12/12/13 4:30am
12/12/2013 4:30 AM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy's Juliana Cintron-Leonardo driving against Southold/Greenport's Kathleen Tuthill.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Juliana Cintron-Leonardo driving against Southold/Greenport’s Kathleen Tuthill.

MONARCHS 49, CLIPPERS 40

Had Wednesday night’s high school girls basketball game between Southold/Greenport and Bishop McGann-Mercy been a television program, one would have felt a need to check the color on the screen. For one thing, there was Cari Gehring, a former McGann-Mercy player, wearing Southold/Greenport red. And there was Joe Read, a former McGann-Mercy coach, wearing a red sweater and coaching Southold/Greenport.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Gehring said. “When I went out there to shake hands with the captains, I didn’t feel like I should be on the red side. It was just a weird feeling.”

Weird turned to distressing for Gehring as the League VIII opener for both teams went to the white and green of McGann-Mercy, 49-40.

Gehring, a senior guard playing in the McGann-Mercy gym for the first time since she was a sophomore for the Monarchs, swished a 3-point shot from the corner to tie the score for the fifth time, 38-38, with 4 minutes 35 seconds to go.

Moments later, Fiona Nunez, playing with neck tightness, hit a 3-pointer herself to snap the tie and ignite a game-closing 11-2 run for the Monarchs (2-1). The Monarchs scored the game’s last four baskets on back-to-back buckets by Savannah Hauser and then consecutive shots by Dayna Young.

“They never gave up,” McGann-Mercy’s first-year coach, Brian Babst, said of his players. “We have people banged up. We have people injured. We’ve got people not here for illness and stuff like that, and the kids stepped it up.”

And disappointed the two people on the Southold/Greenport side who have McGann-Mercy ties. Read had coached McGann-Mercy’s junior varsity team for four years, but he also coached the school’s varsity football and boys basketball teams and figures his relationship with the school covered 12 years. “Coming back, it was weird,” he said.

Read said he knows most of the current McGann-Mercy players. Gehring, who attended the school for three years before transferring to Southold High School this year, knows all of them, including Nunez, who she said is her closest friend.

Read said his players took the loss hard. Perhaps none of them took it harder than Gehring, who had tears in her eyes during a postgame interview.

“I put extra pressure on myself,” she said. “I felt like I had to prove something.”

With the win came a loss for the Monarchs, who saw one of their players crash hard onto the floor while battling for the ball. Fiona Flaherty, a sophomore forward/guard, took the hard fall with 4:01 left in the second quarter. One observer at the scorer’s table said he saw Flaherty land face first onto the court.

“I was really scared,” Gehring said. “She didn’t look O.K.”

Flaherty laid down on the court while she was being attended to. After a while she sat up to a round of applause. Moments later, she stood up to more applause, but looked unsteady on her feet as she was escorted to the team bench area. The game was held up while emergency rescue personnel attended to Flaherty and took her out of the gym in a wheelchair.

“I was just glad that she was O.K. and she talked with me,” Babst said. “I think she got a little upset, a little scared and a little winded.”

Gehring, who has a reputation for being a scorer, first made it into the scorebook when she canned a 3-pointer 5:02 into the game. She was Southold/Greenport’s high scorer with 14 points, shooting 3 of 7 from the field, 2 of 5 from beyond the arc, and 6 of 6 from the foul line. In addition, she had 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist.

Cindy Van Bourgondien grabbed 13 rebounds for the Clippers (0-2).

The Clippers had a terrible time trying to find the basket. They shot a woeful 18.3 percent (13 of 71). During one long, dreadful stretch, from late in the first quarter to about midway through the third, the Clippers shot 1 for 21.
“I was hoping we were going to be better,” Read said. “I was hoping we could pull it together. We just couldn’t put the basket in when we needed to.”

McGann-Mercy’s scoring was balanced. Kayla Schroeher led eight Monarchs scorers with 10 points. Young produced 9 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. Megan Kuehhas added 8 points and 5 assists. Juliana Cintron Leonardo and Emily St. Louis supplied 10 rebounds each.

“It’s looking good,” Young said. “We are a lot better than last year and we’re going to get better.”

That’s Babst’s plan.

“It’s been a rough few years here,” he said. “I’ve only been on the job about a month and we’re trying to implement change and it’s the hardest thing to do, so we’re just trying to get the kids to go in the right direction. Today it was a small step in the right direction.”

Babst wasn’t blind to the sense that the game brought added spice because of the Read/Gehring connection, but he didn’t want his players to lose focus on the task at hand. “I told the kids before the game, I said, ‘You got to focus on basketball,’ ” he said. “So, they somewhat bought into the message, but I could see there was a little bit of hype around it. You heard it all day for the last few days.”

Now the talk should subside, at least until Jan. 18 when the teams meet again in Southold.

“It was a fair game, a good game, a hard-played game,” Read said. “It was everything high school basketball should be, very competitive. It was good. Both teams played hard. So, I’m happy — except for the outcome.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

12/07/13 2:09pm
12/07/2013 2:09 PM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Courtney Clasen turned in an all-around performance for Shoreham-Wading River with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 2 assists.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Courtney Clasen turned in an all-around performance for Shoreham-Wading River with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 2 assists.

CLIPPERS 47, WILDCATS 38

Christmas music played during breaks in play, lending a festive atmosphere to the non-league high school girls basketball game between Bellport and Shoreham-Wading River on Saturday. But Bellport’s standout player, Arella Guirantes, had added reason to be of good cheer.

It isn’t often when Guirantes feels uncomfortable on a basketball court, but that was the case for the junior guard for several minutes early in the fourth quarter when the spotlight was figuratively cast on her, and her alone.

Guirantes sank a free throw 16 seconds into the fourth quarter of the game at Shoreham-Wading River High School to become the third player in Bellport history to reach the 1,000-point mark. The game was stopped and her achievement was announced on the public-address system. One of the Shoreham players, Shannon Rosati, hugged Guirantes, who was presented with flowers and the game ball that she held as she posed for photographs. She was all smiles.

Afterward, Guirantes had an awful lot to smile about. Having entered the season-opening game needing 24 points to reach 1,000, the player with the smooth shooting touch struck for 35 points. No other Bellport player scored more than 4 points. Guirantes shot 10 of 19 from the field, 2 of 5 from 3-point range and made 13 of 15 foul shots.

And yet, that wasn’t nearly all she did. Guirantes, a productive player, also accounted for 17 rebounds, 7 blocks, 4 steals and 2 assists. Talk about putting in a full day’s work.

Guirantes, who as a sophomore became the third Bellport player to be named to Newsday’s All-Long Island team, has received about a dozen scholarship offers from colleges, according to her coach, Rodney O’Neal. She showed her quality against the Wildcats, who marked a milestone of their own with the varsity coaching debut of Adam Lievre, who was formerly Shoreham’s junior varsity coach.

Try as they did, the Wildcats couldn’t stop Guirantes, who was guarded by Jessica McCormack, but often faced double- and even triple-team attention when she had the ball in her hands.

Guirantes scored Bellport’s first 15 points. By halftime she had already scored 17 points and her 1,000th point seemed a virtual certainty.

Bellport, which held the lead since early in the second quarter, outrebounded the Wildcats by 38-20, and 16-6 on the offensive end. Maame Amankwah pulled in 9 of those rebounds before fouling out with 41.8 seconds left in the game. Earlier in the quarter, her teammate Nicole Powell had picked up her fifth personal foul as a result of a technical foul.

Shoreham’s biggest issue, it seemed, was shooting. The Wildcats shot 30.4 percent from the field and 10 of 22 from the foul line.

It didn’t help Shoreham’s cause that it played without one of its regular starters, senior forward Taylor Whiffen, who was taking a Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The Wildcats did have Courtney Clasen, the talented junior guard/forward who totaled 19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 2 assists. Rosati chipped in 11 points.

Both teams endured a scare with 32.7 seconds remaining when Bellport’s Haley Wagner and Shoreham’s Alex Hutchins and Clasen met in a violent collision while racing for a loose ball. Clasen, who took a head to the neck from Hutchins, remained on the floor for a while along with Wagner. Both players walked off and were later said to be fine.

bliepa@timesreview.com

12/04/13 6:00pm
12/04/2013 6:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Shakiyla Sykes dribbles the ball up court in front of teammate Jessica Cheatom in the Blue Waves’ scrimmage Tuesday at Miller Place.

At times this year, the Riverhead girls basketball team may field a lineup on the court that features no one older than a 10th-grader. A youth movement that began last year will continue into this season for the Blue Waves, who lost their top two scorers to graduation.

While the Blue Waves may be young, they do return a team with varsity experience, led by the towering duo of sophomores Sam Dunn and Dezarae Brown.

Both started last year as freshmen and now with a year of experience under them, they’ll take on even greater roles this season. Brown is listed at 6 feet and Dunn at 5-10.

“I think we might be bigger than we’ve ever been,” said Riverhead coach David Spinella.

Dunn’s all-around game has improved this season, Spinella said, and she’ll be relied on to provide some of the offense.

“She’s really worked on her offensive skills,” Spinella said. “She’s a lot smoother with the basketball. She can handle the ball a lot better and is stronger.”

Brown will be key on the boards for Riverhead, getting put-backs for some easy hoops, Spinella said. The Blue Waves have an advantage in that both Brown and Dunn can run well and get up and down the court in a hurry. That could lead to fastbreak opportunities for both players.

The Blue Waves will feature a backcourt of eighth-graders. Kim Ligon, who played on varsity last year, will play the shooting guard. Kate McCarney, in her first year on varsity, will handle much of the point guard duties.

“She’s making quite a jump but she’s played a lot of AAU with the Long Island Lightning,” Spinella said. “She has stepped in and done a tremendous job. The ball’s going to be in an eighth-grader’s hands most of the season.”

For all the youth on the team, the Blue Waves do have some seniors as well. Carolyn Carrera will likely get some big minutes along with Kyra Miller, Spinella said. The Blue Waves also have seniors Destiny McElroy, Shakiyla Sykes and Gabby Green.

Carrera, a star lacrosse and soccer player, brings leadership to the team with the way she approaches everything she does, Spinella said.

“She approaches it all with such a businesslike mentality,” Spinella said. “The kids appreciate that because she wants to win.”

The Blue Waves expect to continue to rely on their defense to ignite the offense. Spinella said the team has a lot of room for growth and he expects the Blue Waves to only get better and better as the season progresses.

“Defense is something that takes time, especially to play it the way we want to play it,” Spinella said. “With a lot of young kids, it’s a lot to learn.”

The Blue Waves also return juniors Joanna Messina, Jessica Cheatom and Amanda Baron.

Riverhead opens the non-league season Friday with a home game against The Stony Brook School. The league season kicks off Dec. 17 with a challenging game at North Babylon.

As a first-year varsity coach, Adam Lievre has a problem most coaches would love to have: competition for playing time between a number of kids who can all play.

“There are lot of girls of equal talent,” said Lievre, who replaces Dennis Haughney as the girls coach at Shoreham-Wading River. “They’re trying to prove themselves so that’s been very beneficial.”

The Wildcats have been a perennial playoff team in recent years and that figures to remain in place this year. Shoreham returns a strong nucleus in Shannon Rosati, Taylor Whiffen, Courtney Clasen and Kerri Clark.

The biggest question early on this season has been who will fill out the rotation next to those four.

The Wildcats feature a mostly veteran team with seven seniors and five juniors. Lievre said two freshmen will play varsity.

Sophie Triandafils, who played varsity lacrosse last year, and Mackenzie Zajac, are the two freshmen. Lievre said Zajac is a year-round basketball player who plays AAU ball as well.

Year-round basketball players are a rarity these days, but the Wildcats have two of them in Zajac and Whiffen.

The Wildcats will feature some new wrinkles on offense this year with a new coach. But their staple will continue to be defense. The Wildcats have always excelled by their defense fueling fastbreak opportunities.

With quick, athletic players like Rosati and Clasen roaming the court, the Wildcats should be a tough matchup for teams. An added bonus this year for Shoreham is the new 10-second rule, which forces a team to advance the ball past half-court within 10 seconds.

The Wildcats played together during the summer in the Town of Brookhaven League and won the small school championship. During that time, it gave the younger players a chance to mix in with the older group and develop some chemistry. Lievre, who was previously the junior varsity coach, also got a chance to get reacquainted with some of his former players.

The Wildcats scrimmaged Riverhead Monday and Lievre said he liked what he saw in the team’s first action. Shoreham will kick off the regular season Saturday with a non-league game at home against Babylon. The league season begins Tuesday at home against East Hampton.

Looking ahead to the league, Lievre knows there’s one team to look out for: John Glenn. “We all know that’s our big game of the year,” Lievre said.

The Wildcats defeated Glenn in double overtime in the final game of the regular season last year, but lost to the Knights in the playoffs.

11/26/13 5:00pm
11/26/2013 5:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Sam Dunn is one of the returning players to this year’s team.

One night a few years ago, Dave Spinella ran into former Riverhead principal John Merone at the movies. Spinella learned that the Merones’ son, Adam, was working with the New York Islanders and had started his own strength and conditioning business called Project Game Day.

Spinella, the varsity girls basketball coach, emailed Merone to see if he might be interested in working with his team.

In the fall of 2011, before the start of Riverhead’s Long Island championship season, Merone began training some of the Blue Waves’ players. He has now become like an extra coach, Spinella said. “He’s like part of our program.”

As practices for the 2013-14 season began last week, the Blue Waves were already seeing dividends from the offseason hard work.

“From August we did some bench testing and then we tested again just recently right before tryouts,” Spinella said. “The improvement on some of the kids was unbelievable.”

Some kids gained nine inches in a broad jump, Spinella said. Some knocked 4 seconds off a shuttle run and nearly five minutes of the 1 1/2 mile run.

“Crazy,” Spinella said.

The Blue Waves will feature a mostly young team this year, and Spinella hopes the extra work in the offseason will translate well on the hardwood. The Blue Waves graduated two big-time players in Shanice Allen and Naysha Trent, who handled the bulk of the scoring duties last season.

Still, the Blue Waves expect to play a similar, up-tempo, high-octane style of basketball. And the expectations remain high.

“We expect to do the things we’ve done for decades,” Spinella said.

The Blue Waves will benefit from a rule change this year that they hope will be like adding an extra defender. A 10-second rule has been implemented this season, which requires a team to advance the ball past half-court in 10 seconds. Before, there was no limit to get the ball across half-court in girls basketball.

Spinella said the NCAA adopted the new rule for this season and it quickly trickled down to lower levels.

“It’s great for us because we’re usually up the floor in two or three seconds,” Spinella said. “But defensively, to get through what we try to do defensively in our full-court press, teams try to be patient, move the ball and work for their accurate passing. But we’re going to try to force their hands a little earlier.”

Spinella said he’s been impressed early on in practice with the focus and attention to detail the kids have put in.

“Not wasting any time,” he said. “Every minute of practice is being utilized effectively, so it’s great.”

The Blue Waves under Spinella have always played a competitive schedule in non-league games and scrimmages to prepare for the season. This year is no different.

Riverhead will scrimmage against Longwood, Shoreham-Wading River and William Floyd among others. The non-league schedule features matchups against The Stony Brook School and Walt Whitman.

The Blue Waves will be tested early when the League III season opens with a road game at North Babylon Dec. 17. North Babylon and Copiague are expected to be the top two teams in the league.

“We expect to compete for our league even though we have two of the top teams in the county in our league,” Spinella said. “That makes it difficult, but we still have the same expectations.”

joew@timesreview.com

08/07/13 8:21pm
08/07/2013 8:21 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Courtney Clasen scored a game-high 17 points Wednesday against Hampton Bays.

There was no joyous pileup at mid-cout when the buzzer sounded, but the result still was reason to celebrate.

Backed by a 17-point performance from Courtney Clasen, the Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team clinched the Town of Brookhaven Small School Summer League title Wednesday night with a 39-30 victory over Hampton Bays at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

The victory marked the end of the summer season for the Wildcats, who lost only once while picking up 11 victories. And more importantly, they gained some key cohesion and momentum to build off for the upcoming varsity season.

For now, most of the players will turn their attention to soccer, volleyball and field hockey.

But when they reconvene in November, the girls will have plenty of confidence that another run to the playoffs is within reach.

The Wildcats exorcised some demons of the summer league, where they’ve come up short of the title in recent years. Their usual nemesis’s like Southampton and Harborfields weren’t in the league this year, opening the door for Shoreham.

It looked early on as the Wildcats might come up short again. After Clasen scored a layup off the opening tip five seconds into the game, the Wildcats went the next 19 minutes without a field goal, falling behind 14-5.

But a switch to full-court press on defense ignited the offense as the Wildcats were able to do what they do best: force turnovers and get easy baskets.

Clasen scored off an offensive rebound with 8:30 left in the second half to cap a 19-point turnaround as the Wildcats went ahead 33-23.

Senior Taylor Whiffen scored 10 points for Shoreham and senior Shannon Rosati added 8. The trio combined for 35 of the Wildcats’ 39 points.

joew@timesreview.com

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The Wildcats won the 2013 Town of Brookhaven Small School Summer League championship.

08/05/13 10:26pm
08/05/2013 10:26 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's Courtney Clasen driving to the basket during her team's summer league semifinal win over Sayville on Monday evening.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River’s Courtney Clasen driving to the basket during her team’s summer league semifinal win over Sayville on Monday evening.

Is she a scorer?

Most definitely.

Is she a rebounder?

Absolutely.

Is she a playmaker?

No question about it.

Is she an intimidating defensive presence?

She sure is.

The truth is, Courtney Clasen is all of the above. A player who is not easily defined by a single skill, Clasen brings a fine all-around game to the Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team. So, when one asks the team’s new coach, Adam Lievre, what Clasen’s official position is, the questioner is bound to encounter a stumped look from the coach. And that isn’t just because Lievre is planning to run a wide open offense during the coming school season, and positions aren’t expected to matter much. Clasen has the ability to play any position on the court. She can bring the ball down the floor as well as play in the post. It’s really an unusual versatility that one doesn’t see often.

Putting it in succinct terms, Lievre said, “She does everything.”

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Jessica McCormick of Shoreham-Wading River battling for a loose ball under the basket.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Jessica McCormick of Shoreham-Wading River battling for a loose ball under the basket.

Now Lievre’s job is to convince the modest Clasen to believe in herself more.

“My goal for the summer and the school year is to get her to realize that she’s even better than she thinks she is,” he said after a recent game. “There are a couple of times — even [Clasen’s teammate] Taylor [Whiffen] said it — she puts on a second gear that someone her size just can’t stay up with. There were a couple of times she got a rebound and just took off. She’s quicker than most people and she jumps higher than everybody.”

Clasen, who will be entering her third varsity season as a junior, gave a good demonstration of what she has to offer as a basketball player on Monday evening in her team’s 32-21 defeat of Sayville in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools semifinal. She totaled 8 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks in the game at Patchogue-Medford High School.

Not bad at all.

When asked about how she developed her all-around game, Clasen indicated she doesn’t give much thought to it. “I just go out and play,” she said.

“She’s a great player,” said Whiffen, who has also spent time this summer playing AAU ball for the Long Island Renegades. “She’s everywhere on the court. She understands the game really well.”

With the graduation of Meghan King, the team’s leadership mantle has been passed on to Clasen, Shannon Rosati and Whiffen.

The Wildcats didn’t have Rosati for the semifinal, but they did have Whiffen, who provided 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals.

Lievre said he values Clasen most for her rebounding, but Whiffen can also crash the boards. “She’s really one of the first girls that we’ve had that can really play with her back to the basket and make a post move,” the coach said.

With Monday’s win, Shoreham qualified for the small schools final on Wednesday night against either Eastport/South Manor or Hampton Bays at St. Joseph’s College.

Monday’s result aside, the Wildcats are hoping for a cleaner performance. The semifinal was a sloppy affair, with both teams combining for 60 turnovers.

“It definitely wasn’t our prettiest game,” said Lievre.

Neither side shot well, either, but Shoreham atoned for its offensive sins by dominating on the boards, 31-15.

Erin MacDevitt led Sayville with 11 points.

Lievre didn’t sound too concerned with the offense, though. “Even doing JV for 10 years, I always told [the players that] summer league is defense. We’ll worry about offense during the school year.”

And reaching a small schools final is a nice plus.

Said Lievre, “Winning isn’t everything, but it’s nice to win, and it’s something to build on.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/22/13 10:36pm
07/22/2013 10:36 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kim Ligon is a rarity on the Riverhead roster — a player with varsity experience from last season.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kim Ligon is a rarity on the Riverhead roster — a player with varsity experience from last season.

So, apparently there is life after Shanice Allen. Not only that, but it might not be a bad life.

The Riverhead girls basketball team lost a lot this past spring when its all-time leading scorer, Allen, left high school behind. She is headed to play for Pace University. In her wake, the Blue Waves have been left with only three players with prior varsity experience: Dezarae Brown, Sam Dunn and Kim Ligon. It would only be natural for one to expect a major rebuilding project for Riverhead. The thing is, coach Dave Spinella doesn’t consider this to be a rebuilding phase at all.

“I don’t think we’re rebuilding, I really don’t,” he said. “By the end of the next year we’ll be in the [League III] mix.”

He continued: “We refuse to take steps back. We’re going to keep going forward.”

Call Riverhead a mystery team. Well, at least a mystery for the rest of Suffolk County, which may be anticipating a big drop by the Blue Waves.

To that the Riverheaders might respond, “Not so fast.”

As it turns out, for all of their inexperience, the Blue Waves have not done badly in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. With their 23-21 loss to Smithtown East at Sachem East High School on Monday, their record evened out at 4-4. Riverhead’s only blowout loss was by 19 points to a strong Longwood team. Its other two losses were by 3 points each to Central Islip and Centereach.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Amanda Baron taking aim during Monday's game against Smithtown East.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead’s Amanda Baron taking aim during Monday’s game against Smithtown East.

Despite the fact that Riverhead has only one senior on its summer roster, Carolyn Carrera, the sense is that the team chemistry is coming along fine.

As for coming in under the radar, Dunn seems to like that. “I think everyone’s so used to hearing ‘Riverhead’ and the first thing that comes to their mind is Shanice,” the sophomore forward said. “I like the feeling that people aren’t expecting so much of us. No one really knows that we’re there.”

Riverhead may not have the big names it has had in the past (Tiffany Trent, Jalyn Brown, Melodee Riley, Allen), but it is stocked with young talent that is progressing.

“I think if we play the way that we’re capable of playing that we will surprise some teams,” said Ligon, an eighth-grade shooting guard.

Even in defeat they have shown signs of encouragement. Take Monday’s game, for example. Playing in the same gym in which they lost a Suffolk County Class AA quarterfinal to Sachem East this past winter, the Blue Waves showed tenacity. They twice trailed by as many as 9 points before pulling ahead, 20-18, when Carrera sank a big 3-point shot. Smithtown East (4-4) regained the lead at 23-20 before Dunn dropped a free throw for the final point with 36.1 seconds to go. Riverhead’s only attempt at the basket after that was a shot by Dunn that glanced off the glass and the rim.

Riverhead actually shot a higher percentage from the field, 36.4 to 26.1, and outrebounded Smithtown East by 19-7. But the Bulls went 10 for 18 from the foul line. Riverhead went 2 for 12 on free throws.

Dunn was Riverhead’s leading scorer with 7 points in addition to 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.

Spinella said the biggest adjustment newcomers to varsity basketball must make is the speed of the game. But Dunn mentioned another factor: nerves. “I remember I started last year as a freshman, and every time I got on the court, I was like shaking I was so nervous,” she recalled. “It’s more pressure for everyone.”

The new Riverhead has a decidedly different look, with an emphasis on team.

“It’s a total team effort, man, it really is,” Spinella said. “Any night it can be someone different. It’s great.”

Asked if there are going to be any surprises among the new players once the school season starts, Spinella replied, “Nobody knows these kids, so everybody is going to be a surprise.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/22/13 10:30pm

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO  |  Emily St. Louis of McGann-Mercy fights down low against Southold Monday night in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League.

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.

joew@timesreview.com