There’s no place like home.
That’s surely the case with the Greenport/Southold girls basketball team. The Porters say they are a better team when they play in the familiar setting of Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium. And the numbers bear that out. When wearing their home white uniforms this season, the Porters are 7-3. They love playing in front of their home fans and hope to get an opportunity to do so in the playoffs.
Whether Greenport gets a home playoff game remains to be seen, but the Porters increased their chances Wednesday evening when they closed out the regular season with their second win over Suffolk County League VII champion Port Jefferson, 46-24. And this one was on the road.
Greenport (12-8, 10-6) is the only team to have beaten Port Jefferson (13-6, 13-3) twice this season. Port Jefferson had already secured its 16th league championship and third in six years.
“Our fans have been great this year,” Greenport senior center Isabelle Higgins said. “A lot of people have been coming to our games, so home-court advantage would be so great.”
The playoff brackets are expected to be released later this week.
As for his team’s playoff opponent, coach Skip Gehring didn’t sound as concerned about that as much as where the game will be played. “It’s not as much who we play as much as, honestly, we really play well at home,” he said.
Gehring said the Porters played “almost the perfect game” in their 57-44 win over Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island two nights earlier, closing that game on a 14-2 run.
They will take a four-game win streak into the playoffs.
Why does home court make such a big difference?
In Greenport’s case, Gehring believes, it’s the comfort factor for his young players. The Porters’ starting lineup features two freshmen (Brienna McFarland and Skylar Mysliborski) and two sophomores (Adrine Demirciyan and Amelia Woods).
“Some of these girls, in any of their sports, have never been in the playoffs,” Gehring said. “They’re playing well, they’re enthusiastic, they’re ready to go, but they’re young and inexperienced.”
Rock-solid defense, good work on the boards and inspired play by Woods helped the Porters, three-point winners over Port Jefferson on Jan. 10, roll in the rematch. Greenport held the Royals to an 0-for-20 shooting stretch that began in the dying moments of the second quarter and extended into the fourth. Port Jefferson shot 13.2% (7-for-53) for the game.
“Everything we do is off of our defense,” Higgins said. “We have really perfected the technique of our defense.”
Demirciyan didn’t have one of her better scoring games, shooting 3-for-12 for 13 points, but she did so much else. She grabbed 14 rebounds, made five steals and was responsible for four of Greenport’s seven blocks. Demirciyan also capped a 15-1 run with an incredible shot at the buzzer ending the third quarter. Flanked by defenders near the sideline in front of the Greenport bench, she turned around and chucked the ball, which found all net for three points and a 34-16 lead.
“That was a great shot,” said Woods.
But the rapidly improving Woods provided the real eye-opener. In her third straight start, she put up 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Greenport controlled most of the rebounds, 42-25, and allowed Port Jefferson only seven offensive boards.
“The real key between [Woods] and Isabelle with the rebounding, we’re not giving them second-chance shots,” Gehring said. “That’s a huge difference.”
Port Jefferson’s Samantha Ayotte, recognized in a pregame senior night ceremony along with Jacqueline Lambe, led the Royals with eight points. The two seniors gathered nine rebounds each.
“I think we played phenomenal,” Higgins said. “I think right now we’re peaking at the perfect time. I think we’ll only keep getting better, and tonight just kind of reinforced that.”
What’s the secret to beating the league champions twice?
“Well, honestly, the secret is they’re a very similar team to us, meaning that they’re fast, they play like a guard offense,” Gehring said. “Obviously, our bigs have been progressing better and better and better.”
If the Porters face Port Jefferson in the playoffs, will these two regular-season wins over the Royals give them confidence?
“Yeah, but Coach won’t let us have too much confidence,” Higgins said. “We’ll still work our [butts] off in practice. We won’t come in here thinking we’re going to win easy.”