Southold loses lead, game, but gains experience

Dennis Reilly didn’t want the half to end.

Reilly, the coach of the Southold First Settlers girls basketball team, was pleased by the way his team had built a 22-17 halftime lead on Friday against the host Westhampton Beach Hurricanes. But in the third quarter, sharpshooter Kristen Polan scored eight of her game-high 23 points in a 17-6 Westhampton Beach run. The Hurricanes went on to win the non-league game, 44-34.

“We played well,” Reilly said, “but Westhampton’s size and experience took over.”

After Southold was hammered by the Hauppauge Eagles, 58-21, in its season-opener on Dec. 7, Reilly said his team came out vastly improved against the Hurricanes.

The First Settlers’ Sarah Smith came out red hot in the first quarter as she helped Southold build a 12-6 lead. Southold led by five points at the half.

“Sarah sets the tone for us,” Reilly said. “That’s what I expect from her. She gets us going.”

Reilly implored his team at halftime to keep up the intensity.

“We knew Westhampton was going to make some adjustments,” he said. “They have a great coach and we had to be ready. But we were in such a groove, we wanted to stay on the court and keep playing.”

Westhampton Beach (3-2) opened the third quarter with a full-court press and for several minutes it seemed to rattle Southold. Polan used her height and experience to score eight points and ignite Westhampton Beach’s surge.

Reilly said, “We just couldn’t stop her.”

Smith, who finished with 22 points, including four three-pointers, led a late Southold comeback, trimming Westhampton Beach’s lead to seven. But time ran out on the First Settlers (0-2).

“This was a great learning experience for us,” Reilly said. “I loved the way the girls competed. It was a tight game. The girls got to feel the pressure of a close game. We were able to fight back. It was a good experience for us.”