SUFFOLK CLASS C-D FINAL | FIRST SETTLERS 48, INDIANS 35
The John A. Danzi Athletic Center at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue has become a familiar place for the Southold girls basketball team. It certainly is well known to their coach, Katie Hennes, who played in several dozen games and participated in hundreds of practices in the facility as a member of the Golden Eagles’ women’s basketball team. “I know this place better than anybody,” she said.
Now Southold’s rookie coach has a couple of big playoff wins at St. Joseph’s under her belt.
One night after winning the Suffolk County Class C championship, Southold won the Suffolk Class C-D final, beating Shelter Island, 48-35, on Tuesday night.
Playing on the same St. Joseph’s College court for the second time in 24 hours, Southold defeated Shelter Island for the fourth time in five meetings between the teams this season. Nicole Busso, a 6-foot junior forward, did her part, equaling her season-high with 16 points. She also grabbed 11 rebounds.
The euphoria from the previous night’s triumph over Pierson/Bridgehampton hardly had time to wear off before the First Settlers (15-5) had another victory to celebrate.
“I can’t even begin to describe how exciting this is,” Southold senior guard/forward Lauren Ficurilli told reporters afterward. “This is so exciting. Just to be ending my high school career this way is great.”
This latest victory keeps alive Southold’s quest for an overall county title. The First Settlers will play Southampton (17-3) in the Suffolk Class B-C-D final on Saturday at St. Joseph’s College.
Meanwhile, Southold is also involved in the state tournament. It will play Friends Academy in a Southeast Region semifinal on March 7 at Farmingdale State College.
“The girls are pretty excited,” Hennes said. “This is pretty exciting for me as well.”
In order to stay alive in the county tournament, Southold needed to overcome a familiar opponent, an opponent that is only a boat ride away. Southold and Shelter Island had played each other four times during the regular season, twice in tournaments and twice in league play, so there really was little the teams didn’t know about each other.
“This is our fifth time playing them, so we knew what we were in for, and we knew we couldn’t underestimate them,” Busso said. “They know our methods and we know theirs, so it really comes down, honestly, to skill. It makes a big difference.”
So did Busso, who turned in a fine game in the post after being held to 1 point the night before.
“Her play today was amazing,” Ficurilli said. “Down under the boards, she was great at getting putbacks, getting rebounds, offensively and defensively. It was great. We couldn’t have asked her to play any better.”
And there were others. Ficurilli chipped in 12 points. Melissa Rogers had 8 points and 10 rebounds. Sydney Campbell had 7 assists and ran the offense.
Altogether, eight players made the scoring column for the First Settlers, who stormed out to a 14-3 first-quarter lead and never trailed.
“Tonight was definitely a big effort,” Busso said. “We had some rough patches in the beginning of the season, but now, this definitely brought everything together. We really proved that we are a team and we worked the ball around great.”
Southold made its final seven field-goal attempts and finished with a 55-percent shooting percentage from the field.
“They’re a good shooting team,” Shelter Island coach Peter Miedema said. “They do the little things. They box out. They get loose balls. They don’t really hurt themselves. They don’t turn the ball over. That’s really the key at any level.”
Shelter Island (12-5) didn’t reach double figures until a 3-point shot from the top of the key by Kelsey McGayhey made the score 25-12 late in the second quarter. Melissa Ames and Megan Mundy had 8 points each for the Indians.
Not only had it been eight days since Shelter Island’s previous game, but the Indians had missed several players from practices recently because of other commitments. The rust in the team’s play was noticeable. For example, McGayhey shot 5 of 18 from the field and finished with 13 points, a modest figure for her. Shelter Island shot 23.5 percent from the field.
“It was rough because you saw a lot of missed layups,” said Miedema.
Like Southold, Shelter Island has a bigger game in its future. The Indians will play a team from Section I or IX in a regional final March 10 at Farmingdale State College. A win in that game would send Shelter Island to the New York State final four in Troy on March 17.
“Honestly, I feel that we could have played better, but I think we’re more focused on the actual regional game,” McGayhey said. “This game just doesn’t matter to us, honestly. It is what it is, and I’m ready to play the next game.”
The First Settlers sound ready to move on as well.
“We’ve had a great run,” Hennes said. “This is a big thing for the school and the community.”