The Westhampton Beach girls basketball team lost seven of its final eight games last season and finished 3-9 in League V, 7-11 overall, and out of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. But with a new season comes renewed confidence, and the Lady Hurricanes are hoping that a fresh roster will keep the program heading in the right direction.
Brooke Alpert, Lauren Smith, Emma Gristina, Ivonne Grunseich, Julia Frangeskos, Zoe Recchion and Maddie Sganga all graduated from last year’s team, leaving just five returning players. Kennedy Skala and Kathleen Mensch are the team’s only returning seniors and will provide good experience for the team, while juniors Shea Casey and Kaila Gagne and sophomore Camryn Bancroft give the Lady Hurricanes an aspect that it has lacked for quite some time now, which is size. All three girls stand close to 6 feet and should be a good inside presence, which will lead longtime head coach Mike Polan to switch up his game plan.
“We’re going to tweak some things now to better suit our personnel,” he said. “But we need to cut down on the turnovers, which has plagued us in the past. We also need to play better D.
“The girls do great in drills in practice, we just need them to carry that over into the game,” Polan added. “We’re going to be scrimmaging more to get them ready for that.”
Up from the junior varsity will be juniors Madison Skala, Kelsey D’Aries, Julia Lewis and Bryanna Gristina. Sophomores Reilly Dunning and Alyssa Romano also join the team, as does junior Caroline Corrigan, who didn’t play basketball last season.
“There’s really not too much that separates us between the girls we had last year,” Polan said. “Lauren [Smith] went down at the end of the year with a concussion and that really hurt us. I think we’re a little deeper this year, whereas if someone does go down, we’ll have someone to step up. We have a lot of competition in practice and practice will determine who will be playing.”
League V takes on a little bit of a new look this season. Eastport South Manor moved up to League IV, bringing Comsewogue down. Harborfields appears to be the league favorite while Islip, Sayville and Rocky Point are also in the league.
Polan said finishing the season with a .500 record in the league and a playoff spot would be nice. “The reality with our league, though, that’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’m hoping with our non-league schedule we get a bunch of wins under our belts and get some confidence. I know the girls will play hard and not give up … sometimes that’s half the battle.”
Westhampton Beach will play a string of eight non-league games before it plays its first league game of the season on January 6 at home against Rocky Point at 6 p.m. The Lady Hurricanes will host their first game of the season against Pierson at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 3.
The Westhampton Beach boys basketball team is just one year removed from having its best season since 2000. The Hurricanes accomplished quite a bit. They ended a 27-game league winless streak, ended the 55-game league winning streak of Harborfields, made the playoffs for the first time since 2003, and won a home playoff game for the first time since 2000.
In June, though, Mike and John Frangeskos both graduated, along with long-time varsity player Luke Dyer. Then a week before the school year started, Devonte Dixon decided to return to William Floyd High School, after leading the team in scoring a year ago. That leaves Westhampton Beach with an entirely new starting lineup, one that head coach John Baumiller, now in his third season, has yet to figure out.
“The guys that are here, a lot of them worked hard in the offseason, they’re working real hard in practice right now with a lot of enthusiasm, and they want to be successful,” he said. “They’re pulling for each other and there are a lot of good, positive vibes that I feel about these guys. They’re into it and they all really, really, really like basketball. It’s all good.”
Returning players include seniors Liam Huysman, Devon Ware, Charlie Caputo, Henry Seelinger, Cole Attar, Corey Gaudiello and juniors Emmanual Clarke and Rashaed Mitchell. Caputo, Clarke, Huysman and Mitchell were all in the rotation last year and got a good amount of playing time and appear to be in the mix to start this season.
Joining the team for the first time is senior Mike Pesce while JV callups Bryce Phillips, Collin Carrerie and Nick LaFrese, all juniors, make up the rest of the squad to start the season. LaFrese is currently nursing a broken arm and won’t return for a few weeks.
Harborfields looks to be the top team in League V once again this season, while Islip and Sayville look to have improved teams from a season ago. Rocky Point is returning quite a bit as well and Comsewogue comes down into the league after ESM moved up to League IV. With just five other teams in the league, Baumiller said it’ll be tough to reach the postseason.
“It’s a lot easier to make the playoffs with 14 league games at 7-7 than it is with 10 games at 5-5,” he explained. “You figure there are at least two teams that are better than you in the league, and at least one team that you know you’re better than, so you’re already in the hole at 2-4. That means you can only lose one game the rest of the season. Last year we won six of our last seven league games to get into the playoffs. It’s very difficult to be successful in 10 games.”
Westhampton Beach will have a busy month of December before its league season starts in January. The Hurricanes will compete in the Kendall Madison Tip-Off Classic at East Hampton High School the weekend of Friday, December 5, with the consolation and championship games to be played the following Saturday at 5 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. The Canes are slated to play Mattituck in their opening game at East Hampton at 5 p.m. Pierson and host East Hampton are the other teams in the tournament. Westhampton Beach will return home to play a non-league game against Bayport/Blue Point on Tuesday, December 9, at 4 p.m. The Canes won’t play their first League V game until January 6, when they host Rocky Point at 4 p.m.
“Last year I told the kids that I had a dream that they would make the playoffs and they would come back to a gym full of people. We did that last year,” Baumiller explained. “So you would think that my goal would be to make the playoffs again. That’s not my goal. My goal every year is for the kids to have a great experience, enjoy the sport and enjoy their teammates.”