When I hurried into the gym, a little late on Monday, Feb. 7, to watch the girls’ junior high basketball team in their first game of the season, I was rocked by the energy and excitement.
Supportive parents and friends lined the home bleachers, while Greenport’s Purple squad cheered for their schoolmates on the Greenport Gold team who were in action on the court. Decorations for the Shelter Island Winter Olympics added to the festive atmosphere.
Coach Laura Mayo is heading up a squad of 11 athletes, three 7th graders and eight 8th graders. All of the older girls played for her during the volleyball season, and they’re enjoying getting to know Ms Mayo’s basketball persona. The entire team is pretty new to basketball.
Last year’s season was impacted severely by COVID, and the players only had worked on individual skills. This season they’re able to work on team concepts, practice against a full defense, and learn plays. All middle school sports are developmental, so there are plenty of reminders coming from the bench. “We are now shooting at this basket.” “We are on offense, so you don’t have to stick with your girl.” “Jump to get the rebound.”
The athletes are hustling and playing hard, while working on their ball and body control. The team’s main ball handlers are Madison Sobejana, Mandy Marcello and Mae Brigham.
The score at the end of the first quarter was 6-2 in Greenport’s favor, but as the Islanders warmed up, their shots began to fall. Their defense became more effective as well.
In the second quarter Lili Kuir showed quick hands as she swatted the ball away from the Greenport players, allowing Island teammates to grab it. Jade Samuelson worked hard on defense, making a steal. Rosie Hanley, a quick and coachable player, frustrated the Porters with her stick-like-glue defense. Lauren Gibbs and Mae Brigham showed nice rebounding, and each also scored a basket. The score stood at 8-6 at the half, with Greenport still holding on to a slim lead.
During the third quarter the Islanders gained confidence in their passing.
Elena Schack is a team player, getting open and looking for a pass. Like Sobejana, she also dishes the ball well, making decisions and getting the ball to a teammate. Seventh graders Kyra Sciacchitano and Sadie Green-Clark are working on their game confidence, learning correct positioning on inbound plays. Keili Osorio stepped up on defense, resulting in three take-aways in the third quarter. Despite the effort, Greenport pulled to a 12-6 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Coach Mayo gathered the team and stated: “I think we can score four baskets this quarter.” The team took that advice to heart and took the court determined to score and pull out a win.
As the Porters scored first to extend their lead to 8 points, the Islanders didn’t get discouraged.
Mandy Marcello started shooting, getting nice assists from Gibbs. She scored 6 straight points in just over two minutes. Brigham got into the act, grabbing a steal, hustling down the court, recovering her own rebound and notching a bucket to tie the score, 14-14. With 35 seconds left Marcello hit an outside shot to put the home team up 16-14.
As Greenport desperately tried to score, they found themselves fenced in with Islanders with hands up high. The ball got kicked out of the scrum with Brigham grabbing the ball and racing the length of the court, dropping in a layup as time expired.
The crowd roared their support and the team gleefully surveyed the scoreboard displaying the 18-14 win. They had doubled their scoring of the entire game, putting up 12 points in a single quarter.
Following the game Coach Mayo complimented the team’s effort: “We are focusing on learning positions on the court and running plays. Everyone is working really hard, and having lots of fun.”
She also singled out the boys junior high basketball team for coming to cheer on their classmates. That community support for our young athletes is so important.
The high school basketball team is finishing up their season, so consider watching this up-and-coming team to get your gym fix. Put on your boots and scrape off the car; the enthusiasm and pure joy of youth sports is hard to match.
The next home game is on Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. against Mattituck Blue.