The growth potential was there from the beginning, and now it’s being realized.
With only three returning players from last season, none of whom were starters, Greenport/Southold has a young and improving girls basketball team that coach Skip Gehring said is getting better and better with every game.
Tangible evidence can be seen in the team’s Suffolk County League VI rematches against Babylon and Smithtown Christian. The first time Greenport met Babylon in December, the Porters lost by 23 points. They won the rematch on Monday by 15. The Porters opened the season with a four-point loss to Smithtown Christian. They won the rematch Wednesday night by nine.
“Every game a little more, a little more, a little more,” said Gehring.
The “little more” that was achieved Wednesday came with big games by freshman Adrine Demirciyan and junior Isabelle Higgins. Demirciyan struck for a career-high 24 points and Higgins put up a career-high 17 in a 62-53 League VI victory at Southold High School.
Smithtown Christian coach John Vaeth saw the improvement with his own eyes.
“Oh, they’ve improved a lot,” he said. “The girls matured. Their plays were better. They were killing us on the set plays. They outplayed us.”
Four Knights scored baskets to shoot Smithtown Christian out to an early 9-2 lead. Demirciyan then scored six points during a 10-2 run that put Greenport (5-8, 5-6) ahead briefly at 12-11. Smithtown Christian (6-5, 6-5) regained the lead on a Dorothy Pierre putback.
That was the Knights’ last lead of the game.
Demirciyan’s 12-point second quarter, during which Greenport shot 7-for-10 from the field, helped the Porters to a 27-20 halftime advantage.
Smithtown Christian tied the score at 44-44 in the fourth quarter on a Heidi Schneider layup, but was unable to pull in front despite 20 points and 15 rebounds from Pierre and 19 points from eighth-grade point guard Abigail Loiacono, who nailed five three-point shots. “She can shoot,” said Vaeth.
And Jane McCabe can rebound and block shots. She brought the Knights five points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and three assists.
A pair of Higgins layups highlighted a 9-2 burst that gave Greenport some breathing room at 53-46.
In addition to her point production, Demirciyan recorded 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Teammate Samantha Dunne provided eight assists.
Greenport took a lot of high-percentage shots and it resulted in 48.2-percent shooting from the field. Smithtown Christian struggled at 31.5 percent.
“We’ve been ready for this game ever since we lost” to Smithtown Christian in the season opener, said Higgins.
Gehring saw the game as an example of the “tremendous” amount of improvement every player on his team has made.
So, what has changed?
“We’ve all just grown together,” Higgins said. “We’re such a young team to begin with. We’ve been growing every game, getting better.”
Demirciyan, who entered the game averaging 15.4 points per game, said: “Now we know where everyone’s going to be. Everyone knows what spot they’re supposed to be in. We just know how to execute.”
Greenport’s co-captains, Brittany Walker and Dunne, have been credited for the leadership they have shown on and off the court. “They really keep control on the court,” said Gehring.
They have helped steer a course that the Porters hope will lead them into the playoffs. In order to reach the postseason, the Porters will need three wins from their final five regular-season games. Among those five games are contests against Center Moriches and Hampton Bays, which both lost to Greenport in the first half of the season.
“I think we have a good chance,” Higgins said. “We’re confident in our abilities.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold, which posed for a team photo before Wednesday’s game against Smithtown Christian, seems to be a team on the rise. (Credit: Bob Liepa)