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Shelter Island School girls basketball team: Never backing down

It’s midway through the season for Shelter Island School girls basketball. Coach Erin Mulrain is pleased to be seeing improvements in individual and team abilities every game.

With three games over five days during the week of Jan. 22, it was especially noticeable that practice repetitions and increased game play have allowed some of the less experienced players to become more comfortable with skills and the flow of the game.

Kat Austin and Mary Labrozzi are great examples of this. “During the January 24 game against Mattituck, things began to click for Kat,” Coach Mulrain said.

Austin has been a force on the boards, pulling down rebounds at a double-digit rate for nearly every game. Now she’s more comfortable handling the ball or looking for the smart pass.

Labrozzi is a first-year player, but she saw significant playing time in the Jan. 22 Smithtown Christian game. Not only was it apparent that she’s learning the plays, but she also recorded an assist and two rebounds.

Keili Osorio Lopez is exciting to watch on the court. Fierce on defense, she hustles after loose balls with a vengeance. She pulled down six rebounds in the Smithtown Christian game and three against East Hampton on Jan. 26 in addition to her 4 points.

During the East Hampton game, it was obvious that “court IQ” is increasing for all players. Captains Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Sophie Clark are the most experienced players, relying on each other to know the plays and be in the right spot at the right time.

Gulluscio often dishes out assists to Clark, the high scorer on the team. In the East Hampton game, the Austin-Clark connection also started flowing. Austin got two assists to Clark and two of Clark’s four assists were to Austin.

Susie Kane is really focusing on defense. While not terribly tall, she is fast and can stay with her opponent. Coach Mulrain remarked on how coachable Kane is, and her ability to adjust on the fly as teammates give her advice on the court. In particular, Gulluscio is very effective as an on-court coach, directing her teammates to set up screens or to move into positions on plays.

Quinn Sobejana is back after an ankle injury. Her quick reflexes allow her to knock the ball away from other players, creating turnovers and getting some steals. She’s also earning more and more time as a ball handler, freeing up Clark to work in the middle of the key, her preferred spot to score from.

Lili Kuhr has been out sick for a few games, and the team looks forward to her return to the hardwood. Grace Catherine-Gray and Victoria Hernandez are assisting in tracking statistics and gaining practice so they can contribute some minutes in games.

As the team starts the second half of the season, they have specific goals. In each rematch, the team is striving to score more points and to hold the other team to less points. In the East Hampton game, after a slow first quarter, scoring picked up, and the final score was 6 points less for the Bonackers.

Passing and movement off the ball is better, and the players are focusing on finding and using each other on offense. Crisper passing and players being ready to shoot when they receive the ball is leading to more shot attempts.

Coach Mulrain acknowledges that “we are a second-half team.” Despite often having limited numbers of athletes available, fatigue doesn’t seem to be a major problem. The Islanders never back down or give up, playing to the last second. Their mantra is “Hustle is a talent.”

Come watch and cheer on this indefatigable team at their next home games: Tonight, Monday, January 29 vs. Pierson at 4 p.m. and Feb. 9 vs. Smithtown Christian at 5:45 p.m.