For the first time since the new millennium began, the Westhampton Beach boys basketball team will host a playoff game.
On Monday it was announced that the Hurricanes (7-5 League V, 9-8 overall) will be the fourth seed in the Suffolk County Class A playoffs and, therefore, will host fifth-seeded Bayport/Blue Point today, Thursday, February 13, at 4 p.m.
The contest marks the first time since 2000 that the Hurricanes will play a home playoff game. They won their last playoff home game, beating Bay Shore 66-60, before being eliminated in the semifinals at Longwood, losing a 61-60 heart-breaker.
Oddly enough, Bayport/Blue Point eliminated Westhampton Beach the last time it reached the postseason back in 2003. The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to play at top-seeded Amityville on Tuesday, February 18.
Westhampton Beach head coach John Baumiller is intimately familiar with Bayport/Blue Point, having lived in Bayport for the last several years. He knows Phantoms head coach Kyle Black well, but the Hurricanes themselves haven’t played the Phantoms this year, being that the two play in separate leagues. Bayport/Blue Point went 7-5 in League VI (12-6 overall), though Baumiller noted that was in a league that included both Amityville and Elwood/John Glenn, two very good teams that also reached the Class A playoffs.
“They have a real good team,” Baumiller said of the Phantoms. “They can score. Hopefully, it’ll be a good game.
“My team, when we don’t play well, when we don’t share the ball, we can’t beat the scout team in practice,” he added. “But if we play well, we’re going to do fine. If not, Bayport will take us.”
An added bonus for the Canes will be the home-court advantage. The student section at Westhampton Beach has been boisterous at most, if not all, home games this season, so much that coaches haven’t been able to yell out plays at times. Baumiller said he is able to block out the crowd noise, and knows that his players appreciate the students who come out in support of the team.
“Our kids love it,” he said. “They get all fired up.”
Westhampton Beach ended the regular season on a high note, defeating Islip, 59-42, at home on Friday evening. The Canes were down 20-16 at halftime, but used a 20-6 third quarter to get back into the game and take the lead.
Junior Devonte Dixon scored 31 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. Senior Mike Frangeskos scored 16 points, brought down 11 rebounds and also dished out four assists. Baumiller said his team was a little more patient in the second half, which led to the comeback.
“They executed the offense instead of trying to do it all by themselves,” he explained. “There were a lot more assists in the second half. We adjusted our offense a little bit, we put people in different spots, but give credit to the kids—they reacted well to the deficit they were facing in the second half.”
The Canes have become a second-half team in more ways than one this season. They went 2-4 in the first half of this season before finishing up the regular season with a 5-1 run. The Canes seem to play much better in the second half of their games as well.
“We don’t play that well in the first quarter—at least that’s the way it looks,” Baumiller said. “I think, as the game goes on, our kids get more relaxed.”
The Westhampton Beach girls basketball team lost, 38-24, at Islip last Thursday, February 6, bringing an end to what was a rough second half of the season for the Lady Hurricanes, who lost seven of their final eight games.
Westhampton Beach (3-9 League V, 7-11 overall) was down nine points at halftime at Islip, which head coach Mike Polan did not think was too bad considering that his squad was facing the second place team in the league. But then the Lady Buccaneers went on a quick 8-0 run to start the second half to extent their lead to an insurmountable 17 points. Westhampton Beach outscored Islip, 10-7, in the fourth.
Westhampton Beach senior Brooke Alpert scored seven points in the final basketball game of her career, while sophomore Shea Casey contributed with six points.
The Lady Canes can blame much of their woes this season on a lack of offense. They averaged just 32.9 points per game, which Polan said isn’t going to win a lot of games in any league, let alone League V. Polan was happy with the team’s defense, which allowed only 41 points per game, and that’s with some blowouts factored into the equation.
Overall though, Polan is well aware that his offense needs to get better.
“In the offseason, the girls have to come back and work on their offense,” he said. “We should have a nice inside game with Shea, Camryn [Bancroft] and Kaila [Gagne], but it’s very difficult to change mechanics on a shot during the season, with so many other things going on. Even if it’s a half hour a day, that’s something they have to do.”
Polan realizes that almost every one of his players are three-sport athletes, who also take AP classes and work during the summer, so it’s tough for them to find time in the offseason to practice their basketball game. But if they want to become competitive in the future, it’s something they’re going to have to do, according to their coach.
“Basketball takes more than just being an athlete to win games,” he said. “There are a lot of facets to the game that you need to work on.”
Westhampton Beach will be losing half of its team to graduation. Alpert, Lauren Smith, Emma Gristina, Ivonne Grunseich, Julia Frangeskos, Maddie Sganga and Zoe Recchion are all expected to graduate in June. Polan noted that he’s never had a player work as hard as Smith did.
“She was hurt down the stretch, but Lauren was one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever had,” he said. “She just doesn’t back down, and that’s what makes her an excellent soccer and an excellent lacrosse player. She just has sheer hustle and you can’t teach a kid that—either you got it or you don’t.”