The purple sneakers Gianna Santacroce wore were a perfect match for the purple, gold and white uniform of her new high school girls basketball team, Greenport/Southold.
“I did not coordinate it, though,” the senior confessed. “They’re over a year old.”
Nonetheless, Santacroce is a perfect fit for the Porters. And those sneakers of hers haven’t traveled as much as she has.
This is the third high school team that Santacroce has played for. As a freshman, she played for Bishop McGann-Mercy alongside her older sister, Melina (now playing for Misericordia University in Pennsylvania) before that Riverhead school closed. Then Santacroce played the last two seasons for St. Anthony’s before transferring to Southold High School for her senior year.
Back when Santacroce played for Mercy, she never could have imagined the twisting path her high school career would take. “That’s why you just got to take it as it is,” she said.
The Porters couldn’t be happier to have her, especially after Skylar Mysliborski, the team’s No. 2 player last season, moved to Florida. Santacroce has lessened that blow a great deal. A post-up player with a deft shooting touch, Santacroce is a big help on the boards and gives the team’s star player, Adrine Demirciyan, another passing option.
Santacroce did her part Saturday when Greenport avenged its loss last year to Mattituck in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals with a 48-27 victory. The host Porters blew open Saturday’s game with a 21-0 run, capped by Demirciyan’s snazzy one-handed shot that made it 42-20 through three quarters.
“They definitely came out with a lot of good shooters that we did not expect,” Mattituck guard Aniah Thompson said. “They definitely are working very hard to get to where they want to be and it definitely showed today on the court.”
Greenport took its biggest leads of the Suffolk League VII game when back-to-back buckets by Julia Jaklevic from a foul-line jumper and a neat lefthanded move expanded the lead to 25 points at 48-23.
Demirciyan compiled 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting with eight assists. Brienna McFarland added 11 points and five assists while Hayley Skrezec, making her first varsity start in her second varsity game, had 10 points.
“Haley © came up big for us today,” said Greenport coach Skip Gehring.
Altogether, Greenport (1-1, 1-1) shot 36.2% from the field (to Mattituck’s 25.6%) and limited itself to nine turnovers (to Mattituck’s 21). Mattituck (1-1, 1-1) was held scoreless in the third quarter when it shot 0-for-5.
Santacroce’s numbers weren’t gaudy, but certainly respectable — five points and eight rebounds. She hit a three-pointer to open the third quarter and made a give-and-go layup assisted by Demirciyan later in the quarter.
Thompson said Santacroce has “always been good. She’s just hard. She’s just so tall that it’s hard to get out on her, but she can shoot lights out all day. She’s very significant for their team.”
Aaliyah Shorter led Mattituck with 10 points. The shorthanded Tuckers did not have Emily Nicholson (knee) available to play as well as Julie Kosmynka and Rylie Rittberg, who were both away on vacations.
“We were shorthanded, indeed, and at the end it was just a matter of we got fatigued,” said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood, whose team lost to Port Jefferson last year in a county final. “We got tired and we tried to key in on the two key players that they have and other girls just stepped up for them.”
Demirciyan said: “I think this year we have a stronger connection. We’re trying to hang out more as a team outside of practice, spend time together, get to know each other more, build up the chemistry. And during the games I feel like we work together a lot better than the prior years.”
Santacroce said she learned how to play at a high intensity level at St. Anthony’s where she often competed against players as good as her or better. “It was definitely culture shock in the beginning, a high-level intensity,” she said. “It was great. I needed it.”
Santacroce, who wants to play in college and expects to make her college choice soon, is cherishing her senior season and the opportunity to play the sport she loves.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “I’m excited to be here and just get a chance.”