March 29, 2010
Awe-inspired efforts. All-American performances. All-world personas. And a few champions were crowned, too. Welcome to the Long Island high school winter sports scene. Jason Molinet and Long Island Pulse magazine followed it all, from its snowy beginnings to its breathless conclusion in overheated gyms. Here are our highlights:
Best Season: What a wrestling season it was. The contingent Suffolk County sent to the state Federation Wrestling championships in Albany was a record-setting bunch. Eight wrestlers from Suffolk won titles, tying a meet record. Rocky Point alone had three winners. Rocky Point senior Stephen Dutton led the parade of champions, capturing the 140-pound weight class in the state Division I final. It was his second straight title. Newsday crowned Glenn wrestling as the top winter sports team on Long Island after winning its second straight Suffolk Division I team title. The program has won 58 dual meets in a row and senior Nick Meinsen took home the state crown at 130 pounds.
Best Finish: In 2009, North Babylon’s Berfrantz Charles lost the state title in the 55-meter dash by one hundredth of a second. Talk about agonizing. This winter, the senior looked to be on pace for an encore. Charles ran second to Edison Tech’s Mark Canady in two preliminary heats of the 55-meter dash, only to come back and leg out a victory in the final at the state Federation Indoor Track and Field championships in Ithaca. Charles ran the 55 in 6.391 seconds, winning by 0.007 of a second. It was a personal best. But what goes around comes round as Charles was edged out in the long jump. His leap of 23 feet, 8.5 inches was good for second.
Best Effort: No one made a more determined effort in a loss than North Babylon’s Bria Hartley. The senior point guard set a Suffolk playoff record with 51 points in a 72-69 loss to eventual state champ Sachem East in the Suffolk Class AA title game. It’s reminiscent of a similar performance from the past when Cold Spring Harbor’s Wally Szczerbiak went off in a playoff loss to Hempstead. Hartley was recently named Miss Basketball in New York and signed with Connecticut. See her play in the McDonald’s All-American game on ESPNU at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Best Coach: Sure, Tom Diana has a gym full of talent. But the Uniondale boys basketball coach pulled off a remarkable 18-4 run and a Nassau Class AA title with a 64-61 win over Baldwin. It was the program’s eighth county title since 2002. Why the fuss? Because Diana did it with just one returning starter from last season’s Long Island championship squad – and with a cast of freshmen and sophomores. It takes supreme ability to harness 14- and 15-year-olds and recast them as champions.
Best Follow: Tobias Harris, who else? The Tennessee-bound basketball standout from Half Hollow Hills West was not just a phenom on the court. He was a social networking star, too. Harris created a fan page on Facebook and Twittered, where he shared his every thought in what turned out to be a wild ride of a season. Harris led Hills West to its first Long Island Class AA title and lost in the state title game. Along the way, Hills West went 24-2 and Harris was named Mr. Basketball in New York. But his season isn’t over. The McDonald’s All-American game is next. Follow him at:
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
March 1, 2010
They call it March Madness for good reason. The Long Island winter sports season has reached critical mass. There is no shortage of events this week (March 1-7) with championships on the line. Here is Long Island Pulse magazine’s day-by-day rundown of the most significant:
High School Boys Basketball
Half Hollow Hills West vs. Longwood (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. @ Farmingdale State): No. 1 Half Hollow Hills West (21-0) routed Bay Shore, 96-48, in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals on Sunday. The highly-touted Harris brothers put on a show. Tennessee-bound Tobias Harris had 21 points in three quarters while junior Tyler Harris scored 23. Hills West, ranked 24th in the nation by USA Today, goes for its second county title in three years. In the other semi, Longwood (19-2) scored 51 second-half points to race past Lindenhurst, 79-62. The second-seeded Lions are the undefeated League I champs, a rarity for the black-and-blue league. Longwood, in the county final for the second straight year, last won the Suffolk crown in 2000, when it lost in OT of the state title game to Ben Gordon and Mount Vernon. Longwood’s Dennis Terry is a great coach, but it’s asking a lot to draw up a game plan to take down such a complete team in Hills West. It’s a small gym, so get there early. Admission $6.
Hofstra vs. Georgia State (Friday, 6 p.m. @ Richmond Coliseum): No team is hotter than Hofstra (18-13, 10-8), which enters the Colonial Athletic Association first round game as the No. 7 seed and winners of nine of its last 10 games. The Pride beat Georgia State, 87-74, to close out the regular season and draws a rematch here. Then it becomes a battle of endurance. Second-seeded Northeastern awaits the winner in a quarterfinal on Saturday at 6 p.m. If the Pride can keep winning, its semifinal is 5:30 p.m. Sunday with the CAA title game on Monday night.
High School Track and Field
State Track and Field Indoor Championships (Saturday, 9 a.m. @ Cornell University in Ithaca): It’s two meets in one and an adrenaline rush of a day. Public School and Federation titles will be awarded at historic Barton Hall. Garden City senior Emily Menges is the defending state champ in the 1,000 meters. With Menges running a leg, the Trojans should also be a factor in the 4 x 800 relay. The Northport girls will give chase. Roslyn senior Emily Lipari won the 1,500 a year ago and goes back as the Nassau champ in the 3,000 and 1,500. North Babylon’s Vanessa Stewart has a chance in the shot put. Connetquot senior Amy Cheung, who took third in the 1,500-meter racewalk last season, will challenge. On the boys side, Riverhead senior Mike Smith is the defending champ in the shot put and North Babylon senior Berfrantz Charles returns one year after finishing second in the 55 meters. If you’re driving, leave early to avoid bad conditions. The road to Ithaca can be treacherous.
America East Tournament quarterfinal (Saturday, noon @ Chase Arena in Hartford): Despite tripping up in a loss Sunday to lowly New Hampshire, Stony Brook University (21-8, 13-3) earned the top seed and a bye in the America East Tournament. The Seawolves face Thursday’s Albany-UMBC winner on Saturday. The semifinal is 5 p.m. Sunday. And if Stony Brook can advance to the title game, it will play March 13 at home. But the bigger question: After getting drilled, 77-55, on Sunday to snap its 10-game winning streak, can Stony Brook refocus?
High School Boys Basketball
Uniondale vs. Baldwin (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. @ SUNY-Old Westbury): This has emerged as the premier rivalry in Nassau hoops. Top-seeded Uniondale (15-3) got past Hempstead, 52-45, in a Nassau Class AA semifinal while No. 2 Baldwin (17-2) outlasted Farmingdale, 47-31. Uniondale, the defending Long Island champ, won Nassau titles from 2002-06. Senior guard Bolade Akingboye is the lone returning starter from last season. Uniondale and longtime coach Tom Diana have been getting it done with a young cast of freshmen and sophomores. Baldwin, under coach Darius Burton, plays stifling defense. The Bruins’ last loss came in December to Uniondale, 67-64. And its last county title, in 2008, came at the expense of Uniondale. That’s right, these teams have a complicated history. Admission $6.
East Coast Conference Tournament semifinal (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. @ C.W. Post): C.W. Post (22-5, 18-3) finished the regular season tied with Bridgeport atop the East Coast Conference and is ranked 10th in the East Region. It needs to win the ECC Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament. Luckily, the second-seeded Pioneers get a first-round bye and host the conference tournament. The title game is Sunday.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
December 14, 2009
Mark your calendar. Thursday, Dec. 17 at 5:45 p.m.
That’s the season opener for the Half Hollow Hills West boys basketball team. The Colts hit the road to face host Eastport-South Manor. It’s also the only glimpse you’ll get of New York’s best basketball player until after the New Year.
Tennessee-bound Tobias Harris is the rarest of sights on Long Island. He’s a transcendent player. The 6-8 senior is considered a top five recruit nationally and the most gifted talent the region has seen since Danny Green (St. Mary’s) and A.J. Price (Amityville) heated up gyms.
Both are in the NBA now. And if father-handler-promoter Torrell Harris Sr. can be believed, then Tobias Harris will jump to the NBA after two seasons of college ball. That’s the plan.
But Harris’ promise recalls another Long Island great: Jason Fraser. The 6-9 Amityville star created a buzz not equaled the last two decades as he led the Warriors on a path to a second straight state championship in 2002. He signed autographs before games, dunked ferociously on foes and no one ever raised an eyebrow when Amityville won by 50 points.
Running up the score? No, the Warriors were simply that good.
Injuries took a toll on Fraser’s pro ambitions. His heyday was in an Amityville uniform, and anyone lucky enough to see him play won’t forget him anytime soon, even if the rest of the basketball world has.
Here is your shot to see the latest and greatest hoops star from Long Island.
In case you forgot, Harris led unheralded Hills West to an undefeated regular season as a sophomore and then claimed the program’s first Suffolk Class AA championship. He transferred to Long Island Lutheran for greater basketball exposure and got it in spades. Harris guided LuHi to a state Federation Class A title last March and then promptly transferred back to Hills West.
This encore season with Hills West includes an added bonus. Tyler Harris is a fast-rising junior who would probably be getting even greater attention if he weren’t playing in the shadow of big brother.
Tobias Harris opens the season as a finalist for the Naismith Award, which goes to the nation’s top high school boys basketball player.
So warm up the car and get ready to follow the Harris Victory Tour as it makes a stop at a high school near you, from Riverhead to Deer Park – and maybe, just maybe the state Final Four at the Glens Falls Civic Center in March.
HALF HOLLOW HILLS WEST BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 2009-2010
DATE OPPONENT TIME
12-17-09 @EASTPORT 5:45 p.m.
1-5-10 @COPIAGUE 4:00 p.m.
1-7-10 DEER PARK 6:00 p.m.
1-12-10 @RIVERHEAD 5:45 p.m.
1-14-10 WEST BABYLON 6:00 p.m.
1-16-10 @ Springfield, Mass. 1:30 p.m.
HOOP HALL CLASSIC vs. Sacred Heart, Conn.
1-18-10 @ Baruch College 5:45 p.m.
BIG APPLE CHALLENGE vs. Bishop Loughlin, N.Y.
1-19-10 SMITHTOWN WEST6:00 p.m.
1-21-10 EASTPORT 6:00 p.m.
1-24-10 @ West Virginia University 12:00 p.m.
PRIME TIME SHOOTOUT vs. Chester, Pa.
1-25-10 @ BELLPORT 7:00 p.m.
1-28-10 COPIAGUE 6:00 p.m.
1-30-10 @DEER PARK 1:45 p.m.
2-02-10 RIVERHEAD 6:00 p.m.
2-04-10 @WEST BABYLON 5:45 p.m.
2-08-10 BELLPORT 6:00 p.m.
2-10-10 @SMITHTOWN WEST 5:45 p.m.
2-14-10 @ Trenton, NJ 3:30 p.m.
PRIME TIME SHOOTOUT vs. Christ the King, N.Y.
2-19-10 SUFFOLK PLAYOFFS
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
November 30, 2009
Memorable plays and magical playmakers marked this high school sport season on Long Island. The fall saw many dynasties continue – from South Side girls soccer to Ward Melville girls swimming – and new faces reach the pinnacle – welcome to the show Half Hollow Hills West football.
It also saw several great athletes finish high school careers in style from Holy Trinity running back Anthony Brunetti, a four-year starter, rushing for 2,000 yards to South Side girls soccer star Crystal Dunn fulfilling her promise with a state crown.
Long Island Pulse magazine followed it all with giddy excitement. Here are our highlights:
Best Finish: When Freeport lost quarterback Paul Ketchens to injury in the Nassau Conference I quarterfinals, it turned to running back Kevin Allen to show senior leadership and direct the offense. All Allen did was power his Red Devils to the Long Island Class I football championship. Freeport’s 38-14 win over Floyd ended five years of Suffolk dominance over Long Island’s largest classification. In fact, it was the first Nassau victory since a powerhouse Freeport squad blew out Floyd in 2003. Allen rushed for 1,095 yards and 17 touchdowns in four playoff games and finished the season with a Nassau-record 35 touchdowns. Amazing!
Best Career: Rockville Centre is Soccer Town, USA. And after churning out one great team after another, the South Side girls soccer program produced a player who will go down as one of the best in Long Island history, and certainly the area’s best since Team USA forward Christie Welsh starred at Massapequa in 1997-98. Who? Crystal Dunn. The four-year player wrapped up her senior season by winning her third state title. She blasted four goals as South Side routed Section V champ Greece Arcadia, 6-0, in the state Class A championship game. Dunn, who signed with the University of North Carolina, tallied nine goals and six assists in the playoffs. Not coincidentally, South Side failed to win a state title in 2008 when Dunn missed all but three games playing for the U.S. under-17 national team. That’s a strong finish to a great career.
Best Repeat: After dropping a 2-1 decision to Newfield and tying with Ward Melville to open the season, the Comsewogue boys soccer team set aside the shaky start and reeled off 20 straight wins. The culmination came in Oneonta on Nov. 23 with a 2-0 win over Section III New Hartford to claim the state Class A championship. Keith Vigorito, a prolific scorer the last two seasons, put a goal in the title game to help the Warriors win back-to-back championships. Only two other boys programs have repeated as state Class A champ since the tournament began in 1978. Sachem claimed consecutive crowns in 1997-98. Section II champ Shenendehowa won or shared the state Class A title four straight seasons, from 1990-93. So give the Warriors their due.
Best Defense: Great defense defines championship football teams on the high school level. But few defenses in recent memory have done more than the unheralded group at Garden City. The Trojans’ immovable D allowed four touchdowns—and 28 points – all season to finish 12-0. That includes nine shutouts. The highlight came in the Long Island Class II title game when Garden City shut down previously unbeaten North Babylon to win 9-6. A fumble recovery on special teams set up the winning 38-yard field goal by Ryan Norton. Now that’s clutch.
Best Marketing Mogul: Nobody jumped onto the national stage quite like Half Hollow Hills West basketball standout Tobias Harris. He was considered a top 100 recruit heading into the summer. But through relentless travel with his AAU team and workmanlike effort at countless skills camps, the 6-8 Harris became one of the most talked-about talents Long Island has ever seen. Adding to his national profile: Harris Twittered his every move and became every basketball fan’s friend on Facebook. After several high-profile visits this fall to hoops hotbeds, from Syracuse to Kentucky, Harris waited until the day after the early signing period ended in mid-November to announce – on ESPNU and in Times Square, no less – that he was attending the University of Tennessee. P.T. Barnum’s got nothing on this kid.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
November 9, 2009
I’ve got a thought your football-shaped brain might struggle to absorb: Basketball season kicks off this week.
I know, I know. Didn’t the Knicks already begin their season of self flagellation in the quest for LeBron months ago? It seems eons longer when you add in the bizarro Stephon Marbury era and other memorable salary clearing moves. Darko Miličić anyone?
For you really hard core New Yorkers, the Nets sans Vince Carter are about as exciting as the New Jersey Turnpike at rush hour. And lest we forget, Syracuse already lost an exhibition game to Division II LeMoyne.
Truth is New York couldn’t be much further from a basketball state of mind. That changes this week when Long Island, hardly a hoops hotbed, becomes the center of attention in the basketball-loving world thanks to two big events.
The first might count as more horror show to this already frightful story. The Hofstra men’s basketball team opens its season on Friday, Nov. 13—that’s always a good omen—against Kansas, the nation’s top-ranked team.
Either way, the Pride can’t lose. This is the highest-ranked team Hofstra has ever faced, and the exposure the program receives can only help. The Pride, coming off a 21-11 season, feature junior guard Charles Jenkins, a natural scorer with a knack for getting to the basket.
This one can’t end badly. A moment in the spotlight, even if it is to play the foil, is an opportunity nonetheless. The game is at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas at 8 p.m. It will air on the ESPN Full Court package on DirecTV. Or you can listen live at GoHofstra.com.
The media glare falls on another Long Islander this week: Half Hollow Hills West hoops sensation Tobias Harris. The 6-8 forward shot up the prep charts in the year since winning a state Class A Federation title at Long Island Lutheran. Harris, of Dix Hills, is considered one of the nation’s top five recruits.
And his journey from unknown scorer as a freshman at Hills to nationally-recognized recruit culminates this week when he signs with a college. The week-long NCAA early signing period begins Wednesday, Nov. 11. The top high school prospects commit amid a frenzy of interest.
Harris has made whirlwind stops at West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee and Syracuse in the last month. Georgia Tech and Maryland are also on his short list.
But don’t look to Newsday—or even LIPulse.com—for coverage of the Harris announcement. In the age of instant self-reporting, Harris has Tweeted his every move. You can follow the Harris saga at http://www.twitter.com/tobias31.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com