The Westhampton Beach girls basketball team, under new head coach Katie Peters, seems to like to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Whether or not it translates into a winning season remains to be seen, but the Lady Hurricanes certainly have a new-found energy under Peters, and it showed in their first two games of the season last week, which they split. After dropping a close game at William Floyd (League I), 37-36, on November 30, Westhampton Beach won its first game of the season, 26-19, at Eastport South Manor (League IV) on December 2. Both were non-league contests.
The Lady Canes showed hustle in the win over rival ESM, amassing 18 steals in the victory. Belle Smith, an eighth-grader, led the team in scoring (11 points) and steals (5) and also had six rebounds. Senior Shea Casey had four points and two blocked shots and freshman Lindsay Rongo led the team with seven rebounds to go with four points and two blocks. Senior Kaila Gagne had four rebounds and senior Julia Lewis and sophomore Shannon Hewlett combined for six steals.
Westhampton Beach started the game off quite slow, trailing the Lady Sharks, 8-2, in the first quarter. The Lady Canes turned things around in the second to take a 13-10 lead at halftime, then some of their shots started to fall in the second half.
“There is no secret, in any sport, our games against ESM are always competitive, and fueled by a bit of pride in our local cross-town rivalry,” Peters said. “The ESM girls are tough competitors with some great talent on both ends of the court. Each of our girls did their job today—achieving 18 steals in a game is a total team effort— [and] the steals were caused by five girls playing tough defense together.”
The Lady Canes were leading William Floyd, 36-35, with 35 seconds remaining in the game last week, but a turnover allowed the Lady Colonials to take the one-point lead off a layup, and it led to the loss in the season opener.
Smith and Rongo both impressed in their first varsity games; Smith had 10 points, three steals, two assists and three rebounds, while Rongo had eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Casey had 10 points, a team-leading 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Senior Madison Skala scored eight points and had two steals.
Peters was pleased with the defensive effort, particularly from Skala and Rongo. Overall, the team accrued 15 steals and forced 15 other turnovers. The problem was the offense couldn’t finish open looks at the basket; the Lady Canes shot 18 of 60 from the floor, with 95 percent of those shots being lay-ups and mid-range jump shots.
“We controlled the tempo of the game and executed the little things we need to take care of every play,” Peters said. “Our girls did an impeccable job boxing out, something that we have been working on each day. We had many good shot opportunities, we just didn’t finish.”
“Our focus lies in staying poised during games, not rushing our shots, and finishing softly,” she added. “If we made a few shots the game would have been a completely different scenario. We dominated the game, we just couldn’t connect offensively.”
Westhampton Beach played its first League V game on Tuesday at Sayville and it will play at Rocky Point today, Thursday, December 10, at 5:45 p.m. and then play at Harborfields on Tuesday, December 15, at 6 p.m.
Last week’s home non-league game between the Hurricanes and Port Jefferson was postponed due to a leak in the roof above the main gym at the high school. The game is now scheduled for January 25 at home at 4:30 p.m.