Lions are restoring pride in their program

Melodee Riley of Riverhead looked for shooting room while being defended by Longwood’s Asia Mayo, center, and Emily Garrahan.

Things are looking up for the Longwood girls basketball team.

The Lions believe the near future holds brighter days for them, and why not? Through six games in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, Longwood has already equaled its win total from the entire 2009-10 school season.

That school season, by the way, is one the Lions would prefer to forget. They went 3-15, 1-11 in Suffolk County League I, sharing the cellar with Patchogue-Medford.

“Really bad. I hate to say it, but it was,” Longwood’s assistant coach, Vernon Alonzo, said. “Rough season. We plan on turning it around with this group.”

It’s a young group, too. Longwood’s summer league team has only three seniors — Emily Garrahan, Asia Mayo and Dominique Wilson. The rest of the squad consists of eight juniors, five sophomores and a freshman.

“Very young,” Alonzo said, “very young.”

Yet, this young team has already made notable strides. Players say they see improvement on both ends of the court and better team play. It has shown in the results. Longwood has defeated Patchogue-Medford, Central Islip and Riverhead. One of its a losses was by one point to Centereach.

Asked what she likes best about her team, Mayo replied simply with one word, “Winning.”

Longwood won on Monday night when Jessica Kalbfleisch (eight) and Kiersten West combined for 15 points in a 33-18 defeat of Riverhead at Riverhead High School. West, a freshman point guard, also grabbed seven rebounds.

The result left both Longwood and Riverhead involved in a four-way tie for fourth place among the 12 teams in the large school varsity standings with 3-3 records.

Melodee Riley was the top scorer for Riverhead with eight points. She also had six rebounds, five steals and a block.

West, who played for Longwood’s winning junior varsity team last season, can sense a change in the varsity team.

“The attitude,” she said. “It’s a positive attitude.”

Alonzo has noticed that as well, along with a relentless defense and a commitment to team basketball.

“They all care for each other and they work hard,” he said. “They don’t care who scores, as long as the team wins, and that’s the concept that’s hard to get to young kids.”

Monday was a rough night for the Blue Waves, who were without one of their top players, Shaniece Allen. Another one of Riverhead’s best players, the diminutive junior guard Jalyn Brown, took three hard falls in the first half, one off a scary collision that sent her flying off the court, but she remained in the game. She was held to five points, but was responsible for what quite possibly was Riverhead’s highlight of the night, a nice midair interior pass to Riley for a layup.

Longwood leapt to a 17-4 lead and then stretched that advantage to 23-9 after a conventional three-point play by Aliyah Blake. Riverhead, which played like a car engine that is out of sync, didn’t reach double figures until Riley converted a layup off her own steal with 9 minutes 26 seconds left in the game.

Longwood outshot Riverhead from the field, 52 percent to 32 percent, and quite remarkably limited the Blue Waves to only seven defensive rebounds.

Perhaps more than anything, though, Alonzo liked the chemistry he saw in the Lions.

“They got me all giddy,” he said. “I can’t wait for the [school] season. I wished it started tomorrow, to be honest with you.”

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