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Shelter Island Girls basketball teams are fan favorites: Varsity and junior high teams sparkle on home court

“National Girls and Women in Sports Day, was this week, so this doubleheader tonight is a great way to showcase Girl Power,” Coach Erin Mulrain told the Reporter.

Always passionate and enthusiastic, Coach Mulrain was especially pumped after the varsity team’s strong showing against the Smithtown Christian Knights on Friday, Feb. 9. The game was part of a busy weekend of contests that capped Spirit Week at the school, and was preceded by a pep rally.

The Knights have two strong players who proved hard to stop. But with “Hustle is a talent” mindset, the Islanders gave it their all, and played their best game of the season. While Grace Catherine-Gray is out for the season with an injury, and Victoria Hernandez didn’t see playing time in this game, every player that saw court action got onto the stat sheets.

The team started fast, and didn’t slow down. Sophie Clark was matched up against the Knights talented point guard and top scorer. Clark had three fouls against her in the first quarter. But the senior is smart and backed off a bit, while others, such as speedy Quinn Sobejana stepped in to slow down the opponent.

Lili Kuhr makes a no-look pass to a teammate. (Credit: Francesca Frasco)

The Islanders were tough on the boards, with all eight players getting in on the action. Mary Labrozzi had one rebound, while Sobejana, Lili Kuhr and Keili Osorio Lopez each contributed two.

Kaitlyn Gulluscio found her way onto all columns of the stat sheet. Including her trademark 3-pointer, she contributed 6 points, five rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block. Gulluscio’s strength is also in helping her teammates.

As Susie Kane got bonked by a Knights defender, she had to straighten her glasses. Gulluscio helped her up, slapping hands, and assured her that, “You’re good.”

Kane was definitely good. Defying her small stature, she had five rebounds, and to the entire gym’s delight, she also hit one of her free throws to score her first point of the season. Her ear-to-ear grin was great to see.

As has become customary, Kat Austin was fierce on the boards. Along with her 17 rebounds, she had eight points, contributing to the team’s highest point total of the season. Following the game, Matt Dunning, coach of the boys JV team, came to the huddle to give Kat a special shout out for her inspiring play. 

Sophie Clark was on fire, and achieved the very rare double double-double. Her team-high 22 points eclipsed the total score of some of the Islanders previous games. In addition, she had an incredible 24 rebounds.

The very entertaining game ended with the Knights on top 57-39. Coach Mulrain reacted to the full-game effort and nice scoring with an enthusiastic, “I am a very proud coach!” With athletes developing quickly, and the team coming together to score and support one another, she has every right to be.

The varsity team lost to a strong Greenport/Southold team on Feb. 10, but still have two home games left on the season: Port Jefferson at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 and Mattituck at 4 p.m. on Feb. 14.

Junior High basketball starting strong

The first part of the basketball double header on Friday, Feb. 9 was the 7th and 8th grade girls game against Greenport Purple. The festive gym was decorated with streamers and balloons along with posters showcasing the seniors who would be honored the next day at the Senior Game.

It was the squad’s third game, and Coach Kristin Sweeney was happy with the effort. “We have new goals each game. We hit those, and just keep on getting better.” The team also is building a great deal of trust and confidence in each other, while scoring more points in each game.

Last year the team was composed entirely of 7th graders, so it was difficult, since the game was brand new to the whole squad. This year six of the players returned, with only three 7th graders. Having that leadership and skill in the gym is very helpful.

The aim of the 7th and 8th grade, aka junior high, aka “modified” sports season, is to introduce athletes to a sport and allow for skill development. In that spirit, Coach Sweeney split the team into two squads for the game, so players could alternate quarters. She will mix and match players as needed, and as team roles become more well-established.

In the first quarter against the Porters, Natalie Mamisashvili, Lexi Bartilucci, Makayla Cronin, Lily Potter, and Danielle Rasmussen set the pace for a fast-paced game, hustling up and down the court in fearless fashion.

Bartilucci hit for 4 points, Rasmussen grabbed one of her two rebounds on the game, and Cronin showed that she has evolved from a fast defender to someone who isn’t afraid to handle the ball while traveling down the court at high speeds. Potter, who was injured for most of last season, is a steady presence on the court, recording two rebounds and two steals for the night.

The second quarter also introduced Aisley Davidson, Elizabeth Weslek, Michelle Martinez and Kylie Kuhr to the hardwood. Despite having three less experienced 7th graders on the floor, the Blue and Gray’s momentum did not drop, and they scored another 8 points.

Weslek scored 2 points, while Martinez established herself as a terrific rebounder, grabbing five in this quarter alone, and totaling 10 for the game.

Davidson was able to move to spots quickly, getting into position for called plays such as “UConn,” and showing poise at the free throw line. Kuhr is a sparkplug on the court. Agile with quick hands, she stripped the ball from the Porters seven times.

The game was very offensive-oriented. While Mamisashvili, Kuhr and Bartilucci are the main point guards, every Island player seemed confident enough to handle the ball, and to shoot. Mamisashvili was the high scorer for the team with 8 points, and also collected six rebounds.

After the half, despite spirited shooting, the Islanders scoring hit a dry spell. Undeterred, the team continued to hustle, pass the ball well and support one another.

The final score was 36-16 in favor of Greenport Purple. Lily Potter commented on the game. “We are really growing together as a team. I really like that we are running plays this year, being more confident and taking more shots, which is showing on the scoreboard.”

Coach Sweeney said the team’s main goal is concentrating on getting better at the game overall. They are also focusing on defense, and learning to trust their instincts. She remarked, “I am very proud of their tenacity.”

Tenacious for sure, and fun to watch. Come see the team in action in the Islanders gym on Feb. 16 against Mattituck Gold, and Feb. 27 against Mattituck Blue. Both games start at 4:30 p.m. t