FIRST SETTLERS 62, KNIGHTS 31
As the picture that is the 2012-13 high school girls basketball season develops, becoming clearer and clearer with each passing game, Southold coach Joe Read urges his players to savor the moments. He calls them snapshots and reminds his seniors, in particular, that they have only so many shots left in their camera before they move on. Read encourages the First Settlers not to let moments slip by without taking notice.
“I always talk about taking snapshots,” he said. “Take a snapshot, look at your friends, look at your team, look at who you’re playing with, and remember this.”
Coming off a Long Island championship season they couldn’t forget, the First Settlers want this to be a season to remember, and they appear headed on their way.
With its 62-31 defeat of Smithtown Christian on Monday, Southold pulled to within a game of clinching a playoff berth just as it completed the first half of its Suffolk County League VIII season. The First Settlers (6-4, 5-1) also guaranteed that they retained at least a share of first place. They started the day tied for the league lead with Port Jefferson.
No wonder the First Settlers seem to sense that bigger and better things are awaiting them down the road.
“I definitely had a good feeling about this team because we had a lot of returning players from last year,” point guard Justina Babcock said. “We’re definitely going to have another good year, I think. We’ll make it far.”
When it comes to statistics, perhaps the most impressive stat of all that is related to Southold is 0 — as in the number of practices missed by its players.
“I have not had one person miss one second of practice, not one,” Read said. “That says a lot about the character. They’re strong; they’re a strong group.”
Another word might be “tough.” Sydney Campbell, who may be the team’s best all-around player, banged her jaw out of place when her head struck the head of Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Sydnee McKie-Senior during a scramble for a loose ball on Jan. 8. Campbell couldn’t close her jaw for a while and was rolled out of the gym on a gurney.
She was at practice the next day.
“It blew my mind,” said Read.
Since then Campbell has had an ankle issue. No matter, she was in the starting lineup on Monday, as was Melissa Rogers, who has been playing with a troublesome knee.
One player Southold didn’t have on Monday is Abby Scharadin, who has a concussion. Her status is up in the air.
Southold used Michaela Christman to take Scharadin’s place in the rotation on Monday. As usual, Southold made five-for-five substitutions and played all 12 players who were dressed.
“That playing is invaluable down the road,” Read said. “All the girls have to understand what’s going on out there.”
Smithtown Christian (2-5, 1-5), by comparison, had only eight players. “We don’t have a lot of depth,” said Smithtown Christian coach Teelah Grimes.
Monday’s game was another step forward for visiting Southold. Campbell drained three 3-point shots and scored 12 points while Nicole Busso put up 10 points and 12 rebounds for Southold. Babcock added 9 points. Carley Staples and Shannon Smith combined for 13 of Southold’s 21 assists.
Smithtown Christian received 12 points from Nagee Mirabeau and 10 from Victoria Linsalato.
“You can always be happy about a win,” Babcock said. “We want to take every game the same and go hard and just try our best, and we definitely came out and did that.”
Southold held leads of 17-13, 32-20 and 48-26 after each of the first three quarters. The First Settlers held Smithtown Christian to 6-for-23 shooting from the field over the final three quarters.
“You have to give Southold credit,” said Grimes, a former Longwood High School and Dowling College player in her first season in charge of the Knights. “They went hard for almost a full 32 minutes. They’re a great team offensively and defensively.”
Southold is seeking a fifth straight playoff appearance, something that looks like a virtual certainty at this point. It could clinch a postseason place as soon as Friday when it plays at Shelter Island.
Staples has been a believer since the beginning of the season. “I had faith in us,” she said. “It wasn’t cockiness. It was just, I know we have it in us because we’re a team.”
A return to the postseason is the first goal on Southold’s checklist for this season. The First Settlers are one win away.