.

“After that first drive, our defense got after it,” Kramer, a senior, said. “We didn’t want to let the team down and as a unit, we started playing with the mindset that there was no way our season was going to end on this night.”

The evening started in easy breezy fashion for the defending Suffolk County Division I champions, as Burgos led a seven-play, 70-yard march that ended with a leaping catch in the end zone by Senior WR Sebastian Jolly for a 7-0 Ward Melville lead.

But Lindy held serve on its opening possession by virtue of a 27-yard TD pass from Capogna to Christian Aquino, who led the Bulldogs with 105 yards receiving on eight receptions. Bulldog kicker Ben Choden would connect on a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter to give his team a 10-7 lead that they would carry into halftime. That would be the only scoring in the game until Burgos scrambled up the left sideline for a 17-yard score with ten minutes left in the game.

“Ethan is a special athlete and a very smart football player,” said Kramer. “He stayed calm tonight and did whatever we needed from him to win this game.  He’s an elusive runner and threw the ball really well when he was called upon to do that.”

Burgos was 10 for 17 for 86 yards in the air, and he ran for another 92 yards. That is good for a 91.8 passer rating. He had mutual admiration for his teammate Kramer.

“Kramer is the toughest kid I know, and the entire defense runs through him,” said Burgos. “His ability to read what the opposing offense id trying to do is unmatched and he is the energy of the team – on both sides of the ball.”

They will need a large energy reserve for their next task — a semifinal match on the road against arch enemy and Suffolk Division I’s second seed Sachem North, who easily dispatched Walt Whitman over the weekend, 42-10.

Both teams are 7-2 entering the game, but the Patriots beat the Flaming Arrows 29-7 in the regular season, rolling up 250 yards on the ground. Burgos had 107 of those yards and is assuming Sachem hasn’t forgotten that late September beatdown.

“We’ll be ready for them,” he said. “I expect us to play our brand of football, assert ourselves over them and walk into another county championship.”

A bold statement from the Ward Melville signal caller – a trait that seems to run deep with this Ward Melville football team.

By Steven Zaitz

In an offensive extravaganza not seen in years, the Northport Football Tigers dropped their regular season finale to Half Hollow Hills East 63-41 on Saturday Oct. 28.

Hills East quarterback Jordan Heyman tied a Long Island record by throwing eight touchdown passes and Northport running back Michael Campoli had five total touchdowns in the highest scoring game of 2023.

The Thunderbirds got on the board early when Heyman scrambled to his right and connected with halfback Lucas Martin for a 33-yard score with only three minutes gone by in the first quarter.  It was just the beginning of what was to come.

Heyman would loft one to receiver Tyler Sanders on Hills East’s next possession that would be good for 60 yards and another score, and the T-birds were up 15-0 with 4:49 remaining in the opening period.

Northport would be in scratch-and-claw mode for most of the game and Campoli would pull the Tigers to within a single point, 29-28, with a short TD run and two-point conversion with 1:19 remaining in the second half.

But in one of the most glaring defensive lapses in a game full of them, Heyman threw up a Hail Mary Pass as the horn sounded to end the first half that would settle in the stomach of receiver Max Futter in the end zone. It was 35-28 for the Thunderbirds at the break, and Northport would never recover.

Tiger Sophomore QB Simon Blissett had the most prolific game of his career throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Campoli had 181 yards on the ground and three rushing TDS.  He had two catches for 44 yards and both of those went for touchdowns. His brother Christian had 72 yards receiving and Giancarlo Valenti had 111 yards rushing on only 14 carries – which is 8 yards per carry. Heyman, who threw for 475 yards, took advantage of a Northport fumble to start the second half and opened up a two TD lead just 27 seconds into it.  They would increase it 49-28 four minutes later, on another Heyman TD strike of 52 yards again to Martin, as most of the second half was now rendered a formality.

Heyman’s octet of touchdown passes has only been done once in the modern high school football history of Long Island. Charlie McKee of Oceanside threw eight touchdowns in 2018 in the Sailors’ 62-33 win over Farmingdale.

The loss ended Northport’s three game winning streak and they finish the year an even 4-4 and earned the 5th seed in Suffolk Division II playoff bracket.  They will play on the road at West Babylon on Friday Night. The Tigers lost to this team 36-0 on Sept 30th and hope to improve upon that performance.

Hills East (7-1) is seeded third and will host Bellport on Saturday afternoon. The Thunderbirds easily handled the Clippers, beating them 38-6 in the regular season.

By Steven Zaitz

Commack girls volleyball team is headed to the Suffolk County finals after beating Northport Lady Tigers in three straight games this past Monday, Oct. 30, in the semifinal round at Commack.

Outside hitter Kaitlin Curran led the top-seeded Lady Cougars with 13 kills and nine digs, as the relatively quick match ended at 25-16, 25-22, 25-9.

When these two teams played earlier in October, Northport won the first game but the Cougars have beaten the Tigers in six straight games since, outscoring Northport 151-95 in that span.

Commack’s Rylie Curran had 14 digs in this affair and teammate Molly Singer had a symmetrical 14 assists. 

The Lady Cougars are looking to win the county crown when they take on Patchogue-Medford Nov. 2 at Walt Whitman High School. 

— Photos by Steven Zaitz