The measure of a great team is how well it can bounce back from adversity. If the past three games are any indication, the Westhampton Beach girls basketball team could be destined for bigger and better things down the road.
After her team started the season, 10-1, junior Layla Mendoza suffered what was thought to be a torn LCL, a much less devastating knee injury than the feared ACL. But after a few more checkups, it was found that Mendoza had indeed suffered a torn ACL, sidelining her for the rest of the season. It was a tough blow to a team that had gotten off to such a hot start.
Then the losses came.
Reeling from the absence of one of its top players, the Lady Hurricanes lost four straight games from January 10 to 28, and it looked like a second-half swoon was inevitable. But, after some time to readjust, the Lady Canes have rediscovered their mojo, having won their past three games, including Monday night’s 48-36 victory at Elwood/John Glenn, the team that had started that four-game losing streak early last month.
“Sometimes some things have to fall apart to be put back together,” Westhampton Beach head coach Katie Peters said. “We faced some mid-season adversity and, as a team, had to learn how to handle it and come out of it. We have come out of it and it brought the girls closer together.”
Glenn had defeated Westhampton Beach on its home court on a last-second three-pointer, handing it its first league loss of the season. On Monday, though, the Lady Canes played a solid all-around game, Peters said, moving the ball, hitting open shots and communicating on defense for 32 minutes with no lapses. Isabelle Smith continued to lead the offense with 17 points and she also had eight steals, but as the team has been progressing lately, it’s had a number of different players step up. Freshman Molly McCarthy scored 14 points, freshman Olivia Rongo scored seven points, and her older sister Lindsay, a senior, had five blocks.
The Lady Canes also defeated Miller Place, 48-47, at home on Friday afternoon and won, 48-36, at Bayport/Blue Point on January 30. Westhampton Beach trailed Miller Place, 22-6, after the first quarter but went on a 16-0 run to close out the half and tie it up by halftime. The second half was even throughout, and with just over a minute remaining, Smith hit a three then stole the ball and scored on a layup to give the Lady Canes a 45-43 lead.
A key basket by sophomore Molly Skorobohaty put Westhampton Beach up by three points with 22 seconds remaining, and a free throw by Smith extended it to four, which proved key as a Miller Place player sunk a three-pointer as time expired to make it a one-point final.
Smith finished with 18 points and five steals, Olivia Rongo had nine points, nine rebounds and five steals, and sophomore Caroline Henke scored six of her eight points during the team’s second-quarter comeback. She also had four steals throughout the game.
“We played some really tight games that have helped us to learn close-game scenarios, and it is my hope that the real-time experience of those scenarios will have us better prepared if and when we are in situations like that again,” Peters said.
“After we lost Layla we knew everyone needed to step up a little to lessen the load. The last three games everyone has stepped up a little bit and seems like we have found our togetherness rhythm once again since Layla’s injury,” she added.
Westhampton Beach played at Wyandanch on Wednesday and closes the regular season at home the next day against Amityville at 6 p.m. Brackets for the Suffolk County Class A playoffs should come out later this week. An outbracket game is tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 11, but the Lady Canes should be one of the top seven seeded teams and would play two days later on February 13.