The Southold girls basketball team doesn’t have a bona fide star player or a designated team captain, but the First Settlers do have team leaders. So, when one of them, Melissa Rogers, hit the floor hard after tripping over a player, hurting her left wrist in the opening moments of the Suffolk County Class B-C-D final on Saturday, Southold fans must have held their breath.
Apparently not Rogers’ coach or teammates, though. They know the 5-foot-10 junior forward well enough to recognize that it’s going to take more than a hard fall to keep her off the court.
Rogers remained in the game at St. Joseph’s College, playing well into the fourth quarter of the 56-21 loss to the Mariners.
“I just kept going on,” she said. “I’m very stubborn.”
No one seemed worried — Rogers least of all — by the sight of her sitting off on the side in street clothes with a splint wrapped around her wrist, watching the team’s practice on Monday.
Southold coach Katie Hennes said she expected Rogers to resume practicing later this week. Her availability for the team’s Southeast Region Class C semifinal against Friends Academy on March 7 at Farmingdale State College is not in question.
“I’ll be ready to go,” said Rogers.
That’s good news for Southold.
Perhaps similar to her team as a whole, Rogers’ play could be seen as something of a revelation this season. Although she has been a starter since joining the team as a freshman, she has proven to be more of an offensive threat, averaging about 10 points per game as well as grabbing about eight rebounds per game.
“Slowly but surely she’s found her niche, and she’s kind of our go-to girl,” said Hennes.
Rogers plays in the post along with Nicole Busso. The third post player varies, but is usually Abby Scharadin or Lauren Ficurilli.
“She’s been great,” Busso, who has played alongside Rogers for 10 years, said. “You can’t even ask for more from a player like her. She goes under the boards. She takes the fouls. She takes charges. She dives for balls. … She does a little bit of everything.”
Ficurilli said, “She’s always aggressive, and she always gives 110 percent, and I think when you’re looking at a player, that’s someone you want on your team.”
It didn’t take Hennes long to realize that Rogers is the type of player she wants on her team.
“I didn’t know a single soul when I walked into this gym,” Hennes said. “I could just tell that this is the type of kid that you want to build your program around. She’s hard working. She does exactly what you ask. She’s very coachable.”
Rogers said she has a high basketball IQ. “I watch basketball constantly,” she said.
At the same time, she said she has learned not to overthink on the basketball court. Because the action moves so fast, she has found that reaction and instinct make a difference.
Rogers scores points through a variety of low-post moves, putbacks and 15- to 18-foot jump shots. She struck for a career-high 21 points against Shelter Island in a Hampton Bays tournament game this season. But Rogers deflects credit for her point production to her teammates.
“It really has nothing to do with me, basically,” she said. “It’s the team playing together and the chemistry. We’ve been playing together since we were little kids. I may score the most, but I’m getting all the passes. I’m getting the shots, the looks.”
Rogers looked in pain and discomfort at times during Saturday’s game. She clearly wasn’t her usual self. With the ailing wrist, she shot 1 of 4 from the field and 0 of 2 from the free-throw line. She finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block, an unusually low stat line for her.
The hurting wrist “definitely hampered me a little bit,” she acknowledged.
But Hennes knows that Rogers is about more than numbers. Rogers also brings intangibles to the court, such as toughness and hustle.
“That kid never gave up” against Southampton, Hennes said. “That’s the type of kid that you want on the floor, somebody who would give you everything they have and leave everything out there for you.”