FIRST SETTLERS 40, WHALERS 18
Twelve wins, no losses.
That league record has a nice ring to it for the Southold girls basketball team.
The First Settlers closed out their regular season with a 40-18 trouncing of Pierson/Bridgehampton on Tuesday night, leaving the Suffolk County League VIII champions with a 13-5 record, 12-0 in the league.
Southold players said an undefeated league season wasn’t a grand plan before the season. But forward Nicole Busso said the First Settlers realized after a few games that it might be possible. “Then we were like: ‘Wow! We can go somewhere this year,’ ” she said. “We have been striving for it since Day One, but we looked at the bigger picture more than the small picture, and now that we have this, it’s really a great feeling.”
And what a start to a varsity coaching career, too.
It was the first official game with coach Katie Hennes in charge of the Southold team. Hennes, the junior varsity coach, took over the varsity team after the rookie varsity coach, Amanda Barrilo, left to accept a new job in North Carolina.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better first official varsity win. It was great,” Hennes said. “This is something I’ve dreamed of for a very long time. It’s great to be 12 and 0. I’ve never been on a 12 and 0 team, and I’ve played a lot of basketball. It’s really special, and it’s really special for me to be a part of it.”
Southold honored its three seniors — Kelly Bosco, Lauren Ficurilli and the injured Sarah Manfredi — in a pregame Senior Night ceremony at Southold High School, but it was two juniors who really made a difference in the game. Melissa Rogers scored 18 points while Busso registered 9 points and 15 rebounds. Rogers scored 8 of her points during Southold’s game-opening 17-4 run.
Rogers said Southold’s seniors don’t have egos. Like their teammates, she said, they just want to win. “No matter who gets the ball or who shoots,” she said, “we have confidence in them.”
The game was ponderous at times. Neither team made a 3-point shot and both sides had an awful time at the foul line (Pierson shot 5 of 16 and Southold went 4 of 15).
But Southold’s defense did an even better job than it did the first time the teams played this season, a 38-20 Southold win. In this latest game, Southold held Pierson to only 6-for-29 (20.7 percent) field-goal shooting. No Pierson player scored more than the 7 points put up by Bridget Canavan. The Whalers mustered only 2 assists and were outrebounded by 35-21.
But Pierson (7-9, 7-4) had some success with its press in the second quarter when it held Southold to 7 points on 3-for-15 shooting from the field.
Southold’s closest league game this season was a 10-point win at Shelter Island. What makes the First Settlers so successful?
“They got a little bit of everything,” Pierson coach Dennis Case said. “They got size, shooting. They got good power girls. They have good subs. They have more than just five girls.”
Busso concurred. “We don’t have one shining star on the team,” she said. “We’re a team. I feel we’re the definition of that.”
It is possible that both teams could meet again in the Suffolk Class C final on Monday night at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. That would be a homecoming of sorts for both coaches. Case is a former St. Joseph’s coach and Hennes is a former player for the college, arriving after the Case era.
Despite having beaten Pierson twice rather handily this season, Southold is on guard against overconfidence.
“Anything can happen,” Busso said. “You can never underestimate a team.”
Hennes wouldn’t underestimate her own team, either.
“We have very solid post players,” she said. “We have great guards, and also the girls that come off the bench, they really contribute as well.” She added, “I wouldn’t want to mess with us in the playoffs.”