Even though the Shelter Island High School basketball season is over, Coach Laura Mayo is still in the gym, this time guiding the junior high girls.
Ms. Mayo has coached this squad for three years, but is approaching this round a little differently. Having taken over the girls junior varsity program this winter, she now understands exactly what she’d like the athletes to know when they graduate to the high school game. Junior high is still about development and having fun, but there are performance goals as well.
On March 7, 10 Island players suited up against the Greenport Gold team, enough to allow one squad to play a full quarter, then switch to the next group. This strategy builds a cohesive unit on the court, although it does require the athletes to push hard for a full seven minutes without a break. The first team of five took the floor with Angelina Corbett-Rice as the high-energy point guard, handling the ball much of the time.
Mary Gennari scored the first points for the home team while Madi Springer scored two more with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Greenport had a good team, with a couple of confident shooters, and led 7-4 at the first break.
In the second quarter, five fresh players took the court. Cassie Espinosa Heimann led the charge as point guard dishing out the ball to her teammates. Greenport scored to extend their lead to 11-4, before the Islanders buckled down to score 6 unanswered points.
A heads-up inbound play between Alex Burns and Espinosa Heimann started the run, while Maïa Loizance’s battle for a jump ball set up the next score. Another Burns assist to Espinosa Heimann pulled the score to 11-10. Andrea Napoles and Harper Congdon showed their hustling defense against the Porters, each snagging a steal as the clock wound down to halftime, with Greenport ahead 15-10.
It was evident to the fans that the athletes are very positive. They want to play and are enthusiastic.
Greenport started the third quarter with a new defensive twist — bringing two defenders out to trap Corbett-Rice. She quickly began to anticipate the move, smoothly passing the ball to an attentive Springer. Katie Gulluscio showed her growth in the knowledge of the game as she aggressively went after loose balls while smartly avoiding a ball headed out of bounds which was last touched by a Greenport player.
The team has been working on boxing out under the basket and getting rebounds, and it showed, as each athlete had at least one, while Espinosa Heimann and Corbett-Rice tied for team-high with five apiece.
At the start of the final quarter, Napoles grabbed a rebound and displayed some nice ball handling skills as she sprinted down the court. Sophie Clark stole the ball and went “coast to coast” deftly using crossovers to keep the ball away from defenders. She stopped and popped with the ball dropping through the hoop to bring the score to 18-26.
Greenport won the game 30-19, but Coach Mayo praised the team’s effort. “This is the best they have played yet,” she said. “We beat Smithtown Christian 24-20 on March 1, but the teamwork and skills were even better today.”
At the start of the season, Coach Mayo was doing lots of teaching. Now, she proudly noted, the girls are teaching one another. “The expectation is that we will get a little better and understand a little more with every game we play,” she said.