SUFFOLK CLASS C SEMIFINAL | FIRST SETTLERS 65, ROYALS 64
The Southold girls basketball team reached the Suffolk County Class C final by the skin of its collective teeth on Wednesday night.
The First Settlers survived a near-miraculous comeback by Port Jefferson to record a 65-64 win over the hosts in the semifinal encounter.
Defending Long Island champion Southold (11-6) will play the winner of the Stony Brook-Pierson/Bridgehampton semifinal in the county final at Center Moriches High School on Friday.
Southold coach Joe Read said he was “very confident” entering the final.
“This team is a scrappy team,” he said. “We’re a running team, they’re a running team. It was who ran the hardest and fastest. I was happy with the way we played. We match up really good with either one of the teams.”
The First Settlers enjoyed as much as a 61-50 lead with 4 minutes 33 seconds remaining in the game before the Royals (10-8) rallied to pull within striking distance.
“We couldn’t pull away,” Read said. “Port Jeff, they were so tenacious. They kept coming, kept coming. We’re a running team and I thought we could run them down and get them tired, but they hung in there. That’s a playoff game.”
Senior forward Melissa Rogers scored 7 of her 18 points in the final 5:23, including two foul shots to give Southold a 65-61 advantage with 21 seconds remaining.
After a turnover, junior guard Olivia Racanelli hit a 3-pointer — one of her three treys in the fourth quarter — to bring Port Jefferson to within 65-64 with four seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Rogers tried a long pass down court to keep the ball well out of harm’s way, but her pass was so high that it hit a suspension beam hanging from the gymnasium ceiling with four seconds left. The ball was ruled out of bounds and Port Jefferson was awarded possession.
After a Port Jefferson timeout, the Royals’ Rachel London inbounded the ball. Courtney Lewis missed a shot as the ball bounded away from the basket. Players from each team converged on the ball as Southold guard Justina Babcock managed to hold it as the final buzzer sounded.
Nicole Busso, a senior who dominated the boards with Rogers, led Southold with 24 points.