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Taylor Slicklein

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Tiffany Slicklein leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen are a powerhouse full of offensive threats — and as has been the case all season, senior Tiffany Slicklein and junior Sam Schultz stole the show this week.

The dynamic duo scored 20 points each in a 74-54 win over East Islip Jan. 24. Kings Park girls’ basketball head coach Tom Edmundson said the victory was just what the team needed after a pause in performance last week.

Sam Schultz carries the ball into East Islip’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was tough,” the coach said of the two games against Hauppauge and Bellport, the first resulting in a loss and the second a close-call win. “We were talking about picking up the intensity, picking up the pace and coming out and playing well, and I think we did. I was telling the girls they need to build off this. We’re kind of right there on the doorsteps, so we need to start playing our best basketball. This was a pretty good example of that.”

The team has five more games before playoffs start. The next matchup will be a home contest against a tough Half Hollow Hills West team. When the Kingsmen saw their opponent last, Jan. 3, they pulled away with a close 63-60 win.

“This is definitely a confidence booster” Schultz said, who added eight rebounds and four assists. “Everyone got on the board today, everyone was taking shots, so hopefully that translates to the game against Half Hollow Hills West — we had a tough game against them last time — and to the rest of the season.”

Slicklein and fellow senior Selena Ubriaco traded baskets for the first few Kings Park scores, Slicklein scoring six points and Ubriaco tallying five, before Schultz got the ball rolling. After grabbing a put-back on Slicklein’s missed extra-point attempt at a three-point play, she scored the next two field goals for Kings Park. At the end of the first quarter, the team had a 10-point lead, 21-11.

Taylor Slicklein moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Schultz continued her scoring streak in the second, adding a field goal, three-pointer and free throw, all the first points for Kings Park in the next eight minutes.

“She can knock down the three, she can get to the rim, she makes free throws, she has a complete game,” Edmundson said of his athlete. “She’s the kind of player that will definitely play at the next level, and she’s only a junior. She’s just fantastic.”

But Schultz credits her teammates for her scoring.

“This is my fourth year on the team and I can always count on them to get me the ball if I’m open or communicating on offense, seeing the extra pass, being unselfish — and I think that helped me personally get my shots,” she said. “But it really helps us all as a team.”

Schultz had 17 first-half points, and Slicklein added 14. The pair played in the third quarter, but Edmundson continued to get his bench players time on the court, and had all starters except sophomore Sam Hogan sit in the fourth.

“I’m not looking for one girl to score all the time — although it does happen to work out that way — but our offense is geared toward everybody,” the head coach said. “I think we have a very good team, I think we have one of the best teams in the county and I think we’ll be right there with a chance to win a county championship. I think we have the ability to and I think we have the talent to.”

Slicklein, who scored her 1,000th career point last week, had a double-double in the game with 10 rebounds and also had seven blocks.

Sam Hogan drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We call her LeBron James because she can do everything,” Edmundson said. “She’s leading the team in rebounds, steals, assists, points, although Sam [Schultz] might have just taken over because they’ve been neck and neck all year, but she does it all. It’s very rare that you have a girl that has the ability to score on every possession, but is also willing to give it up and distribute the way she does.”

Shultz also shares the wealth. Slicklein said she’s enjoyed working alongside her teammate.

“We know exactly where each other are, we’ve been playing together for a while and it’s good to play with a girl who knows how to play like that,” she said. “It’s always fun.”

Slicklein’s twin sister Taylor finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Hogan had eight points.

Schultz said she’s hoping the total team success can propel the team further into the postseason this year. Tiffany Slicklein said she thinks if any Kings Park team can do it, it’s this one.

“We’re getting ready,” Schultz said of the team preparing for playoffs. “Each and every practice we’re working hard, getting better, working on the little things and it’s all coming full circle — with good timing, too.”

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No Suffolk County team averaged more than Kings Park’s 69.5 points per game this season.

That offensive success paid off in dividends as the No. 3-seeded Kingsmen finished the regular season 16-2 overall and took a 12-game winning streak into the postseason, where the undefeated League IV champions took down No. 14 Hauppauge and No. 6 Huntington, making their way to the Suffolk County Class AA semifinals at Stony Brook University Sunday afternoon.

Although challenger Commack, the No. 2 seed, was also 18-2 heading into the game, the usual onslaught that had been expected with Kings Park was non-existent on the Seawolves’ home court.

This was because the Cougars valued defense above all else — something that Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said was lacking from his team’s game Sunday.

“Our help defense was not what it needed to be and we talked about that all year, really,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season, and it’s been something we’ve focused on and we’ve focused on, and today we just didn’t put it all together on the defensive side of the ball.”

Commack scored the first six points of the semifinal game before sophomore guard Sam Schultz swished a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half. The Cougars countered with a field goal and two free-throw points to re-extend the lead. Despite a free-throw point by junior guard and forward Taylor Slicklein, Commack grabbed an offensive rebound to pull ahead 12-4, forcing Edmundson to use one of his timeouts to try and regroup.

The pep-talk proved successful, as Schultz scored a layup and a field goal, Slicklein tacked on a 3-pointer and junior guard Selena Ubriaco tallied a trifecta of her own with 3.6 left in the first quarter to help her team pull within five, 19-14, heading into the second stanza.

“I think we definitely didn’t start as strong as we needed to today, and Commack made the most of it — they started as strong as they could and that allowed them to take the lead in the end,” Schultz said. “We fought back, but it wasn’t enough.”

The deficit only grew from there, with Commack taking a 35-23 advantage into the locker room.

“You’ve gotta take your hat off to Commack they played great defense,” Edmundson said. “Jackie DelliSanti dominated. She’s a phenomenal player. We knew we needed to try and slow her down and we were unable to do that, and that was the big difference.”

DelliSanti was the difference-maker, scoring a game-high 22 points.

In the second half, though, Kings Park mounted a strong comeback effort, outscoring its opponent 15-9 in the third quarter, with help from Schultz, Ubriaco, senior guard Kiera Ahern and Taylor Slicklein’s twin sister Tiffany.

Tiffany Slicklein, who averaged 17 points per game, was held to 13, which helped open the lane for Schultz, who finished with a team-high 17 points herself. Still, the sophomore said the team’s junior co-captain is such a dominant player that despite the heavy guarding, Slicklein was able to excel.

“They have to key on her,” Schultz said of Slicklein. “That allowed me to be more open to the point where it’s hard for them to key on two girls, so I think that helped open up some lanes for everybody. But she definitely made really smart choices and passes and never forced any shots, which helped.”

Despite Kings Park’s strong season coming to a close, the head coach said he’s proud of his girls’ accomplishments.

“They battled all year and they came together as a team,” he said. “We have some freshmen and some seniors and the dynamics don’t always work out well, and with this group, it did. They all came together.”

Schultz said she thinks the outcome may have been different had the team learned from its mistakes early on in the game, but is excited about the future of her team, although the loss of senior starter Kiera Ahern will prove difficult.
“If a couple of shots would’ve fell or if we made that extra pass one or two extra times, I think the outcome could’ve been a little different,” Schultz said. “Now that this season is over all you can worry about is next year, so I’m excited. We’ll have probably a little freshman come up and be a starter, and I think only good things for us next year.”