On February 15, the Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team had their season flipped upside down. For the 2020 Suffolk County Champions, it wasn’t a critical injury or crushing defeat that stood in the way of their title defense. Instead, COVID-19 served what seemed like the crushing blow to their 2021 season: a 10-day quarantine that truncated their already shortened season. But Coaches Jesse Rosen, Keith Buehler and Charles Hafner made sure to make every day count, keeping the Royals locked in—even during quarantine.
The first two days were all about refocusing. The quarantine had come as a shock, and the team was uncertain if they were going to play again. The next seven were spent together, in virtual meetings, in attempts to boost team spirit throughout the period of self-isolation. Coaches Rosen, Buehler and Hafner made sure to have the team reflect on the experience as a whole, hoping they understood the implication of what they experienced and the importance of the days to come. Senior Hailey Hearney spoke on how the team handled this adversity: “Our team is pretty special in terms of work ethic. If you’ve ever watched one of our games, you know we aren’t going down without a fight. We really try to give it our all and work as hard as possible every time we’re out on the court. We maintained this same mindset during quarantine to make sure we were ready to go come game day.”
When the ten-day hiatus was over, the Royals knew that they only had two in-person practices to prepare for the Suffolk County Semifinal against the John Glenn Knights. After a 40-minute shootaround and a full practice, it was time to fight the Knights with their season on the line yet again.
The Royals started off slow, facing an 8-3 deficit at the end of the first quarter. However, they heated up from there, winning the next two quarters to enter the fourth and final quarter with a 27-19 lead. They conquered the pressure of the final quarter, edging out the Knights by a score of 38-30. This victory was largely credited to a strong day on the glass. The five starters shot a combined 37 rebounds in the all-hands-on-deck effort that defines their style of play. Junior Abbey Rolfe led the way with a 12-point and 10-rebound double-double.
After the game, Coach Rosen commented on his team’s resolve: “It’s always encouraging to be around a group of people who are willing to work towards a common goal. While I know that might sound cliche to some, just watch the Port Jefferson Lady Royals play basketball! It is genuinely inspiring to have a team with an understanding of what it means to ‘buy in’ to something bigger than yourself.”
Tomorrow (February 28) at noon, we have one more chance to see this “all in'' mentality. Now, just as they have all season, the Royals must quickly shift focus. They return to their home court tomorrow, February 28, for the Suffolk County Championship game, squaring off against the Greenport Porters in a duel that will be broadcasted on tdsportsvideo (YouTube). During their regular season, Port Jefferson narrowly won a heated 56-52 game against Greenport. With two sides as closely matched as these, there is no telling how the contest will unfold. If there’s one thing’s for certain, the Royals will fight to the end and give whatever it takes to win that championship.
Tune into the Girls' Basketball Suffolk County Final here at 12:00PM EST on February 28.
Featured image by Connor Lioio