For the past two seasons, the Westhampton Beach girls basketball team has missed out on making the playoffs by a single win, finishing 6-8 in 2016-2017 and then 7-9 in 2017-2018.
So what will the Lady Hurricanes need to do to get over that hump?
“I think we need to up our intensity in practice,” Westhampton Beach head coach Katie Peters said. “The girls have come out and they really are looking good. They’re meshing well. I think they need to trust the process of the on-court chemistry and be patient. That’s a word we keep going back to, [patience]. Doing those kind of little things every day will translate to the big things.”
Westhampton Beach has three key returning starters in junior two-time All-County player Isabelle Smith, junior forward Layla Mendoza and forward Lindsay Rongo, the lone senior on the team. Junior forwards Helena Jones and Hannah King, sophomore guards Caroline Henke, Alexis Valerius and Giana Murphy and sophomore forward Molly Skorobohaty, along with freshman guards Molly McCarthy and Olivia Rongo, make up the rest of the squad. Peters said she likes the versatility of Skorobohaty, who can play both the guard and forward positions, and that McCarthy is a strong player coming over from East Moriches. Olivia Rongo, Lindsay’s younger sister, is a defensive spark plug, Peters said.
The Lady Canes will compete in a massive League V this season that includes 10 teams, the largest league in the county. Amityville, Bayport/Blue Point, East Hampton, Elwood/John Glenn, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Sayville, Shoreham/Wading River and Wyandanch all make up the league. Mt. Sinai is the early favorite to win the league, Peters said, but noted her team isn’t far behind.
Westhampton Beach will host Pierson/Bridgehampton in a non-league game this Thursday, November 29, at 4:30 p.m., and then will play at cross-town rival Eastport South Manor in another non-league game on Monday, December 3, at 6 p.m. The Lady Canes host East Hampton in the league season opener on December 7 at 4 p.m.
There was an expected drop for the Westhampton Beach boys basketball team, which reached the Suffolk County Class A finals last season, after four of its five starters graduated in Jake Gaudiello, Nigel Brathwaite Jr., Nolan Quinlan and Jack Tiska. But then Simon Braithwaite, the last of last year’s starting five, moved to Florida over the summer, then four more players who either played football or soccer who were expected to be on the team decided not to play this year, leaving head coach John Baumiller with essentially a brand new team.
Alec Small is the only player returning who played some meaningful minutes off the bench last season and will be picking up a much larger role in his senior season, as will senior guards Riley MacDonald and Evan D’Allesandro and senior forward Brian Mensch. Colby Bloxon decided not to play last year but is back. Also returning are seniors Spencer Trager, Aidan Sattler, Noah Morgado, Sam Hickey and junior Michael Tomaro, while juniors Andy Wilcenski, Axel Latt and Jacob Croce and sophomore Will Razzano are up from junior varsity.
Baumiller said it would be nice to have the players who decided not to play this season, but he, and the rest of the team for that matter, are going with a next-man-up mentality.
“I’m looking forward to the season, I really am,” he said. “These are all really, really good kids, and I don’t think anyone expects us to do anything so the kids seem to have a bit of a chip, and that’s fun for a coach. The juniors are trying their [hardest]. Right now it’s like a puzzle for them, but I keep telling them, let’s put it together and figure it out.”
There are 19 Class A teams in Suffolk County this season, the majority of them split between Leagues IV and V, with Elwood/John Glenn being the lone ‘A’ team in League VI. Westhampton Beach will continue to compete in League V, which this season includes returning state champion Amityville, Bayport/Blue Point, East Hampton, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Sayville, Shoreham/Wading River and Wyandanch.
Westhampton Beach will begin the season with a non-league game at home against Pierson on December 5 at 4 p.m. The Hurricanes will host Mt. Sinai in their league opener on December 15 at 11:45 a.m.