The girls basketball team broke a 15-year losing streak against rival , 48-41, on Tuesday night in the second Coaches vs. Cancer game, a victory fans are hailing as "the end of the curse."
"It's been a long time," said a Whitman fan named Don. "I'm 80 years old and I've been coming here since I was 10. I don't think I've seen them win against Northport."
Tuesday's game was neck and neck with a tie at 11 after one quarter, and Whitman maintaining a 26-15 lead at the end of the second. It was 31-27 after three.
The fourth quarter was a tug of war with Essence Casey putting Whitman up 44-38 with 1:27 remaining. Northport's Allie Pavinelli countered with a three-point shot with 46 seconds left, closing the gap to 44-41. But two Whitman layups sealed the win.
“I thought the second quarter was our most important one. To go into the half with an 11-point lead was really big,” Whitman Coach Dan Trebour said. “While our defense was really good, it was our offense, attacking the rim and getting some of their starters in foul trouble, that really helped us in that second quarter.”
Northport made a run in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points. But the Wildcats answered with 17 of their own. “We mixed up our man-to-man and zone defenses to keep them on their heels a little bit,” added Trebour.
Trebour said he anticipated a close game judging by the first Coaches vs. Cancer game against Northport in early January that ended with an 11th hour rebound victory by Northport, 49-45. This time around, he said, his team was faster and more focused on their offense.
Junior Kelly Bilodeau had a tremendous game with 18 points and seven rebounds, including one offensive rebound late in the game that stood out in Tuesday's game according to Coach Trebour. "We were able to pull the ball out and now they had to start fouling us," he said. "They would have had the ball I think down three, instead we got the offensive rebound."
Essence Casey contributed 14 points with strong aggressive play, Katira Jemmott added six points, Julia Cranz and Hayley Mena each with four points and Marissa Olsen with two points all contributed to the win.
Northport Coach Rich Castellano acknowledged that the foul trouble encountered by some of his best players -- Dorrien Van Dyke, Allie Clarke and Pavinelli -- may have hurt the outcome, but said they still had good players coming from the bench.
"I've done this long enough to know that even the best laid plans don't work sometimes, and that's the way you play the game," he said. "I wasn't pleased with it, but it happened. What I told all the girls after the game was that nobody died, because they were very upset. We have a legacy to stick with, the girls want to win every game, they don't want to lose so they were upset but we'll be okay."
Whitman burst out in an exuberant roar when the final buzzer went off, having just cinched a hard-earned victory against Northport -- a team who had just lost their first league game in four years against Lindenhurst two weeks earlier.
"They celebrated pretty loud after they won, it was like they won the Super Bowl," said Castellano. "I told the girls on my team, take that as a compliment, because if they beat us, it's a big thing for them."
The Whitman Wildcats raised $1,000 for cancer on Tuesday, bringing the combined total raised for the American Cancer society to $2,200 over both girls basketball games.
"Every one of the kids knows somebody that has cancer. It's something very special," said Castellano, who co-chairs the American Cancer Society's Suffolk County Coaches Council and provides the direction and driving force behind the program. During the 2010-2011 basketball season, Section XI boys and girls basketball programs had 85 percent of teams participating in the Coaches vs. Cancer program and raised over $42,970.
Whitman’s next home game is on Feb. 7 against West Islip at 6 p.m. They are presently tied for second place with a 7-3 record and four games remaining in the regular season.
Northport will play a home game with Central Islip on Friday at 6 p.m. and a rematch home game against Lindenhurst on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.