The Shelter Island boys junior varsity basketball team ended their season on a high note Wednesday, February 10, beating the Port Jefferson Royals 57-49. Twice-postponed due to snow and scheduling conflicts, they closed their season as winners.
The team worked hard all season, coming a long way since their first practices in mid-November.
Communication, crisp passing and some top notch shooting were highlights of the final game. Eighth grader Walter Richards was the star of the night, notching 25 points, 5 coming on 3-pointers. He also had another 3-point play when he was fouled beyond the arc and sank three consecutive free throws.
The team sported a new look and vibe for the evening. Coach Ian Kanarvogel, normally a laid back presence, was quite animated throughout the game, calling out plays and encouraging the players.
You had to look twice to recognize point guard Kal Lewis, his signature long floppy blond hair replaced with a close cropped flat top.
Shelter Island jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the first quarter, but Port Jefferson showed that they could use their size to rebound and trust their shorter athletes to shoot 3-pointers.
After a rally to briefly grab the lead by 1 point, the Royals were thwarted as Liam Adipietro added two and Lucas Quigley-Dunning’s excellent assist to Erik Thilberg got the Blue and Gray back on top. Danny Boeklen, Nico Seddio and Nick Young got into the action as well, and the first quarter ended 18-14.
The second quarter showed a stronger Island defense, with four different players stealing the ball from their opponents. Jason Green embodied the team’s trademark all-out-effort-at-all-times, grabbing two consecutive offensive rebounds, then racing down the court to grab the very next defensive rebound.
His quickness honed on the cross country trails, Green’s long reach and sure hands make him a rebounding machine. The Blue and Gray stretched their lead to 10 points, heading into the locker room at 33-23.
In the third quarter Port Jeff got hot. From almost 4 minutes it was all Royals. While Owen Gibbs helped out the home team by playing well under the boards, the visitors went on a 9-point run, closing the gap to 41-39. With parents, grandparents and fans getting nervous, the third quarter ended 44-41.
The fourth quarter started slowly, with the teams trading a couple baskets, but strong defense held down the scoring. At the 4:40 mark, Adipietro hauled down a rebound, and put it back up for two and Shelter Island started rolling. Thilberg was a competitive dynamo, boxing out the Royals big #12, and hauling down 6 rebounds in the final quarter alone.
Coach K’s voice was getting hoarse as he continued to shout plays and encouragement from the sideline. Using the clock wisely, the team showed their much improved passing. To the crowd’s delight, Lewis’s assist to Daniel Martin at buzzer capped the night for a 57-49 victory.
The JV season is now over, but the large squad is undoubtedly looking forward to next season when many will transition to the varsity. With seven of the nine varsity players ending their high school basketball career this season, there will be some big shoes to fill, and Coach K has prepared these young athletes well.
At the end of the game, the JV kids were sweaty and tired, but joyful. You could see it in their faces — the victory was great, but they were just having fun and loving the game.
A win-win situation in anyone’s book.