The 2011 girls basketball team beat every team put in its way in the regular season en route to the No. 1 overall seed in the Suffolk County Class AA playoffs. The Tigers – like usual – seemed to be destined for a long playoff run and a slew of championship game appearances. The team dispatched of Smithtown East in the first round before being shocked by Copiague, 53-47, in the second round.
“It was the first time that we ever got upset in the playoffs like that,” head coach Richard Castellano said. “That was a big change for us.”
Now, after graduating three senior-all county players – Stephanie Leon, Chrystal Pope and Megan Marinelli - the team is in what Castellano called a “reloading year.” An early season tournament in Disney World left the Tigers with two losses on their record but gave them valuable experience against tough out of state opponents.
“Going to Florida and living together for 5 days – breakfast, dinners, lunches and playing games – it’s all a team building thing,” Castellano said. “It helps us get better and stronger as a team.”
Head Coach: Richard Castellano
Last Year: 19-1
Position Breakdown: Only one starter returns from last year’s team that went 18-0 in the regular season. Junior Allie Clarke has been joined in the starting lineup by sophomores Allie Pavinelli and Bryce Paganas, junior Kristin Cleary and senior co-captain Annie Dodge.
“They really haven’t played in tough games together,” Castellano said. “That’s why we scrimmaged teams like North Babylon, John Glenn, Harborfields, and Wyandanch - all those teams. We did that to get them ready.”
Expectations: Castellano reiterated that this year’s team was just reloading – they lost high quality players to graduation but have players of near or equal talent to fill the void. “We have new kids – who have played before but haven’t played together, “he said.
The early season Florida swing and the post-Christmas Suffolk Shoot-out tournament the team is taking part in might leave them with more losses than they are accustomed to, but Castellano knows it will help the team in the long run.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “We don’t have to rebuild – if you look around the gym we have 26 league championships, 11 county championships – which is most of anybody. I take that as a compliment not because of my coaching but because of the girls I’ve had. I’ve had very good athletes and I have a great coaching staff. The middle school coaches are great and allow us consistency.
“We talk about a program – the program always survives and always gets better,” he said. “Are we as good as we were last year at the end of the season? No. Will we be? Yes.”
- Jan. 6: Whitman @ Northport, 6 p.m. (Coaches vs. Cancer)
- Jan. 20: West Islip @ West Islip, 6:15 p.m.
- Feb. 7: Lindenhurst @ Northport, 6:00pm