FIRST SETTLERS 54, INDIANS 43
Shelter Island senior Kelsey McGayhey pulled herself 16 points closer to the 1,000-point mark, but it was the Southold girls basketball team that took a huge step closer toward the Suffolk County League VIII championship on Thursday night.
First-place Southold limited McGayhey to 6 points through three quarters and held off a late charge by second-place Shelter Island to record a 54-43 victory. With five league games remaining, the First Settlers (8-5, 7-0) are in control of their own destiny, which they hope will include their first league title since 2005.
“It’s in our hands and we just need to keep chugging on forward,” said Southold forward Melissa Rogers.
Shelter Island coach Peter Miedera said Southold “pretty much cemented” the league crown with the result.
Shelter Island (7-4, 5-2) stood as Southold’s biggest threat, but the First Settlers have defeated the islanders in three of the four games between the teams this season, the sole loss coming by two points. What is Southold’s secret?
“Secrets are meant to be secret,” answered Rogers.
Shelter Island, which trailed since the first quarter, twice pulled to within 5 points of Southold in the fourth quarter before Rogers sank three of four free throws, sandwiched around a basket by Sydney Campbell, restoring the First Settlers’ double-digit lead at 50-40 with 2 minutes 25 seconds to go.
McGayhey, a 5-foot-11 center, is looking to become the first Shelter Island girl to score 1,000 career points, according to Miedera. Southold wrapped a suffocating box-and-one defense around McGayhey, who found multiple First Settlers collapsing on her whenever the ball was in her hands. By halftime, she had only 4 points on 2-for-5 shooting.
“A lot of times when she got the ball, she was bumped two, three times, so nothing was easy for her,” Miedera said. “Whenever you’re a player and you get keyed on, you feel that added pressure.”
But McGayhey shot 5 for 7 in the fourth quarter when she struck for 10 points in Shelter Island’s comeback attempt. She finished the game with 16 points — about 9 below her average — on 8-for-16 shooting. She was 0 for 3 from three-point range and missed her only free-throw attempt.
McGayhey is 21 points shy of 1,000 career points, which she could reach in Shelter Island’s next game on Tuesday on the road against Pierson/Bridgehampton.
Asked for her thoughts about approaching the 1,000-point mark, McGayhey said it is “beyond exciting. I’m kind of speechless about it.”
“I’m planning to do it at Pierson, if they don’t shut me down but, I’m serious, I can picture myself doing it,” she continued. “I want to make my parents proud.”
McGayhey has surely done her school proud. When she was younger — and shorter — she was trained as a guard. Then she grew a couple of feet, making her a threat in the post. But she has retained those ball-handling skills. She got a brief taste of varsity ball as an eighth-grader, played half the season as a freshman with the team, and has been a fixture ever since for the Indians.
A tremendous athlete perhaps best known as a volleyball player (she hopes to play volleyball for Springfield College in Massachusetts), McGayhey has a soft shooting touch, great jumping ability and a fierce competitive drive, not to mention, of course, a knack for scoring.
“When she gets hot, it’s something to see,” Miedera said. “She really does have a gift.”
Southold turned in what coach Amanda Barrilo called her team’s best effort of the season to beat McGayhey and the rest of the Indians. Campbell knocked down three 3-pointers and had 18 points. Rogers put up 12 points and 9 rebounds, and Nicole Busso added 10 points.
The First Settlers also limited Shelter Island’s second-chance shots by outrebounding the Indians, 36-20, and holding them to only 7 rebounds.
But it was defense that might have made the biggest difference. Barrilo said her team spent two full days working on its defense in preparation for the game. It proved to be time well spent. Southold made things difficult for McGayhey.
“We were determined to not give her any space,” Rogers said. “We were very determined to stop her from scoring and limit that. And one way to keep her [from scoring] is just to keep on her, keep bugging her, keep being an annoying pest. That was one of our things, just being as annoying as possible today.”
Busso, Campbell and Lauren Ficurilli were the primary players guarding McGayhey, “but once she got the ball, anyone in the vicinity doubled her,” said Rogers.
Looking ahead, McGayhey has given thought to what it will be like for her when she scores her 1,000th point. “I’m probably going to cry, I’m not going to lie to you,” she said. “It’s a pretty big deal with me.”