When you’re a high school senior, perhaps the last thing you want to hear is that your team is in a rebuilding season.
But if a team ever was looking at a rebuilding season, it was the Greenport/Southold girls basketball squad. The Porters ventured into this season with only three returning players (none of whom were starters last season) and an average age of 15. That’s what the team’s only two seniors, Samantha Dunne and Brittany Walker, were looking at.
It could be said that Greenport, which needs to win its remaining three regular-season games in order to squeeze into the playoffs, is ahead of the curve. The playoffs couldn’t have been expected for a team with so little experience, so to be in contention this late in the game has to be viewed as a plus.
“What we have done already is overachieve,” coach Skip Gehring said. “We absolutely, as a team, have overachieved phenomenally.”
Gehring has lavished lofty praise on the leadership and performance of Dunne and Walker, who were not automatically named co-captains because of their seniority. Asked why he selected them, Gehring replied: “It was very, very simple. The two of them are intense. The two of them are committed. Both of them are extremely good athletes, and most importantly, their personal [lives are] exemplary. They’re role model-type people.” Their play on the court, he said, has been “phenomenal.”
As it turned out, Dunne attends Southold High School and Walker goes to Greenport. Nice symmetry for a combined Greenport/Southold team.
Both have painted a bright picture in describing this season and their dealings with their younger teammates.
Walker, in her second season on the team, said, “Because a lot of the girls are younger, we’re definitely just trying to be there for everyone and, although sometimes it can be difficult — not everyone knows each other, there’s a lot of different ages — we’re just trying to make sure that they can look up to us and see us as leaders as well as come to us if they’re having any problems, whether it’s basketball or whether it’s just in their lives.”
Asked what her role on the team is, Dunne, who was brought up to the varsity team for the playoffs as a sophomore, answered: “I have a couple of jobs. One of them is to make sure everyone is motivated and focused, and at the same time the other one is to make sure that they don’t get overwhelmed and too serious at the same time because at the end of the day it is still a game, it is still supposed to be fun. So, sometimes people beat themselves up and it’s kind of my job to build up their self-esteem and make sure that they want to keep playing, they want to keep having fun.”
On that front, call it mission accomplished. The Porters have been smiling, and that’s a good sign.
Dunne and Walker said they have seen great progress since the team’s first practices and games. They would love for their final game in a Porters uniform to be in the playoffs.
To hear them talk, it doesn’t sound as if they are in a rebuilding season.
“It’s been exciting and it’s been such a great experience,” Dunne said. “It’s something that I look forward to every day … This year it’s just the energy that the girls have. It’s such a great team, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was like, this group of girls is the best senior gift I could have gotten.”
Photo caption: Samantha Dunne, left, and Brittany Walker are the only two seniors on the Greenport/Southold girls basketball team. (Credit: Bob Liepa)