Justina Babcock’s first introduction to varsity basketball at Southold came in her freshman season as a JV call-up for the playoffs. Over the next two years as a full-time varsity player, her role continued to expand.
Now heading into her senior season, she’s received the keys to the offense.
“She’s the quarterback,” said Southold coach Joe Read.
Babcock has experienced plenty of success in recent years with Southold. As a sophomore the team won the Class C Long Island championship. And last year as a junior she helped the team reach the Class C county finals.
To help extend that winning tradition, Southold players have been working hard in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, where the First Settlers won Monday night via forfeit against short-handed McGann-Mercy at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
“We definitely want to get as far as we did two years ago,” Babcock said. “I definitely think we have potential this year. I’m excited.”
As the point guard, Bacbcock will play a huge role in the team’s success.
“She really came on strong last year,” Read said. “We stuck with her last year and she proved worth sticking with.”
Babcock came out against the Monarchs like she was in mid-season form. She drained a pair of 3-pointers to open the game and hit another long pull-up jumper early in the second half. She sank another 3-pointer in the final minutes of the game to give her a team-high 11. (There was no official score because the game was a forfeit)
Babcock said it was the first game during the summer league where she shot that well.
“It was a surprise that I was making all these shots,” she said.
It wasn’t a surprise to Read, who knows Babcock can hit the long-distance shots. The biggest thing Read said he likes to see from Babcock is her court awareness.
In the past, he said, Babcock — who’s almost always one of the shortest players on the court — would sometimes get caught too far under the hoop amid a crowd.
“When she’s pulling up tonight, it all opens up for her,” Read said. “If she got that out of the summer league, that’s great.”
Babcock said her biggest areas of focus during the summer individually are ball-handling and shooting.
“My coach always has me doing ball movements and everything like that,” she said.
Read said Babcock has an extra sense out on the court.
“She can see things happening,” he said. “That’s what separates athletes from talented basketball players. They can see it happening. I think she has it.”
The Settlers (3-5 in summer league) have gotten a good turnout during the summer league with plenty of players available each game. Against Mercy, Read rotated in players five at a time.
And most importantly, he said, everyone’s always hustling.
“Summer league is who hustles,” Read said. “That’s what they’re starting to believe in. They’re going to have a lot of fun this season if they keep playing like that.”
The Settlers swarmed down low against Mercy forward Emily St. Louis, who was the tallest player on the court.
“You can’t coach height,” Read said. “They did a great job.”
The Monarchs had only three players available at the start of the game, so a few players from Riverhead’s junior varsity — which played in the previous game — joined the team. The Monarchs got another player shortly after.
While the Monarchs haven’t always had the number of players they would hope for, coach Meaghan MacArthur said she’s liked the way the players have improved.
“The way that I’ve seen them improve just from summer league gives me a lot of hope for the actual season,” she said.