06/17/12 8:30am
06/17/2012 8:30 AM

A 26-year-old Flanders resident with no driver’s license was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Southampton Saturday night, Southampton Town Police said.

Gus Garcia-Blancarte was pulled over for speeding and driving erratically on County Road 39 shortly after 10 p.m., police said.

He was charged with misdemeanor DWI and unlicensed operation, police said. He was held overnight for a Sunday morning arraignment.

03/02/12 11:16pm
03/02/2012 11:16 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shanice Allen scored 19 points to lead Riverhead over Southampton in the Section XI championship game.


The playoff games involving the various class champions in Suffolk County girls basketball pose a quandary for coaches. Conflicting aims are sometimes at stake. On the one hand, teams want to win, of course. On the other hand, some coaches feel an obligation to give playing time to little-used substitutes. Add to that the fear of injury in advance of more important regional games.

It can be a tricky balance for a coach to manage.

“I hate it,” confessed Riverhead coach Dave Spinella.

And that comment came after Spinella and his team had successfully navigated all of the above concerns on Friday. Not only had Riverhead secured a 61-59 overtime win over Southampton in the Section XI championship game, but the Blue Waves, like the Mariners, played all of their players and evidently survived the game injury-free. In the process, Class AA champion Riverhead (22-1) extended its winning streak to 22 games.

“I didn’t look at this as easy,” Riverhead point guard Jalyn Brown said. “Even though people said it’s really not an important game, I look at every game as an important game. I want to win. … I knew they wanted to win, too.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown of Riverhead, shooting over Southampton's Kesi Goree, put up 18 points and 5 assists.

Some players from both teams have a shared history of playing together on an Amateur Athletic Union team. Southampton coach Rich Wingfield spoke before the game of a photo he has of one such team that featured four of his current players and four current Riverhead players. So, familiarity was a factor.

“It’s weird playing against them because I know their game and they know mine,” Brown said. “They know what I do on the court and I know what they do on the court.”

But there was one question, the answer to which was unknown before the tip-off at Farmingdale State College’s Nold Hall: How much would the teams pull their punches?

Spinella said his starters played half the game. That included the five-minute overtime period in which Brown and Shanice Allen combined for all 8 Riverhead points.

A deep 3-point shot by Brown snapped a 55-55 tie, but Class B champion Southampton (19-4) took the lead at 59-58 on back-to-back baskets by Kesi Goree. Goree had a tremendous game with 31 points and 14 rebounds, both game-high figures. “My confidence was up,” she said.

But Allen immediately responded for Riverhead, making a layup with 19 seconds left for a 60-59 Riverhead edge.

Southampton called a timeout and set up a play in which Paris Hodges drove in on Allen and pushed a shot off the bottom of the backboard. Riverhead’s Melodee Riley collected the rebound.

Later, after Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one, Southampton stopped the clock with a timeout with 3.3 seconds to go. A Goree inbounds pass from near her basket was intercepted around midcourt by Allen, who was quickly fouled with 1.8 seconds remaining. Allen sank one of the two free throws for the final point.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Melodee Riley of Riverhead soaring toward the basket while Southampton's Kesi Goree defends.

Allen was mistakenly credited with 32 points on the scoreboard. She didn’t score that many, but she didn’t do badly, putting up 19. The junior was selected to the county’s all-tournament team along with Brown (18 points, 5 assists). Riley added 12 points and fell one rebound shy of a double-double. Kaila-Riane Nazario pulled down 11 rebounds.

Hodges posted 13 points and 8 assists.

Riverhead had raced out to an 8-0 lead and held a 20-6 advantage early in the second quarter. The Blue Waves also had a 14-point cushion when an Alyssa Meyer basket made it 32-18 late in the second quarter.

“We were getting blown out, basically,” Goree said. “A lot of teams would have just gave up, but my team, we’re like a family. We have heart.”

Riverhead substituted heavily in the third quarter, which was its worst shooting quarter, going 4 of 15 from the field. Southampton pulled to within single digits. A 12-0 Southampton run trimmed Riverhead’s lead to 41-38. The Mariners completed the fourth quarter on a 16-8 spurt, with a ball from Goree bouncing in to knot the score at 53-53 and force overtime.

Things would have been easier for Riverhead if it had shot better than 6 of 16 from the free-throw line. Then again, Southampton didn’t fare too well with its free throws, either, going 5 of 12.

The fact that all the players got an opportunity to play on a college court might not have been first and foremost on the minds of fans, but it was meaningful to the participants.

“People don’t understand,” Spinella said. “Our allegiance is to the kids. We want to make sure that our kids realize that every single one of them is a special part of this team.”

Bigger challenges await both teams. Riverhead will play Baldwin or Massapequa in a Southeast Region final on March 9 at Farmingdale State College. The winner will advance to the New York State final four in Troy. Southampton will play a regional semifinal against Cold Spring Harbor on Wednesday night in Farmingdale.

Obviously, those are elimination games and the stakes are higher. Still, that doesn’t mean a player like Brown didn’t appreciate coming out on top on Friday.

“I’m a competitor,” she said. “I love to win.”


01/29/12 8:36am
01/29/2012 8:36 AM

A Calverton woman was arrested after police observed a set of metal knuckles in her car during a routine traffic stop, Southampton Town Police said.

Tania Copenhaver, 39, was pulled over on County Road 39 in Southampton shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday.

She was charged with third-degree possession of a criminal weapon.

Ms. Copenhaver was arrested last year, again after a traffic stop, for allegedly dealing drugs.

She was found last February to possess cocaine and PCP, police said. That arrest actually punctuated a weeks-long drug investigation that included surveillance, during which investigators had observed Ms. Copenhaver dealing PCP and cocaine, police said.

Ms. Copenhaver is due back in court March 21 on the previous arrest.

12/16/11 10:40pm
12/16/2011 10:40 PM

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Mercy sophomore Nykel Reese scored a game-high 25 points for the Monarchs Friday night against Southampton.

Standing on the court in a nearly empty gym late Friday night, McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg yelled over to Southampton coach Herm Lamison, looking to clarify the Monarchs’ recent record against the Mariners. Eight to zip in favor of Southampton was the consensus.

“Herm gives me the big zero every time I come here,” Clauberg said.

The Monarchs came up short in their latest trip to Southampton, falling 83-79 in the League VII opener for both teams. While the Monarchs didn’t put an end to their recent struggles against the Mariners, they showed this year’s team won’t be a pushover by any stretch.

After winning just one game last year, the Monarchs have plenty of reason to believe this year can end on a much brighter note.

Thanks to an infusion of talent from sophomores Nykel Reese and Asaiah Wilson, the Monarchs have the ability to get up and down the court much more effectively than in years past. They can apply pressure, force turnovers and score in bunches at times.

They needed to do all of that to climb out of a 22-point hole in the third quarter against the Mariners. Southampton led 64-42 with under three minutes left in the third quarter. The game appeared all but over until the Monarchs began chipping away in the fourth quarter, leading to a drawn-out final 1:49 that lasted more than 20 minutes real time.

The final 1:49 featured the Monarchs fouling every chance to stop the clock, while quickly hoisting up shots on offense.

With several clutch shots and some woeful free throw shooting from Southampton, the Monarchs made it a one-possession game with 24 seconds left after senior Danny Hartmann drained a 3-pointer. The Monarchs immediately fouled Scott Ricca, who missed both of his free throw attempts.

With no time-outs remaining, the Monarchs had to go right up court. They got the ball back to Hartmann, who couldn’t get off a clean shot as he tried going up for a 3-pointer with about 12 seconds left. The Mariners regained possession and were fouled. Shaundell Fishburne hit one of two free throws to make it a four-point game.

Reese, a 6-foot-3 forward in his first year playing varsity at Mercy, had a huge day with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks. Wilson didn’t have a great night shooting, but still finished with 15 points.

Hartmann and Patrick Stepnoski both had 14 for Mercy. Donovan Trent led Southampton with 22. Fishburne scored 19.


10/13/11 7:25pm
10/13/2011 7:25 PM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy's first singles player, Ashley Yakaboski, and her teammates are pursuing the team's fourth straight league championship and fifth since 2000.

The process of determining the Suffolk County League VII girls tennis champion has been extended to the final day of the league season, plus one.

Players, coaches and fans will have to wait until at least Friday to see if the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs claim a share of their fourth straight league championship and fifth since 2000.

McGann-Mercy’s final regular-season match was suspended on Thursday after an accumulation of a fine mist and light rain settled on the tennis courts at Southampton High School, making for slippery conditions. None of the six individual matches that were being played had gone beyond three games before the coaches, Mike Clauberg of McGann-Mercy and Rich Wingfield of Southampton, called their players off the court. The contest has been scheduled to resume tomorrow afternoon.

“It’s something you can’t control,” Wingfield said. “… What’s happened is safety first. At the end of the day, what I feel good about is that we made the decision in favor of the kids. The courts are too wet, they becomes hazardous, let’s call it. They’ll come back and fight another day.”

McGann-Mercy (12-2, 7-2) started the day in second place behind the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes (9-2, 8-1), who were matched against the William Floyd Colonials (10-3, 6-3) at the same time. A Westhampton Beach loss, coupled with a McGann-Mercy win, would earn the Monarchs a share of first place.

“The fact that this program has come this far, we could be neck and neck with Westhampton, I think that says something for us,” said Clauberg.

Clauberg said his team has been a surprise this season, and contends that some teams don’t respect the Monarchs.

But Wingfield isn’t buying any of that. The Monarchs went 16-3 last year, and have a 58-7 record over the past four years.

“Believe me, nobody underestimates Mercy,” Wingfield said. “Mercy, not just their tennis, I think their whole athletic program is on the rise. Everybody’s saying: ‘Hey, wait a minute. Don’t sleep on Mercy.’ So those days are gone where somebody is going to pencil in a ‘W’ because they’re playing Mercy, because what Mercy has done is taken that ‘M’ [in Mercy] and flipped it around the other way” to a ‘W.’

Entering the final regular-season match, singles players Cassidy Lessard (12-2), Marianne Naleski (10-2) and Jackie Zaweski (11-3) all have winning records. Ashley Yakaboski, the first singles player, is 5-9.

But perhaps even more impressive is what the Monarchs’ three doubles teams have done. The first doubles team of Erica Blanco and Shannon Merker is 11-2. Stefanie Blanco and Delaney Macchirole, the No. 2 doubles pairing, are 13-1. The third doubles team of Caitlin Lawler and Alyssa Mize are 10-4.

“He has a great group of kids,” Wingfield said. “The results are just evident. Those kids are playing great tennis. He has them feeling confident in themselves and that’s important.”

The Monarchs are winners of their last 11 matches. They defeated the Southampton Mariners, 6-1, when the teams met in Riverhead on Sept. 19. Southampton is 2-9, 1-8, and has lost its last three matches.

Coming off the team bus before the match, the Monarchs looked like they were all business as they marched in double file toward their team bench and what they hope will be another league crown. But if the Monarchs are to continue their league-title run, they will have to be patient and wait another day for it.

“We have to see what happens,” Clauberg said. “It is what it is. I think we exceeded our standards. We improved tremendously. Everybody across the board has improved so much this year that regardless of what happens with Westhampton and what happens with us with Southampton, it’s been a successful season.”


10/04/11 2:32pm
10/04/2011 2:32 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Keith Schroeher, left, and Rudfil Paul Jr. celebrated Paul's two-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy's Rudfil Paul Jr. headed into the end zone.

The Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs had not beaten the Southampton Mariners in 20 years, and they had not won a homecoming football game in three years.

They took care of both streaks on Saturday.

With help from Keith Schroeher’s throwing arm and Pat Stepnoski’s legs, the Monarchs made their homecoming game a happy occasion for their fans by putting up a 28-0 defeat of Southampton and evening their record in Suffolk County Division IV at 2-2 as the regular season reached its midpoint.

“For us to take the next step as a team and a program, we knew we had to start winning games like this,” McGann-Mercy Coach Jeff Doroski said. “It’s a new life for us. We have four games left to play. We’re 0 and 0 going into the second half of the year. Again, every game for us is going to be important from here on out.”

McGann-Mercy’s passing game worked, with Schroeher completing 9 of 15 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. The senior quarterback threw a pair of touchdown passes to Christian Lynch (three catches, 61 yards) and another to Rudfil Paul Jr. (four catches, 65 yards). He had one interception.

When the Monarchs didn’t pass, they could hand the ball to Stepnoski, the senior running back who covered 147 yards on 23 carries. One of those was a nine-yard touchdown run.

It was the second straight shutout posted by McGann-Mercy’s defense. Eight days earlier, the Monarchs were 20-0 winners over the Wyandanch Warriors.

The defense once again rose to the occasion on Saturday. Stepnoski and Bernie Schrage led the team with six tackles each. Pat Marelli made five stops. Lynch recovered two fumbles. Brian Murray had three tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery.

“Defensively, we caused some turnovers,” Doroski said. “We’re starting to be a better defensive team. We’re tackling.”

And undoubtedly gaining momentum.

“They’re more confident,” Doroski said of his players, who will next face the Hampton Bays Baymen (1-3) on Thursday night. “They’re more sure of themselves when they’re out there. We can see their level of play improving, and that’s across the board at every position.”


12/22/10 2:48pm
12/22/2010 2:48 PM

With taxpayers in the Southampton Town part of the Riverhead School District facing a 22 percent tax rate increase for 2011 — after they endured a 60 percent increase over the past three years — state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has proposed legislation to ease their pain.

While the Southampton portion of the district has seen the tax rate soar, the Riverhead Town portion of the district has had a rate rise of only 3 percent in the same three years.

The tax wallop and dissimilar rate on the Southampton side “points to the need for the 2 percent property tax cap proposed by Governor-Elect Cuomo,” Mr. Thiele said. “However, it also shows that new legal tools are required to protect taxpayers from manipulation of assessment data and equalization rates.”

Mr. Thiele has proposed requiring the state to establish a special tax equalization rate in the Riverhead School District that would apply to the entire district. Currently, each of the three towns in which the district is located — Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton — has its own equalization rate, so the school district has a different tax rate in each of those towns.

The equalization rate, which is assigned by the state, is used both to determine at what percentage of market value a town assesses property and to divvy up tax payments in districts like the Riverhead School District that stretch over more than one town. Southampton Town assesses property at 100 percent of market value, while Riverhead Town assesses at 15.98 percent, according to the state. Also, Southampton Town reassesses on a regular basis to reflect changing market conditions and Riverhead does not. As a result, the total assessed value of land in the Southampton Town part of the school district has sagged recently, which has driven up the tax rate there proportionately.

In the past three years, those disparities, and different equalization rates, have contributed to a big shift in the school tax burden to the Southampton portion of the school district, officials say.

A similar problem occurred in 2003 and 2004. The state legislature at the time approved a temporary special equalization rate for the Southampton portion of the Riverhead School District. From 2005 through 2008, the school tax on the Southampton side dropped by about 30 percent, thanks in part to payments from Southampton Town’s  Community Preservation Fund (CPF) to make up for land taken off the tax roles. A state audit later found that the town paid more in CPF funds to the Riverhead School District than it should have under CPF regulations.

Unlike the 2003 legislation, Mr. Thiele’s current proposal would be permanent and would cover the entire district, including parts in Riverhead and Brookhaven towns. He said it would not necessarily create one tax rate for the entire district, but it would eliminate the big tax shifts and fluctuations the district has seen.

Mr. Thiele’s bill also would allow both taxpayers and local officials to challenge the special equalization rate for their properties or jurisdictions if they felt it had been unfair to them.

“Under current law, for example, only Riverhead Town could challenge the equalization rate for Riverhead Town, even though in the apportionment of school taxes, taxpayers in Southampton or Brookhaven could be adversely affected by the Riverhead Town rate,” Mr. Thiele said. “The new legislation would set a special equalization rate just for the Riverhead School District and permit taxpayers in Southampton or the town supervisor to challenge that equalization rate if they determine that it is wrong and they have been aggrieved by it.”

The part of the law allowing residents to challenge equalization rates would apply statewide, Mr. Thiele said.

Flanders resident Therese McGuiness said she believed the real problem with school taxes is unequal treatment.

The Riverhead School District in Southampton Town pays a tax rate of $12.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is the second highest rate in the town, after the Eastport-South Manor School District. Meanwhile, wealthier districts pay much lower rates, she said. Bridgehampton’s rate is $1.41, while Sagaponack’s is $0.39 per $1,000.

The average parcel in the Riverhead School District in Southampton Town is assessed at $205,611; the average parcel in Sagaponack is assessed at $4.4 million, and the average parcel in Bridgehampton is assessed $2.16 million, according to town records.