BEARS 57, FIRST SETTLERS 53
Southold still has many of the same players from its high school boys basketball team of last season, but those players are not the same. The First Settlers are a year older, a year wiser, a year more physically mature, and just plain better than they were in 2013-14.
It goes beyond their skillful 1,000-point scorer, Liam Walker, who has silky smooth moves and a high basketball IQ to go with his impressive statistics. They have reliable ballhandlers and bring grittiness to the court.
The First Settlers are vastly improved, and it shows in their record. They are already only one win shy of equaling their win total from last season.
A measuring stick for how far the First Settlers have come can be found in a comparison to Stony Brook, the defending Suffolk County Class C champion.
The big test came Thursday night. Stony Brook came to town with its talented guards and athletic big men. While Southold didn’t walk away with a win, it did earn high marks for its play in a game that coach Phil Reed said was the best it had played in years.
Southold gave Stony Brook a run for its money, taking the lead three times in the second half before ultimately falling, 57-53.
Southold’s final lead of the night came when a followup shot by Anthony Siracusano made it 52-50 in the final minutes of the game.
Stony Brook (5-1, 4-0 League VIII) did not become a team of its stature without having the ability to come up with answers, though. Chester Kayonga nailed a 3-point shot before Rob Colarusso sank four free throws in the final 15.6 seconds to salt away the Bears’ fourth straight win.
Colarusso, a senior guard, put in a game-high 19 points to go with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.
Kayonga hit three 3-pointers on the way to a 14-point performance with 8 rebounds. Luke Meyer added 12 points and 6 assists, and Jyles Etienne had 9 points and 10 rebounds.
Southold (7-3, 5-1), which had won seven of its previous eight games, was led by Walker with 18 points. Greg Gehring had 12 points and 5 assists.
The First Settlers suffered shooting slumps of 1 for 16 in the second quarter and 2 for 11 in the fourth, but they had only 8 turnovers.
Walker was honored before the game with a ceremony recognizing him for recently becoming only the second Southold boy to score 1,000 career points (Sean O’Hara, who played from 2003 to 2006, was the first). The senior guard hugged teammates and Reed before the school superintendent, David Gamberg, presented him with a ball, artfully marked in calligraphic fashion, to mark the milestone.