Boys Basketball: Bittersweet end to Settlers season


Realizing there would be no tomorrow for himself and two other senior teammates on the Southold High School boys basketball team, Jaden Olsen decided he wasn’t about to hold anything back on Tuesday night.

“I just told myself that it’s my last game ever. I really wanted to make sure it was a special night,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I’ve had the most fun I can because it’s the last time we get to play with this amazing team. It’s kind of hitting me now that it’s the last time I play on the court. It kind of [stinks] but it’s also cool.”

In the end, Olsen had as much fun as a player can, albeit in a loss. 

Olsen did his best to make sure his teammates enjoyed a memorable Senior Night, going full throttle and scoring a team-high 23 points in the Settlers’ 72-63 home defeat to Pierson in Suffolk County League V action.

It was a bittersweet way for Olsen and fellow seniors Jay Tramontana and Quincy Brigham to say farewell to their high school basketball careers.

“Incredibly, the three seniors, we’ve been playing together since fourth grade every single year, and it finally came to this,” said Brigham, who scored three points on the strength of a second-quarter trey. “It just hit you. It was just very emotional.”

His teammates agreed. “It was very emotional, probably the biggest basketball game I played in,” said Tramontana, who cleaned up under the offensive boards to score 13 points plus 9 rebounds (5 offensive). “It’s against Pierson, our rivals and our senior game, which is a giant game.”

The trio were among the starting five and head coach Lucas Grigonis made sure they were on the court for the final whistle.

“He told us about that before the game. I was really happy about that,” Brigham said. “It’s just nice to finish what we started and then pass the torch to the younger guys, but it was nice to just finish together.”

The game, which looked like a mismatch at the outset, almost got away from the Settlers (5-15 in Division V, 4-14 overall) who didn’t qualify for the postseason, while Pierson (13-7, 13-4) clinched a Class C playoff berth weeks ago.

Using a bruising inside game led by Luke Seltzer (24 points), Charlie McLean (21 points) and Kyle Seltzer (17 points), the Whalers grabbed a 24-8 first-quarter lead, threatening to turn the game into a rout. Pierson enjoyed as much as a 21-point lead three times in the second period. For the game, the visitors scorched the nets with a 56.3 shooting percentage (27-of-48) from 2-point range.

To Southold’s credit, the team never lost faith, outscoring Pierson from the second quarter on, 55-48.

“Even after the first quarter we were still in good spirits because we know that there’s no point in getting upset in a game like today,” Olsen said. “It’s just about having fun. Once we started enjoying ourselves and actually playing, the rush came and that fueled our spirits a lot.”

His teammates had nothing but praise for Pierson..

“They’re a great team,” Tramontana said. “A lot of people were saying that it was going to be a blowout, but we showed them that we can hang with them. Even though we didn’t win, we still stuck with them for most of the game.”

That’s because,since enduring a six-game losing streak before Christmas, Southold has been a different team.

“We made a commitment to attitude, effort and being able to control what we can control,” Grigonis said. “They’re hard working by nature. What you saw today is who they actually are, and who they’re probably going to be next year as well. It doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t give up because I teach and preach that. They believe in it. For them to fight till the end … it’s just who they are as a team. That’s an intangible that you can’t really teach.”

The end of the game hardly felt like a loss.

After the final whistle, the Southold bench players ran onto the court to hug their teammates, especially the seniors. Athletic director Steven Flanagan congratulated each player.

Despite it being a school night, the players stayed around for a pizza party sponsored by the parents of Dylan Newman, a Southold student and basketball player who died from cancer in September.