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Boys basketball is back: Team finding its feet in short season

“Better late than never.” 

That’s the feeling for a vast majority of student athletes from across Long Island as sports are starting up since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

It was about 11 months ago that interscholastic athletics in New York State came to a screeching halt due to the health emergency. But things are beginning to change, and one indication is that winter sports are back — maybe two months late, but they’re back.

That’s the forward-looking spirit of the new boys varsity basketball Head Coach Peter Miedema, who has been promoted after years of serving as the JV coach under both Mike Mundy and Jay Card Jr.

Coach Miedema is a social studies teacher who’s been recognized as an outstanding educator by his peers. He’s coached baseball and basketball for over a decade at Shelter Island.

Shelter Island graduated most of their starters from last year’s team, including Lucas Quigley-Dunning, who earned All-County honors, Walter Richards who received All-League honors, and Dan Martin who received All-Division honors.

The team also graduated two other seniors, Keith Taplin and Luke Lowell-Liszanckie, both playing key roles in last year’s very successful season. Shelter Island finished tied for 2nd place in League VIII with an impressive 8-4 record.

This year’s team returned All-Division Junior Gil who developed into a defensive force, as well as an offensive threat, with his quickness and determination at both ends of the court.

In addition, Coach Miedema returns Wyatt Congdon, Brandon Velasquez, Nick Mamisashvili and Bradley Batten. All of these athletes played at the junior varsity and varsity levels last season.

It was important for these younger players to get varsity experience and helped lengthen Coach Card’s bench in the second half of the season and playoffs.

Batten is the team’s best outside shooter, especially from behind the 3-point line.

This year’s varsity team has an abbreviated season, including just eight scheduled games. The team has started the season with three straight losses, defeated by much larger schools, such as Port Jefferson and Mattituck. During the recent Greenport loss, Matt Strauss scored a game-high 12 points.

Unfortunately, Matt rolled his ankle in practice this week and will probably miss the remainder of the season. 

Wyatt Congdon also looks like he’ll be missing the entire season due to a family trip that had been scheduled prior to knowing there would be a winter sports season this year.

Both of these players were starters and represent major voids in Coach Miedema’s lineup.

It appears that Junior Gill will be the team’s most talented player; he’s an excellent rebounder and can break down an opponent’s defense and drive to the basket.

The team will also face Southold, Smithtown Christian and Ross, but will not be playing Pierson this year due to the school’s COVID-19 withdrawal from winter sports.

Our team will be playing Bridgehampton both home and away. The Killer Bees will be hosting their games in their new gymnasium.

Coach Miedema will be graduating his whole team this year. Shelter Island only has six players playing at the junior varsity level, so it’s doubtful they will be fielding a boys varsity team next year (2021-22 season). 

Thus far, Coach Miedema has been satisfied with the team’s effort and hard work. He’d like to instill a greater sense of commitment to the program and a better sense of accountability.

There’s no doubt that successful athletic programs at any level (but even more so at the varsity level) need the commitment from staff and players if their programs are going to improve and be competitive. That’s the goal that all coaches seek, to be competitive each and every practice and game.

That competitive spirit transfers onto the court during game situations and cultivates a desire to be the best each player can be during the season.