Hoop aficionados know League VII is a hotbed for girls basketball.
Consider last year, when Pierson (17-3) flirted with an undefeated season and won the Long Island Class C title and Mattituck (16-4) matched the Whalers win-for win in route to the Suffolk B title, besting Port Jeff (12-9) in the title game. All three of those teams are back and hungry for more hardware: In fact, the Royals already beat Mattituck December 6 in their first league encounter and would like nothing better than another crack at the B title.
The league has gotten even deeper — tiny Smithtown Christian, winners of 10 games last season — is back. And so is Abby Loiacano, a five-foot, four-inch sparkplug who can light it up with anyone, and she’s only a freshman.
One team traveling under the radar is poised for a big step forward: Southampton, 9-10 last season, is looking to build on that rebuilding effort with a bevy of veterans led by senior standout Ishanti Gumbs. Anyone who isn’t aware of how dangerous the veteran mentor Juni Wingfield is, simply isn’t a student of the game.
Witness the game on December 12, when the Mariners made Mattituck dig deep to come out of Southampton with a 55-49 win. The locals put the Tuckers on the alert early coming out of the gate and grabbed a solid lead, expanding it to nine at halftime. Gumbs (16 points) was wheeling and dealing and Wingfield’s pressure defense at time unnerved the Tuckers.
After falling behind by 10 mid-way through the third, though, the visitors started clicking.
Emily Nicholson started scoring with authority and equally important, asserted herself on the boards (seven rebounds).
Southampton began rushing shots and paid the ultimate price when Nicholson took over in the fourth. Aniah Thompson added 12 points for Mattituck.
The win made it three of four for the Tuckers (2-1 In League VII) who are 3-4 overall: They traditionally take on the crème de la crème in the non-league portion of their schedule.
Southampton snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss, but Wingfield has to feel good about his team’s playoff chances. A game at Pierson on December 21 will tell us more. Next up for Mattituck is Center Moriches at home January 6.
Loiacano, by the way, is leading the county with 27.3 points per game average and worth the price of the ferry trip. Samantha Ayotte of Port Jeff (17) and Chastin Giles of Pierson (16) are also among the leaders. Nicholson will be in the Top 10 shortly.