SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa: A little experience takes Clippers a long way

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02/01/2011 10:08 AM |

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Sarah Smith attempted a layup while Pierson/Bridgehampton's Amanda Busiello tried to stop her.

One of the joys of sport is its unpredictable nature. After all, if games went just the way they were expected to, things would be awfully boring, wouldn’t they?

The games we play and watch are full of surprises. Just when you think you might have things all figured out, something happens that catches you off-guard.

For example, the Southold High School girls basketball team looked to be rebuilding this season with a squad that includes six sophomores. That sense was reinforced when the Clippers started off by losing their first four games. But look at where they are now.

The Clippers, who may be the surprise team of Suffolk County League VIII, are two wins away from earning a place in the playoffs. Two wins from their final five games would do the trick. Barring an unforeseen collapse, it will happen.

Dennis Reilly didn’t know what to expect heading into this, his second season as Southold’s coach. What the Clippers did on Monday was hardly expected, but it had to be awfully gratifying.

The Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers walked into the Southold High School gymnasium with an unbeaten league record, and then walked out of it with a mark in their loss column. Melissa Rogers scored nine of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers close the game on a 14-4 run and prevail, 40-38.

“We’ve changed over the last couple of weeks,” said Rogers, a sophomore forward. “We’re improving. As we go to the February break, we’re going to improve a lot more.”

Last year the Clippers lost to The Stony Brook School Bears in the county Class C final. Who is to say that with a little luck they don’t return to the county title game?

Monday’s result left the Clippers at 6-6, 4-3 in the league, and gave them a healthy dose of confidence.

“I think we’re becoming a better team, personality-wise, playing-wise,” said Sydney Campbell, a sophomore guard. “I think we’re just going to get better and better.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Nicole Busso, one of Southold's six sophomores, split between Pierson/Bridgehampton's Sami James, left, and Emily Hinz.

Southold’s six sophomores — Nicole Busso, Sydney Campbell, Michaela Christman, Carley Staples, Megan Van Gordon and Rogers — all get playing time, and that augurs well for the future.

“Our sophomores have been together since third grade CYO, and we’ve been a family since,” said Busso.

The rest of the team consists of three seniors (Danielle Alpi, Megan Knapp and Sarah Smith) and three juniors (Kelly Bosco, Lauren Ficurilli and Sarah Manfredi).

Together, this group has made something of this season and given themselves a lot to play for.

“We’re just working as a team,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of selfless playing.”

Speaking of the team’s progression this season, Rogers said: “It started off slow and we needed to improve a lot and, just bad. Now we’re passing and not being selfish. It’s just not one on one anymore, it’s five on five, and it’s a lot nicer.”

No one has to tell Reilly that. He has seen with his own two eyes how much progress a team can make in just a couple of months. The Clippers have come a long way since they lost by 16 points to Pierson/Bridgehampton in Sag Harbor on Dec. 17.

“The experience through the season has really paid off,” he said. “You can see the confidence in some of the girls. They’re not like deer in the headlights any more when they’re out there.”

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