One might have wondered if the Patchogue-Medford High School gym suddenly went dark because the Westhampton Beach boys basketball team had shot the lights out. In another sense, at least, the Hurricanes did shoot the lights out, at Southold’s expense.
Southold is not only playing against teams from larger schools in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, but it is still in a rebuilding phase. Every game is a lesson and a test for the First Settlers.
On Thursday evening the First Settlers gained an appreciation for the importance of defense and rebounding. Despite an encouraging start to the game, in which it flew to an early 11-2 lead, Southold was overtaken by Westhampton Beach, 51-25. Over the course of the contest, Westhampton Beach (5-1) went on runs of 15-0, 9-0, 10-0 and 10-2 while handing Southold its fifth loss in six games this summer.
But the First Settlers can see the bigger picture.
“We’re improving every game,” Liam Walker, a junior shooting guard, said. “We haven’t had all our pieces.”
Indeed, the First Settlers were missing people. Alex Poliwoda was absent. Shayne Johnson is still recovering from a broken left wrist he suffered this past spring while taking a hard fall after dunking a ball.
Two vital pieces to the puzzle, however, were present in the back-court partnership of Kenji Fujita and Walker. They are two of the team’s more accomplished players and vital to Southold’s fortunes.
Southold also has other players with varsity experience: Kevin McGough and the 6-foot-3 James Penny as well as the aforementioned Johnson and Poliwoda. A newcomer who should help is Damiko Jones, a junior transfer from Mattituck.
But a lot rests on the shoulders of the talented Walker and Fujita, a senior point guard with a high work rate who is taking on more of a shooting role.
“We can see plays a lot quicker than some of the other guys,” Fujita said. “They’re going to get better. That’s what summer league is for.”
Westhampton Beach brought too many weapons for Southold to handle. Mike Frangeskos had a monster of a game with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals and 2 blocks.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Hurricanes had seven other players score, including Liam Huysimon (9 points), John Frangeskos (8), Dwight Corley (7) and Cole Attar (7).
Westhampton Beach shot a sizzling 54.5 percent from the floor, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range to burn the Southold defense.
Just about every time Walker received the ball, the Hurricanes collapsed on him, giving him special attention and making him work for his team-leading 12 points.
Fujita had 6 steals to go with 5 points.
Walker said his mid-range jumper has improved. He knows it’s important to have a well-balanced game, with a perimeter shot and the ability to drive to the basket to keep defenses honest. “When teams are keying in on you, you pretty much have to be able to do everything,” he said.
Walker, an all-league player this past school season, said his focus has been on defense this summer. “I think I can get my points,” he said. “I just want to help the team on defense.”
The game started in semi-darkness in the steamy gym because about half of the lights went out. Then, with 11 minutes 12 seconds left in the game, all the lights went out, causing a delay before enough lighting was restored to allow play to resume.
Walker said fast breaks and good looks at the basket helped Southold early in the game. “The more we move the ball, the better looks we get,” he said.
Southold had more difficulty finding the basket than its opponent, though, shooting 34.6 percent. The First Settlers had more than twice as many turnovers (21) as field goals (9).
But the First Settlers didn’t sound discouraged afterward. They may know that a summer league can sometimes give a distorted view of where a team stands.
Said Fujita, “Once we get Shayne Johnson back from his injury, we’ll be fine.”
Perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel.