There is always a special excitement to the first game of any new season. The girls junior high basketball team started their practices in late January, and when Monday, February 12 rolled around, the team had both the first-time jitters and first-time energy.
Laura Mayo is in her third year as the basketball coach, and it’s evident by her enthusiasm and direct manner that she knows the game well. “Some of these girls are playing for the first time,” she said, “especially the 7th graders are really learning the basic vocabulary and skills. The 8th graders are doing a great job as team leaders.”
The first game was against the Springs School, which fielded both aggressive and tall players. Supportive parents were in the stands, and all was set. The Island’s team has 12 players: five 8th graders and seven 7th graders. In the junior high philosophy of developing all players, the team is divided into equal squads that alternate quarters.
Coach Mayo put Franny Regan, Mary Gennari, Cassie Espinoza Heimann, Dayla Reyes and Angelina Corbett-Rice on for the first quarter. Reyes was the point guard, and Corbett-Rice the shooting guard. Regan had the hard job of playing defense on tall number 21 for Springs. Coach Mayo kept the encouragement and advice coming from the sideline — “See the ball, see your girl.” Nerves took a bit to calm, with Dayla Reyes hitting a bucket towards the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter Allie Brush, Andrea Napoles, Alex Burns, Valeria Reyes, Madigan Teodoru and Madison Springer shared the playing duties. Valeria Reyes is a fast and fearless ball handler and Brush is also unafraid to shoot the ball. Napoles is a feisty defender and both Madis are quick to jump in and wrestle for a jump ball.
In the third and fourth quarters, as players got their second chances on the court, there was an unmistakable air of added confidence. Nine points were added during the third period, three more than had been scored the entire first half. The refs were quite loose with their calls, and things got a bit physical on the court. Shelter Island continued to play very tough on defense, trying to slow down the aggressive style of the Springs team.
In the end Springs got a 34-19 win. Dayla Reyes scored 9, Valeria Reyes had 6 and Brush added 4 in the effort.
The team had two more games in their opening week. They traveled to Montauk on February 14 to face the historically strong Mustangs. Coach Mayo was very proud of the effort saying, “We lost the game, but the girls set goals for themselves, and all of them were achieved.”
The next day the team was back on their home court against Smithtown Christian. The fans saw a team eager to play well and have fun. The positive, vocal bench kept the players on the floor motivated, even shouting advice as the team ran their various plays.
Kathy Ramos had gotten her practices in and qualified to play; her enthusiastic defense buoyed the effort, as did her foul shooting which closed the score to 22-19 in Smihtown’s favor in the fourth quarter.
The team is developing well, with some exciting rebounding, excellent passing and heads-up team work to score points. In the second quarter Brush took a shot, grabbed her own rebound, then put it back up to score a bucket. A short time later Valeria Reyes brought the ball up the court, made a crisp pass to Ramos, who got it to Brush for a coach- and crowd-pleasing play.
At the end of the third, Corbett-Rice missed a shot, but Burns grabbed the rebound and passed it directly back to her. Corbett-Rice sunk the shot this time to pull the team within 3 points.
In the end, the Knights got a 26-21 win, but the Blue and Gray are undeterred. Coach Mayo is stressing that progress, not wins, is the goal of the season. That being said, the team is scoring about 20 points in each game, and the scoring is well spread among the players. If the improvement shown in the first week of competition is any indication, the team should soon have some ticks in the “W” column.
After a week off for winter break, the team will be back in action. Their season is compact, with only 10 contests. The next chance to see the team here on the Island is Wednesday, March 7 against Montauk at 4 p.m.
Join the loud and proud parents in the stands and see our young athletes in action!