Practice is important.
Perhaps that’s the overriding theme to come out of the Southold/Greenport high school girls basketball team’s loss in Port Jefferson on Monday night.
Coach Skip Gehring hasn’t been entirely pleased by the commitment level and focus he has seen from his team’s practices. He believes those shortcomings contributed to the team’s lackluster showing in its 43-36 defeat to Port Jefferson.
“The intensity in practice is what’s got to pick up and that’s really the cause of what happened here,” he said. “It goes all the way back to the intensity in practice.”
Port Jefferson (2-4, 1-3 Suffolk County League VII) lost in the New York State Class C final last season, but this isn’t nearly the same Port Jefferson. Samantha Ayotte is the only returner from that team.
“We don’t like to call it a rebuild,” new coach Mike Weaver said. “We call it a retool or a reload.”
Port Jefferson started an eighth-grader, three freshmen and a sophomore Monday. “They’re very young, but they hustle,” Weaver said. “There is a lot of learning on the job.”
The bulk of the learning, however, might have been done by Southold (1-3, 1-3), which had its difficulties. The First Settlers turned the ball over 29 times and struggled getting their shots to fall. They shot 27.3 percent from the floor.
“We weren’t playing as well as we could and I think that our chemistry really wasn’t there tonight and it was just one of those games,” guard Samantha Dunne said. “Our head wasn’t really in it.”
A slow start to the game saw both teams combine for a mere nine points through the first quarter. Southold led most of the first half and was in front, 16-12, about midway through the third quarter. Then one could sense the game slipping through Southold’s fingers. Evelyn Walker (16 points, five rebounds) scored seven points during an 8-0 Port Jefferson run that gave the Royals a 20-16 lead late in the quarter.
Another 8-0 burst by Port Jefferson opened the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to 28-17. A basket by Walker ignited that spurt, followed by layups by Ayotte, Hailey Hearney and Ayotte again.
Shortly after that, Ayotte drained a three-point shot and Brooke Zamek popped a jumper from the corner, making it 33-19.
“I kind of knew what to expect and, truthfully, they did execute well today,” Gehring said of the Royals. “They passed the ball well. They moved the ball well. We didn’t get up in their face enough on defense, but they moved the ball well.”
Grace Syron scored eight of her 10 points for Southold the rest of the way, but the damage had been done and the First Settlers couldn’t recover. Syron also grabbed 13 rebounds.
“I didn’t think it was going to be easy but we just really weren’t in it today,” said Southold forward Annie Lincoln.
Hearney, a freshman guard, brought a lot of energy, not to mention seven points, seven rebounds, seven steals and five assists.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Dunne said. “I didn’t think that it was going to be easy. Every game is a challenge and you never know what’s going to happen.”
What could be expected, though, are better practices in Southold’s future.
Lincoln said, “We’re definitely going to take something away [from this] and work harder in practice tomorrow and the next time we see them, hopefully, it will be a different game.”
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport coach Skip Gehring talking to his players during a first-half timeout. (Credit: Bob Liepa)