Jeff Ellis, the coach of the Southold First Settlers boys basketball team, knows it will take some time for his young squad to mesh. There will be times during a game when he will have to make some adjustments on the fly. But what Ellis probably didn’t expect was that those on-the-fly adjustments would come two minutes into Friday night’s Suffolk County League VIII opener at home against the Pierson Whalers.
Pierson (0-3, 0-1), sparked by the hot shooting of Skyler Loesch, opened the game with a 9-0 run. Ellis quickly called a timeout. He switched his defense from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man. Southold held Pierson to only 25 points the rest of the way and won, 43-34. Loesch finished the game with 10 points.
“We scouted them well,” Ellis said. “We knew they could catch and shoot well. But when they made their first four shots, we made the proper adjustments.”
The First Settlers (2-1, 1-0) battled back as Will Fujita scored eight of his nine points in the first quarter. Southold quickly evened the score at 9-9. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Winston Wilcenski, the First Settlers’ sharp-shooting wingman, tallied all of 12 of Southold’s points in the second quarter, giving his team a 21-16 lead at the intermission.
Ellis praised both Fujita and Wilcenski.
“Will is the kind of role player who can play wherever we need him to,” Ellis said. “He had a couple of good looks at the basket and he got us going.”
Ellis called Wilcenski “a basketball kid.” The coach said: “Winston is a shooter. He is not afraid to shoot the ball.”
The First Settlers settled down after the opening two minutes and took control of the game. Wilcenski added 11 points in the second half to finish with 23 points. He also had six rebounds and four assists. Kyle Clausen netted six of his seven points in the second half. Fujita hauled down five rebounds.
“We settled into a nice rhythm and we went back to running our sets and we didn’t turn the ball over,” said Ellis.
Ellis said his team will get better each time out.
“We’ve got one player right now [Wilcenski] that knows how to score,” Ellis said. “But teams will start to key on him. We need to establish someone who can take care of stepping up and providing us with some offense. It might be a different player every game. That’s alright. We’re going to play good defense. We’ll try some zone to slow the game down. We’re not going to win a shootout. So far, the kids are working hard and we will keep getting better and better.”