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A season well played —Girls JH team wraps a campaign of growth

TRISH KREPPEIN PHOTO
The Shelter Island girls junior high basketball team. Standing, from left, Angelina Corbett-Rice, Sophie Clark, Andrea Napoles, Coach Laura Mayo, Mary Gennari, Alex Burns and Madison Springer. Kneeling, from left, Katie Gulluscio, Harper Congdon, Cassie Espinosa Heimann, Maia Loizance and Madigan Teodoru.

Laura Mayo has been in the gym since the end of August, coaching three consecutive seasons. On March 14 the girls junior high basketball team played their last game, and the coach regained at least two hours in her day.

“I’m so proud of them,” she said. “I used to have to coach constantly, for every little thing. Now they are more confident in their individual skills and know the plays.”

The team finished the season with all-out hustling efforts in back-to-back games. The last home game was on March 13 against the Southold White team. The first time the teams met, Southold held an 18-4 lead at the half. This time they again held a lead, but it was markedly smaller: 7-4.

The first half featured lots of action without much scoring. Southold and the Islanders had 11 athletes, and like the home team, switched off the point guards each quarter. Angelina Corbett-Rice and Cassie Espinosa Heimann shared duties at the position. While the action was fast and the defense intense, Corbett-Rice and Espinosa Heimann stayed calm under pressure.

The game started with two quick scores by Madigan Teodoru before Southold settled in. Maia Loizance’s increased knowledge of the game was evident as she smoothly switched coverage on defense to deny a Southold basket. Likewise, Harper Congdon stuck to her girl on defense, as both hustled down the court. Heeding the words of her coach, Mary Gennari boxed out beneath the basket, snagging a rebound and passing it out to a waiting teammate.

Southold began to score more after the half, but they were working harder for points.

Alex Burns kept the pressure on the Settlers as she anticipated a play, stepping in to intercept a pass. Fleet-footed Andrea Napoles was tasked with playing defense against Southold’s top scorers, first denying a tall player from getting the ball at the baseline, then switching to defend against a hot-shooting opponent.

Sophie Clark has stepped up as a quietly confident player, tapped to play every position during the course of the season. In the final quarter she set an excellent screen, allowing Corbett-Rice to score off a jumper. Clark also put up a shot at the buzzer, scoring the final points of the game.

The fans in the stands, including Espinosa Heimann’s baby sister Gwen, Katie Gulluscio’s younger sister Brookelyn and Sophie’s brother Harry, were treated to some great athletic role models as the girls hustled the whole game, remaining positive and cheering each other on as the time expired with a Southold 25-8 win.

The next day, the team headed across the bay to take on the Greenport Purple squad. Team Manager Margaret Schultheis has traveled with the team all season keeping the book for every game. She helped document the whole team effort, playing hard until the very last second.

Both point guards Corbett-Rice and Espinosa Heimann fouled out, but Madison Springer stepped up, playing hard while handling the ball the majority of the time. Katie Gulluscio added to the tally by hitting a foul shot. Espinosa Heimann hit a basket from the 3-point arc. Although 3-pointers only count for 2 points in JH ball, it was great fun to see the excitement and joy of the team at the accomplishment.

In the final quarter of the final game of the season, Coach Mayo honored the 8th graders, allowing them to play together on the court. As the final buzzer sounded, the 7th graders realized that the baton had been handed to them to be the leaders next season.

“I’m very proud of the progress the team has made since the beginning of the season,” Coach Mayo said. “Everyone has learned and improved. It’s just been fun.”

Basketball is a game. It should be fun, and by the laughter that follows this team on the court, in the locker room and on the bus, it was a season very well played.

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