Belle Smith was frustrated, but the junior point guard said next year it’s her team’s chance to shine. She and her No. 6-seeded Westhampton Beach team struggled to overcome multiple hot Mt. Sinai hands as the Hurricanes fell 71-44 in the Suffolk County Class A title game February 20.
“It’s tough when a team is hitting shots and we’re not, but it was a great game,” Smith said. “We played them twice in-season and they were two really good games, so we were excited, and being here a few times definitely helped them.”
Smith countered a Brooke Cergol (26 points) three-pointer and a Gabby Sartori (18 points) layup with back-to-back threes to give the Hurricanes an early 6-5 edge. After a Sartori free throw, Olivia Rongo’s long jumper put Westhampton (17-6) ahead 8-6 midway through the first, but it was the last time the Hurricanes would have the lead.
“[Mt. Sinai] played a phenomenal basketball game and we didn’t match them on the defensive end, or the offensive end, and sometimes that happens,” Westhampton head coach Katie Peters said. “I’m proud of my girls. We’re young, so this is a good indication of where we’re heading. All we had we left out there, and what we had today just wasn’t enough.”
By halftime, the 39-19 deficit was just more than the Hurricanes could overcome. The team talked about taking it one possession, one play at a time, according to Peters, but the Mustangs came out just as hot in the second half as they did in the first.
Margaret Kopceinski had 14 points off the bench, entering the game to shoot free throws for Sartori early in the second quarter after she fell hard driving to the basket. After sinking both, Kopceinski knocked down three-pointers on consecutive possessions, extending the Mt. Sinai lead to 29-11. She made four shots from beyond the arc, the last of which put Mt. Sinai (20-3) ahead 60-30 with 37.6 seconds left in the third.
“They’ve been here, they’ve seen this stage, they worked well under pressure, and they didn’t miss a shot,” Peters said.
No. 5 Mt. Sinai will face Pierson in the small school championship at Walt Whitman High School Friday, February 22, at 4:30 PM.
“They were on today, you can’t help that,” said Lindsay Rongo. “It’s very frustrating.”
Rongo said this past season has been the best of her four-year career. She is the only senior Hurricane, while Mt. Sinai will lose four seniors, including starters Sartori, Cergol and Holly McNair.
“I’ve seen us grow so much throughout these last four years,” Rongo said. “It’s a good year to end on.”
Smith (22 points) said she’s already looking to next season with promise, especially with the return of current junior Layla Mendoza, who missed the second half of the season with a torn ACL.
“Mt. Sinai has experience, and came in hot today, but now, we have the experience,” Smith said. “We’re excited to get back here next year and prove people wrong.”