The dramatic transformation is staggering.
The Greenport/Southold girls basketball team’s entry in the What a Difference a Year Can Make category is astounding. All one needs is the eye test to see that the vastly improved Porters have come a long way in their development. It’s really quite a change from last season’s 6-12 team.
“We’re all really excited … because I think we’re really going to show people what we’re made of,” said Adrine Demirciyan, the team’s star sophomore guard who is already in her third varsity season.
Just four games into the season, the Porters have shown a lot. They won their own tournament, beating East Hampton and then League I William Floyd in an eye-opening final. And, most recently, there was the League VII opener Tuesday night against Smithtown Christian at Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium. Demirciyan rang up a career-high 33 points as part of a double-double and the Porters blew the game open by closing the first half on a 22-3 run, 13 of those points coming from Demirciyan. The final score was 63-43.
Greenport knocked down 45 percent of its shots and crashed the boards hard, outrebounding the Knights, 45-25. They sank 10 of 13 free throws.
Meet the new and improved Porters.
And it’s not like the personnel changed dramatically. The Porters graduated two players. Freshman guard Brienna McFarland, promoted from the junior varsity team, is really the only addition.
So, what accounts for this metamorphosis?
“It’s insane what a year can do for all of us,” Demirciyan said. “It’s just from working hard, getting to know each other better, communicating more. Practices are a lot better. The team looks really good this year.”
Coach Skip Gehring said it came down to a philosophical question before the season when he asked his players if they wanted to play for fun or if they wanted to win?
Their answer, he said, was unanimous for the latter.
Now, the fruits of offseason work are being seen. Greenport (3-1, 1-0) gave Smithtown Christian (0-1, 0-1) all it could handle. The athletic Demirciyan, who soars through the air with grace and can quickly race down the court, played one of the best games of her young career. Aside from her 33 points (31 through three quarters), she cleaned up with 11 rebounds, five steals, three assists and one blocked shot. And that was with her playing only 1 minute, 38 seconds in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, it was crazy,” said Demirciyan, who made 12 layups.
Asked what was working for her, she replied: “I don’t know. The desire to win, the energy. I just felt it.”
Many of fast-paced Greenport’s baskets came in transition. “This game actually defined what we really should be as a team, getting steals and pushing it down the floor,” Gehring said. “That’s what we are.”
While Greenport was enjoying a strong second quarter, Smithtown Christian was held to 1-for-14 shooting in the period. The Knights shot 25 percent for the game.
Greenport led by as many as 31 points when Isabelle Higgins made a layup while being fouled for a 59-28 cushion with 2:44 left to play.
Freshman guard Skylar Mysliborski, who like Demirciyan played varsity basketball as an eighth-grader, came through with nine points and seven rebounds. Julia Jaklevic added eight points. Amelia Woods grabbed eight rebounds.
Abbey Loiacono led Smithtown Christian with 24 points, five assists and four steals. Caroline Pennacchio hit four three-point shots as part of her 14-point outing.
“We take everything game by game, so each game motivates us to bring our all to the next,” Demirciyan said. “So, we celebrate our wins, shake off our losses. We just have high hopes.”
Mysliborski hit two late three-pointers in the comeback victory over William Floyd, a result that worked wonders for Greenport’s psyche.
“I feel like beating East Hampton and William Floyd here, it just set us so much higher for our confidence, and I think it just motivated us just to do better and push and push and push,” Mysliborski said. “We have the desire to win more than anyone, I feel like, and I feel like, from last year, the desire and the confidence and the will to win is so much higher.”
“I’m so excited to see what the season holds,” she added. “I think we can go far.”
Photo caption: Adrine Demirciyan glides through the air over Smithtown Christian’s Megan Pennacchio as part of her career-high 33-point performance for Greenport/Southold in its 63-43 win. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)