Southold falls short in state regional game

The game did not go the way that Southold head basketball coach Lucas Grigonis had intended.

Nowhere near it.

The Settlers dropped a 73-39 decision to Haldane in the Class C Southeast Regional in Yorktown on Saturday, quashing their hopes of reaching the final four in the New York state tournament in Glens Falls.

Yet, Grigonis still felt the program had turned the corner this season. After struggling to a 5-15 finish last year, the Settlers rebounded to win their fifth Suffolk County Class C title.

“That’s a big building block,” Grigonis said. “Last year we were in a bunch of games and couldn’t put everything together to win. This year, we were able to do that and then move forward. So, I think in terms of what the future holds for the younger guys, this was a great experience and a lesson.

“We know part of the formula now to get us to this regional game. We know that we’re capable of more. That’s what we’re going work on in the offseason.”

The Settlers (12-10) defeated arch rival Greenport, 57-41, to capture the county crown on Feb. 29.

“It became a family,” said team captain and senior guard Evan Maskiell, who scored three points against Haldane. “Not many people thought that we were going make it this far. There was a lot of doubt. Many didn’t think we were going to make it past the county final or make it to the playoffs. The fact that we were even in that game means a lot.”

Southold has a solid core returning in the likes of junior guard Jake Steinfeld, who scored a team-high 10 points, freshman forward Kyan Olsen (nine points on three treys), sophomore forward Travis Sepenoski (six points) and junior guard Brady Woods (one point). The Settlers will lose four seniors to graduation — forwards Skyler Valderrama and Tristan Zugmeyer, guards Jack Sepenoski and Maskiell.

Their final game in a Southold uniform started to turn in Haldane’s favor midway through the first quarter. The Blue Devils transformed a 10-10 tie into a 31-10 advantage behind a 21-0 run with five minutes and 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

“We were mixing up our defenses, trying to force them to make some changes and get uncomfortable,” Grigonis said. “They were almost beating us on that extra pass and being slow on rotation. They outworked us and were able to get into spaces that we weren’t beating them to.”

Jack Sepenoski, who finished with eight points, sank two treys, and Olsen added another to rally the Settlers to a 37-21 halftime deficit.

Twice Southold sliced the lead to 13 points, the last time at 39-26 with 5:06 left in the third quarter, but Haldane worked its way to several layups to extend its advantage to 55-29 by the end of the period.

Matt Nachamkin, a 6-foot-7 forward who can shoot from outside (three treys), led the Blue Devils with 16 points and nine rebounds. Evan Giachinta added 12 points and Luke Bozsik contributed 10.

“The coach has a good program over there,” Grigonis said. “Their support staff is great too. They’re established. They do a good job. You can tell they work at what they do.”

The Settlers were hampered when Jack Sepenoski had to sit in the first quarter after he was called for two quick fouls, which Grigonis felt could have gone either way.

“Jack’s our engine. He gets us going,” he said. “Jack establishes the offense, brings the energy to the defensive side. It was a challenge to get our momentum going. He gives you everything he’s got for 32 minutes. I’m always going to be proud of Jack. I coached him for five years.”

There was another reason why Grigonis was proud of his team. He recently discovered Southold was named winner of the league’s sportsmanship award, which is based on voting by coaches and referees.

“We’re very humbled and blessed to have won that,” he said. “I think that the sportsmanship that we have on the team went hand-in-hand with our leadership. We’re very proud of the boys and the way they conducted themselves. For the younger guys, I think they learned a lot this year.

“I think it’s a big sign that the program is headed in the right direction.”