Points were at a premium as both high school girls basketball teams ratcheted up their defense. It was to be expected, though, this being the playoffs. You know what they say about defense and championships.
So, just how tough were the two defenses that banged heads in the Suffolk County Class BCD game Saturday afternoon at Newfield High School?
By halftime two prolific scorers — Port Jefferson’s Lola Idir and Greenport/Southold’s Adrine Demirciyan — had three points each. That was it.
That’s what it was like.
Points weren’t easy to come by. That’s why Port Jefferson made sure to take advantage of its trips to the foul line, sinking 16 of 22 free throws to propel the Royals to a 43-33 win. Greenport, in sharp contrast, shot 4-for-14 from the line.
Otherwise, things were pretty even. Greenport actually shot a tad better from the field at 31.7% to Port Jefferson’s 28.2%.
The result aside, it was the sort of defensive battle that a defensive-minded player like Greenport forward Amelia Woods relishes.
“I adore it,” the senior said. “Honestly, it’s so fun like getting a block or a steal or when you hear the shot clock go off and you’re like, ‘I just did my job.’ It feels good.”
Woods also liked the little-used, man-to-man defense Greenport employed in an attempt to slow down Port Jefferson’s one-two scoring punch of Abigail Rolfe and Idir. Demirciyan was assigned to Rolfe while Brienna McFarland spent the game shadowing Idir.
Rolfe registered 22 points (aided by 12-for-14 free-throw shooting) and eight rebounds while Idir was limited to seven points, six rebounds and five assists.
“I thought being that we’d normally play like a zone, our man was really good,” Woods said, “and especially since it hasn’t gotten really any in-game experience, I thought we did phenomenal.”
Greenport coach Chris Golden called it the best man-to-man defense his team has played this season.
“We don’t normally play man because it takes a lot out of us,” he said. “You know, sometimes you pick up fouls, so we have to be careful with that, so we don’t play a lot of it, you know, but when we need to, we can play man.”
As for the job McFarland did defending Idir, Golden said: “Brienna is an outstanding defensive player. She’s quick, she understands the concepts behind it, you know. She did a great job. I mean, fantastic, as good a job as any player in the league has done this year against Idir.”
The Porters, who lost by 17 points to Port Jefferson during the regular season, saw it as good preparation for the Long Island Class B final it will play against Locust Valley or Cold Spring Harbor March 9 at a site in Suffolk to be determined.
Port Jefferson (17-2), which has won 13 straight games, has at least two games left. The Royals will face one of two Class A teams, West Babylon or East Islip, in a small school final Wednesday at Kings Park High School. They will also play Carle Place in a Long Island Class C final March 9.
As encouraging as Greenport’s defense was Saturday, the Porters (15-4) hope their shooting will sharpen up by March 9. Demirciyan had difficulty trying to find an opening to the basket as the Royals, sometimes as many as three at a time, swarmed around her. Greenport’s all-time scoring leader was held to five points on 2-for-7 shooting, giving the senior 1,188 career points. She also had seven assists and six rebounds.
“I’ve never played in a gym this packed before and the atmosphere is just awesome,” said McFarland, who tried to pick up the slack with 15 points.
McFarland, fouled while making a layup, completed a conventional three-point play to put Greenport ahead, 22-20, with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter. It was Greenport’s first lead since early in the second quarter, but also its final lead, and it’s didn’t last long. Camryn Spiller dropped in a three-pointer and Rolfe and Idir combined for six straight free throws for a 29-22 Port Jefferson lead.
In the fourth quarter, McFarland nailed a three from the left wing to pull Greenport within 31-27, but that was as close as the Porters got the rest of the way. Rolfe scored 12 points in the fourth, including consecutive deep two-pointers.
Golden said Rolfe “is what really makes Port Jefferson such a tough team, that inside presence and the ability to do what she does with the ball, to shoot it, to drive, makes them difficult to ‘D’ do up on, you know. That kid, [number] 44, she had a great game.”
The missed free throws hurt Greenport, too.
“We’re a good free-throw shooting team,” McFarland said. “I don’t know if it was like the pressure from the game or the rims.”
Still, Golden said his team got value from the game in preparation for the Long Island final.
“In terms of like the value, it’s good for us to work on our offense,” he said. “Defensively, I think we can play man against anybody. So like, I don’t think Locust Valley is going to have a one-two punch the way Port Jeff does. But you know what? We’ll be prepared.”