The Hampton Bays girls basketball team might not be favored to win the Suffolk County Class B Championship this season—that distinction goes to defending champion and crosstown rival Southampton—but winning a county title is the only acceptable outcome for the Lady Baymen this year after being so close to winning one last season.
Hampton Bays led Southampton for most of last year’s county final, only to see its lead evaporate when Lady Mariner Noelle Hodges hit a jumper with 2:15 remaining in the game to put Southampton up for good. The loss ended what could have been a banner season for the Lady Baymen, who went 6-2 in League VII, which catapulted them into the postseason for the first time in five years.
Hampton Bays head coach Pat McGunnigle said it was a tough loss, but he expects his team to be there battling for the county title again this season. “That’s our goal, to get back there and win the thing,” he said. “It would be a disappointment if we didn’t, because we’ve put so much time into this. I feel we’re ready for it.”
The Lady Baymen will be missing one of its best players from last season, Theresa Carey, who graduated. She led the team in scoring and smoothly ran the team from the point guard position. Forward Meghan McManus also has graduated, along with backup guard Debbie Assis, but McGunnigle acknowledged that the biggest loss is Carey. “She was the vocal leader and also led by example,” he said. “She was one of the best practice players, one of the best offseason players, that I’ve ever had.”
But he added, “Everyone is saying we don’t have leadership because of the loss of Theresa—but we do.”
Alexis Fotopoulos will take over Carey’s role as the starting point guard, and McGunnigle said she is more than ready for it. Fotopoulos will be entering her third year on varsity even though it’s just her first year in high school. The freshman averaged 10 points per game last season and leads a very strong group of guards.
Junior Trish Liotta will be starting at shooting guard, while freshman Hannah Reed, also in her third year at varsity, should start at small forward. Junior Mary Kelly Hilton and sophomores Rebecca Harris and Sarah Judice are all up from junior varsity and create what McGunnigle called a five-man rotation in his back court.
“We can score,” he said. “We have five guards who are interchangeable. All can shoot the ball.”
Senior Andrea Tufano returns to the front court and will be a presence on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball for the Lady Baymen. She recorded two quadruple-doubles last season and averaged double figures in both points and rebounds. Tufano does get in foul trouble quite a bit, and controlling that is something McGunnigle said is key to his team’s success. “There are certain things that have to happen in order for us to do well, and one of them is that we have to keep Andrea out of foul trouble,” he said. “Also, we need to have some depth at the forward and center positions.”
Last year, Hampton Bays suffered some injuries to key backups, and it hurt the Lady Baymen in the long run. Charlie Forman, now a junior, missed most of last season with an injury and she is currently injured heading into this season with a foot ailment. The 6-footer won’t be back for about two weeks but will be Tufano’s main backup when she returns. Senior forward Aubrey Rogers also was hurt last season but is healthy coming into this season and should share starting roles with junior Haley Wood, who is heading into her third year on varsity.
Since it has every player back from last season’s county championship team, Southampton remains the favorite to win League VII this season, and possibly the county title as well. Mattituck and Center Moriches are typically competitive, though, and Babylon and Wyandanch were very young last season and should see improvement this season. Mercy rounds out the league.
The Lady Baymen get their season under way with a non-league game at home against Stony Brook (League VIII) on Tuesday, December 4, at 4 p.m. They will open the League VII season at Babylon on December 14 at 6:15 p.m.
Hampton Bays will hold its annual Tip-Off Tournament next weekend, with Eastport South Manor, Hauppauge and East Hampton participating in this year’s contest. East Hampton will play Hauppauge in the opening game of the tournament on Friday, December 7, at 5:15 p.m., while Hampton Bays will play ESM in the second game at 7 p.m. The winners of Friday’s games will play the following day at 3 p.m., while the losers will play the consolation game at 1:15 p.m. Hauppauge defeated Hampton Bays last season to win the tournament.