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Family affair at home as basketball girls take on Mattituck

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Basketball on Shelter Island is a family affair.

At the final home game against Mattituck for the girls JV basketball team on February 7, both coaches had relatives in the stands. The Mattituck team is coached by Kay Rolle, while Shelter Island is headed by Mike Mundy. Haley Willumsen Rolle and Meagan Mundy Licciardi, Shelter Island Class of 2012, both played basketball for the Blue and Gray.

They each had their year-old sons with them, as well. Clayton visited grandma on the Mattituck bench at half time, while Ethan hung out with his grandma “Bobo” before they both grabbed balls almost as big as they were and carried them around the court.

The stands were filled with parents and friends for senior send off ceremonies. Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio welcomed the crowd, acknowledging the 32nd anniversary of Girls and Women in Sports Day before introducing Coach Mundy.

In his pre-game address, Coach Mundy explained that each of the seniors had added to the team in her own way. Seniors and captains Madi Hallman and Bianca Evangelista have both played three years for him. Hayley Lowell-Liszancke and Emily Strauss played their senior years after taking the last three years off from the sport.

Evangelista, a starter all year, was “the rock of our team,” the coach said, while Hallman’s knowledge of the game and on-court acumen allowed her to communicate with the coach to let him know when the team really needed a change in offense or defensive strategies.

Coach Mundy applauded Lowell-Liszancke’s willingness to learn all the guard positions and responsibilities, while Strauss’s quick thinking on defense drew accolades. Coach Mundy also acknowledged senior Caitlin Binder who kept the book for the team all year. Teammates also spoke about each of the seniors, blending humor and memories in their tributes.

Following the senior ceremony, the whistle sounded for the start of the game. With junior and strong scorer Nichole Hand on the bench with a broken thumb, the contest started slowly for the home team. The four seniors and sophomore Isabella Topliff took the court. Mattituck was aggressive, using a full-court press on defense in the first quarter, which led to numerous turnovers and quick baskets.

Topliff scored on the front end of two free throws on a technical foul to get the team on the board. She scored 6 points in the game, including a beautiful 3-point shot in the final quarter, causing a roar from the crowd, and a spontaneous and joyful jig from her.

Coach Mundy did a great job of getting all players on the court. As the seniors were playing for the last time on their home court, you could also see the younger players stepping up their game, imagining next season when they will be leading the team.

Ninth grader Lydia Shepherd has grown as a player; nice passing set her up well and she scored 2 points in the second quarter. She also pulled down two rebounds. Sophomore Audrey Wood also added energy and also put up a shot in the final frame. Although it didn’t drop for points, it helps show how her confidence has improved throughout the season.

Classmate Ashley Panteleon also took three shots and grabbed a rebound. Emma Teodoru made her way on to the court in the third quarter; her speed quickly allowed her to grab a steal. Eighth grader Bella Springer brings enthusiasm to the court, and she also stole the ball and snagged a rebound.

Jane Richards got an assist on a pass to Topliff that resulted in a bucket. Richards also got a rebound. Grace Olinkiewicz got well-positioned under the basket, grabbing three rebounds, second only to Strauss’s team-high four.

Mattituck took the game 46-14, one of the tougher losses on the year. That score does not reflect how competitive many games were during the season. Coach Mundy said, “I’m extremely proud of how the girls are finishing up the season. They have come a long way since November. It will be hard to fill the void that our senior girls held this year, but I am confident the underclassmen will be able to.”

Presenting Coach Mundy with a gift card for his “Pharmacy Fund,” Hallman summed up the season in a tribute to the coach: “We didn’t win as much as we wanted, but we want you to know how much we appreciate your patience and increasing our skill levels. You will leave a lasting mark of passion and drive.”

At the end of the game the parents in the stands remained supportive and jovial, cheering on their favorite players. Did the team win many games? No. But was the season a success? If the attitudes of the athletes are any measure, absolutely.

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