Settlers keep cool, top North Fork rivals

How appropriate that on one of the coldest nights of the month, they staged a barn-burner of a boys basketball game at Southold High School.

The Suffolk County League VII contest between Greenport and Southold had everything you wanted between two North Fork rivals. That included an enthusiastic crowd, the game being tied 11 times and 10 lead changes in yet another intense battle on Tuesday night.

“Great game. I love hometown rivalries,” Southold sophomore forward Travis Sepenoski said. “You feel it. It’s like nothing else.”

Sepenoski did his best, showing his love with a superb performance that included a game-high 24 points in a 57-52 victory.

Southold (8-8, 6-5), which won the regular-season series, two games to one, recorded its third consecutive victory, while Greenport (6-9, 7-5) dropped its fifth straight game.

“We finally executed under pressure, kept our cool and handled the ups and downs of the game very well,” head coach Lucas Grigonis said.

“It was the hump we needed to get over all year. Obviously, it helps it’s a Class C rival. We respect that kind of dream. But this was the win that we needed to prove to ourselves that we can finish out the tough, high-pressure game that has a lot of meaning. I told them after tonight the sky’s the limit. You don’t come back down from this,” the coach said.

“It’s a chance for the playoffs. It betters our chances and record, Sepenoski added. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Sepenoski shined at both ends of the court, contributing six steals and six rebounds.

“Travis does everything for us,” Grigonis said. “He’s almost irreplaceable.”

Sepenoski scored many of his points on quick transitions from his older brother Jack, a senior guard, and steals.

“That’s what we’re always looking for,” junior guard Jake Steinfeld said. “He finishes really well and he’s not afraid to be fouled.”

Both teams had problems establishing any momentum. Southold took a 17-10 first-quarter lead as Travis Sepenoski scored his team’s opening eight points. Greenport battled back to grab a 19-17 lead before the Settlers went into the locker room with a 26-24 halftime advantage.

It was more of the same in the third quarter, which ended at 38-38.

Only 12 seconds into the fourth quarter, Austin Luke converted a rebound, giving Greenport a two-point lead.

Then Steinfeld went into action. He sank a pair of three-point baskets within a 35-second span to boost the Settlers into a 44-40 lead with six minutes and 31 seconds remaining that they never relinquished.

“Not just the pointwise,” Travis Sepenoski said. “Everyone got in the zone after that. Everyone played defense two times harder. The crowd was louder. The bench was louder.”

Grigonis was happy to see Steinfeld sink some big buckets down the stretch.

“We’ve been waiting for Jake to bust out of that bubble all year,” he said. “You saw that after his second three, he was patting his jersey because, he was waiting to prove to himself, too, that ‘I can be in this moment. I can hit that big shot.’ “

Steinfeld, who sank four triples, finished with 14 points.

“My motto is keep shooting because I know I’m going make them eventually,” he said. “They’re going to be important,”

The teams traded baskets the rest of the way as the Settlers held the Porters at arm’s length.

“After we scored and they got it right back,” Travis Sepenoski said. “Props to them They worked just as hard as we did. We just came out in the end.”

Four Greenport players finished in double figures. Nelson Shedrick tallied 12 points and Taiquan Brumsey, Fausto Campos and Kal-El Marine scored 10 points apiece.

Head coach Justin Moore said that his team could not find its rhythm.

“We couldn’t really get anything going offensively,” he said. “Southold hit some timely shots and they were the harder working team. I just think these two teams are so evenly matched. Whatever team comes out and works the hardest will win the game.”

These rivals are on a path to meet again in the Class C final at Southampton High School on Feb. 29.

“We have to go back to the drawing board and be a little more focused,” Moore said. “I think we’re going to be all right. We’ve got a month to get ready.”

That game cannot come soon enough for Steinfeld.

“With the intensity coming out of this game, we certainly want to beat them again,” he said.