SUFFOLK CLASS B-C-D FINAL | MARINERS 56, FIRST SETTLERS 21
The sense among some court-side observers was that it was only a matter of time before Southampton’s superiority showed itself, and the Suffolk County Class B-C-D girls basketball final turned from a game into a rout. For the first quarter and a half, Southold was trailing, but hanging close to heavily favored Southampton.
And then the Mariners made their move.
Five Southampton players scored during a paralyzing 18-1 run over a span of 6 minutes 44 seconds bridging the second and third quarters. That gave the Mariners a 33-12 lead, paving the way for a 56-21 Southampton thrashing at St. Joseph’s College on Saturday.
With the win, Southampton (18-3) advances to play either Harborfields (18-1) or Elwood/John Glenn (19-0) for the county small schools championship on Wednesday at Farmingdale State College.
Southampton was determined to make a good showing. The Mariners had given their fans a scare in their previous game, trailing for three quarters before pulling out a triumph over Hampton Bays in the Suffolk Class B final.
“We couldn’t do that to our fans” again, forward Kesi Goree told reporters. “We had to reassure them that we’re here for a reason.”
When the Mariners get down to business, they are a handful, with a variety of weapons at their disposal, including the likes of Paris Hodges, her sister Noel Hodges and Goree.
“All of our players make this team effective,” Goree said. “We’re all shooters. We can all rebound. We can all dribble. When it comes down to it, we’re pretty much a triple threat in every position.”
The game underlined the gap between Leagues VIII and VII, and their respective champions, Southold and Southampton.
After a fairly competitive first quarter, Southampton began putting some distance between itself and Southold (15-6) in the second period. The Mariners scored the last 8 points of the second quarter for a 27-12 lead at the halftime break.
“We didn’t score,” said Southold coach Katie Hennes.
Southampton would have been in front by more had it shot better than 10 of 29 from the field in the first half.
Goree had 10 first-half points for Southampton. The 5-foot-10 junior, who took a hard fall to the floor after being fouled by Melissa Rogers 1:29 into the game, ended up with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
“A big game for Kesi,” Southampton coach Rich Wingfield said of his team captain. “She was truly once again our leader.”
Paris Hodges, who had 6 assists, scored 8 points for the Mariners, as did Cassidy Guida.
Southampton also limited Southold to only one 3-point shot, by Kelly Bosco.
“We may be a team that’s given up less 3-pointers than any team in the county,” said Wingfield, who noted that Hampton Bays sharpshooter Alexis Fotopoulos has never scored a trey against Southampton. “It’s hard for people to believe,” he said, “and she’s looked at as one of the best 3-point shooters.”
For that matter, Southold did not have a player with more than 3 points in the first half. Lauren Ficurilli was the top scorer in the game for the First Settlers with 8 points.
Southold played with a shorter bench than usual. It was missing three reserve players, including backup point guard Justina Babcock, who was ill, said Hennes.
Ball security was an issue for Southold. Sydney Campbell was the only point guard available, and when she headed to the bench with some early foul trouble, the game slipped away from the First Settlers. They turned the ball over 36 times, with Southampton swiping the ball away from them 26 times.
Regardless of the result, though, Southold viewed the game as valuable preparation for its Southeast Region semifinal against Friends Academy (6-11) on March 7 at Farmingdale State College.
“This is exactly what we wanted,” Hennes said. “We wanted to come out and play a team that’s really going to push us, and Southampton really pushed us.”
Indeed, Southampton gave Southold a battle. The 35-point loss was the largest margin of defeat the First Settlers have suffered this season, but they kept it in perspective.
“Towards the end, we looked past the score and we looked at this as preparing us for our game in Farmingdale,” Southold shooting guard Carley Staples said. “I’m proud of our team because we still are going on in basketball. That’s not our last game. We still get to play basketball, and that’s all that matters to us.”
Participating in the county classification games gave Southold two additional games to play after winning the Suffolk Class C title.
When the matter of the importance of the county classification games was raised during a postgame interview, Wingfield delivered his take on them. “All games are important because I think if you don’t put importance on it, you disrespect your opponent,” he said. “You go out and try to give the best show. People pay money to come in. How can it be meaningless?”
Beyond the county tournament, Southampton will play Locust Valley or Cold Spring Harbor for the Long Island title on March 7.
Like Southampton, the First Settlers are looking ahead to a bigger game to come.
“These girls should have nothing to be upset about,” Hennes said. “We made it to the [Class B-C-D] final against one of the best teams in the county. We get to live another day.”