SUFFOLK CLASS C FINAL | BEARS 56, FIRST SETTLERS 39
Along with a bold fashion statement came an even bolder statement about the state of girls basketball at The Stony Brook School.
For the second game in a row, Stony Brook walked onto a basketball court Friday wearing green socks. Actually, make that bright neon green socks. Neon green, by the way, is not part of the school’s blue-and-white color scheme.
Madison Rylands, a senior guard, said that in order to try something different, the team picked out the neon green socks, “the most obnoxious [color] we could find.”
It is believed the socks brought the Bears good luck in their final regular-season game, a win over Pierson/Bridgehampton, so there they were again, wearing those same socks for the Suffolk County Class C final against Southold on Friday. Even the team’s three coaches, including the head coach, Steve Harney, wore them.
“It worked last time,” explained Rylands.
And it did work again. Top-seeded Stony Brook not only brought its record to 2-0 when playing in the green socks but, bouncing back from a four-win season in 2011-12, collected its seventh county championship in eight years and eighth overall with a 56-39 defeat of last season’s Long Island champion, Southold. It’s the second title of the season for the League VIII champion Bears (12-4).
“It’s great,” Rylands said after the game at Center Moriches High School. “The dynasty has been returned.”
Stony Brook triumphed in convincing fashion. Southold (10-7), the No. 3 seed, trailed by 8 points at halftime, but then Stony Brook blew the game open in the third quarter, when it really turned things on. The Bears finished the third quarter on a 21-6 run — while shooting 8 for 12 from the floor — for a 47-26 lead. Ariana Odom scored 9 points during that spurt.
Meanwhile, Southold struggled through 8-for-31 shooting in the second half.
“They shot out of their minds,” Southold coach Joe Read said of the Bears. “They had to be shooting 60, 70 percent. We were missing underneath shots that we normally don’t miss.”
Odom (14 points, 9 rebounds), Rylands (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Keara Vancol (13 points) led the way for Stony Brook, which also received 7 assists from Allie Damianos.
Nicole Busso, the Southold senior forward who was recently voted the League VIII most valuable player by the league’s coaches, had a double-double in her final game for the First Settlers. She scored 11 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“She is considered the best in our league,” Read said. “She played big in big games. She’s a big-game player, and you can build a team around her.”
The field-goal shooting was in Stony Brook’s favor, with the Bears connecting on 42 percent (21 of 50) of their shots. Southold shot 27.6 percent (16 of 58).
The foul count went against Southold, too, 15-6.
“We were completely ready for this game,” Rylands said. “We knew exactly what to do, and we did it. We were very prepared for this team. We know this team. We know every player by number and by name, so we know exactly what they’re going to do.”
Busso, who walked off the court for the last time along with Southold’s four other seniors — Sydney Campbell, Michaela Christman, Melissa Rogers and Carley Staples — said: “We each gave our hearts. There’s really not much to say at this point.”
Vancol said unity helped Stony Brook this season. Because Stony Brook is a boarding school, the players live together 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another motivating factor was seeing its string of six straight county titles broken last year. The Bears resolved to do something about that.
“It was difficult,” Vancol said, “but at the same time, I knew that this year is the year that we could do it.”
Read, who completed his first campaign as Southold’s coach, said it was a “great season.” He added: “This year we put our hearts in it. When you lose in a big game it is really depressing, but this season? How many teams are playing right now in Suffolk County.”
Stony Brook is among the select few teams still alive in Suffolk. The Bears will next play in a Suffolk Class B-C game against Southampton or Center Moriches on Feb. 22.
Busso gave the Bears credit. “They brought it,” she said. “They had heart. They wanted it, and they came at us. They wanted that title back, and they got it.”
Now, green socks and all, the Bears are back on top of the Suffolk Class C world.