It was as if the Greenport/Southold players clicked the heels of their basketball shoes together and said, “There’s no place like home.”
Some early-game jitters aside, the Porters felt right at home, and that had to help them to their first win of the high school girls basketball season Monday night. It didn’t come easily.
Playing the first of five home games at Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium, the Porters pulled out a 42-39 thriller over Southampton.
Southold/Greenport has become Greenport/Southold, meaning Greenport is the host school, and most of the team’s home games will be played in the village this season. That suits the four Porters who attend school in Greenport just fine, especially since a new floor was laid down in the gym last season and new lighting has been added this year, making for a brighter setting.
“I love this gym,” said Adrine Demirciyan, who represents Greenport on the combined team along with Isabelle Higgins, Skylar Mysliborski and Brittany Walker. “I was so excited all day. I just couldn’t wait to get out on the court.”
And then there is another factor: the Greenport fans.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm with the fans,” coach Skip Gehring said. “Greenport loves their basketball.”
Despite some uneasy moments, the home fans must have loved the outcome.
The teams were never separated by more than five points in the tight League VI contest. A basket by Demirciyan off an inbounds pass from Mysliborski and a double screen set by Molly Tuthill and Samantha Dunne put the Porters (1-3, 1-2) ahead to stay, 37-36. Then Walker banked in a three-point shot, extending the lead to 40-36 with 1 minute and 14 seconds left.
But Southampton (1-4, 1-3) wasn’t through yet. Allysha Thomas sank a free throw and Caraline Oakley buried a deep shot to pull to within 40-39.
Things got even stickier for Greenport when Demirciyan picked up her fifth personal foul on a charge call, sending her to the bench with 21 seconds remaining and the game still very much up for grabs. The freshman guard exited with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists, six steals and a block.
The Porters received possession on a jump ball with 14 seconds to go. Tuthill then completed three successive inbounds passes to Walker, who was intentionally fouled each time. “That’s key,” Gehring said. “That 10 seconds is the game. Every second counts.”
The third intentional foul sent the Porters into the bonus. Walker nailed two of four free throws over the final four seconds, making it 42-39. Southampton called timeout with one second left before missing a desperate three-point attempt.
The final buzzer sounded and the Porters rejoiced. Mysliborski raised both arms triumphantly.
Greenport went to a man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter when it held Southampton’s Taylor Pike to one point and the Mariners to 11.
“We stepped up our intensity and we were just ready to go out and win,” said Higgins.
Southampton and Greenport share similarities. They had almost identical records last season. Southampton went 3-15 and Greenport 4-12. This season they both have young players who are still learning their way around the varsity game. A tight, pressure-packed game like this can help accelerate the growth of a young team.
“You need to learn how to play under pressure,” Southampton coach Rich Wingfield said. “You learn how to keep [your] poise.”
Class B Greenport, which has an average player age of 15, has already battled Class AA Uniondale and Class A Roosevelt in non-league games in order to prepare for the tests ahead.
Pike and Thomas presented a challenge, Pike with her penetrating dribbling and Thomas with her powerful post play. Pike finished with 16 points and seven rebounds while Thomas had seven points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal.
Higgins came off the bench to turn in a fine game, battling Thomas under the boards and collecting 10 points and six boards. “Isabelle came up big for us,” said Gehring.
In addition to four remaining home regular-season games in Greenport, the Porters will also play three home games in Southold. Last season they played one game in Greenport (a win over Stony Brook).
As he headed out of the gym, Gehring said, “The first win is always the hardest.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold coach Skip Gehring provides instruction to his players late in the fourth quarter. (Credit: Bob Liepa)