Reaching the high school girls basketball playoffs is all but a done deal for Port Jefferson. But Greenport/Southold not only denied Port Jefferson in its bid to clinch a playoff berth on Friday night, but the Porters gave their own postseason chances a shot in the arm in the process.
The Porters celebrated as if they had won a playoff game after turning in what could be considered their biggest win in years. Adrine Demirciyan hit a go-ahead three-point shot and Brienna McFarland made a game-clinching steal as the Porters prevailed, 43-40, in a wildly entertaining Suffolk County League VII game at Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium. When the drama finally ended, beaming Porters rejoiced, jumped into each other’s arms and hugged.
“I think now we have proven to ourselves what we’re made of,” Demirciyan said after the Porters (7-5, 5-4) handed first-place Port Jefferson (7-4, 7-1) its first league loss in the final game of the first half of the season for both sides.
What they are made of is the stuff that produces gritty defense — one that held the Royals 8.5 points under their season average. And with that there’s the growing confidence that comes from not being strangers to high-pressure situations.
The pressure was on in the back-and-forth affair, which saw 14 lead changes and seven tied scores. Consecutive layups by Evelyn Walker and Abigail Rolfe, followed by a Samantha Ayotte free throw, gave Port Jefferson a 40-37 edge down the stretch.
Greenport responded with a Skylar Mysliborski jump shot from the corner and a left-wing three-pointer by Demirciyan that found all net.
Port Jefferson sent Demirciyan to the foul line with 23 seconds left and she sank one of two free throws for the 43-40 lead.
McFarland made a vital steal near the basket she was defending and was quickly fouled, sending her to the foul line with two seconds to go. She missed both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Time had run out on Port Jefferson, which didn’t take a shot in the final 39 seconds.
“I feel like the reason for winning tonight was our defense. We played so hard.”Brienna McFarland
Demirciyan, as she is prone to do, turned in a splendid performance. The sophomore guard knocked down 5 of 10 three-point attempts and finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and two assists.
Ayotte had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Walker scored 11 points and Rolfe gathered 13 rebounds to go with six points for Port Jefferson.
On a night when both teams struggled with their shot (they both made about one in four attempts), defense was the name of a very tight game. The biggest lead of the contest was six points when Greenport took a 10-4 lead. The Porters said they were prepared thanks to hard practices and conditioning work. “We have definitely amped up the practices a lot and brought up the intensity, and that just carries on into the game,” said Mysliborski.
McFarland said: “I feel like the reason for winning tonight was our defense. We played so hard. We kept them to 40 points. That’s really good. That’s what we needed to do to win.”
It also helped that Greenport took good care of the ball, turning it over only 10 times.
“It was one of the most stressful moments of my life,” Mysliborski said of the game. She added, “It’s going to make our lives a little bit easier making it to playoffs.”
The Porters need three wins from their remaining seven regular-season games to book themselves a place in the postseason. That includes a rematch with Port Jefferson, on the Royals’ home court, Feb. 5 in the final regular-season game for both teams.
After the big triumph, Higgins had an announcement for her teammates. “Pizza party at my house!” she hollered.
“Winning this game, it feels tremendous,” Mysliborski said. “It’s the best feeling in the world when you are the underdog and you win.”