Step one is complete.
The Southampton girls basketball team successfully defended its Suffolk County Class B title with a decisive 50-33 victory over Center Moriches at the Eastport South Manor High School on February 19.
Now, the Lady Mariners will focus on step two—defending their Long Island crown. Southampton will again face Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island title game on Wednesday, March 6, at Hofstra University.
“We’re up for it,” Southampton coach Rich Wingfield said. “All of those games we had in the beginning of the year, that was about trying to make December feel like it’s March.”
The games Wingfield used to prep his team for a more challenging postseason were the only three losses it suffered this season, all to schools with much larger enrollments: Walt Whitman, Long Island Lutheran and Sachem East.
Those games were scheduled in response to the sudden conclusion to the team’s 2012 run. After narrowly escaping with the Long Island Championship, 35-34, against Cold Spring Harbor, the Lady Mariners suffered a 30-point drubbing by two-time defending state champion Irvington to fall one win shy of a berth in the state final four. Irvington went on to win the public school and the New York State Federation titles.
“I’m excited for it,” said senior Paris Hodges, referring to the upcoming championship game. “I want us to do what we did last year except, this year, we’re hoping to get to states.”
While it takes hard work and a dedication of both time and effort to create a perennial champion, it is also the unmeasurable factor of “team chemistry” that the Southampton players and coaches say set them apart from other squads.
“We’ve been together for so long,” Hodges said of her teammates. “We started back when we were in third grade and have been together ever since.”
She added, with a laugh, “Plus, a lot of us are related, so that helps.”
Coach Wingfield echoed his player’s sentiments.
“The chemistry of this team can be described as L-O-V-E. They love one another,” he said. “They never fight. They never complain. They never look at anything like it’s someone else’s fault. They take care of each other. The chemistry is so important. It is the most important thing that we have.”
The county title is the second championship of the season for the Lady Mariners, who rolled through their League VII season with a 12-0 record. Center Moriches finished second in the league, losing only to Southampton.
Southampton and Center Moriches played to an 8-8 tie after the first quarter in the title game, highlighted by an 8-2 run by Center Moriches, with all of the Red Devils’s points coming from Takia Plummer.
That was where the balance would end as Southampton built a 24-17 halftime advantage. The Lady Mariners increased their lead to 12 points after three quarters, 37-25.
“Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good becomes better, your better became best,” Wingfield said moments after the win. “Our better became best tonight.
“I told the girls that we were not here to win a championship, but to defend a championship—that’s a different mentality,” he continued. “We won it last year, so we had to act like we’ve been here before and that’s what they did. They acted like they’ve been here before.
“It became a game of not can you, but will you. And that’s what I love most about these girls,” he added. “Everyone exerted a tremendous amount of willpower. We had a rhythm, we knew what we needed and that group that was out there was consistent and didn’t get tired. We worked 12 days since our last game and we used that time to up our conditioning and we proved tonight we could defend this title.”
Lady Mariner Paris Hodges was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points to go along with 12 boards while her sister, Noelle, put 12 on the board while also collecting three assists. Cassidy Guida scored all 12 of her points from beyond—way beyond—the three-point arc.
“I’m really proud of my team,” senior Carley Guida said after the win over Center Moriches. “We’ve been working really hard this past week. Coach said if we lost, it would be more of an embarrassment than anything, so I think that was a good push for us.”