NORTHPORT, New York, Dec. 11
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
For some athletes – albeit those of the pigskin variety – getting to say these five words on national television after winning a Super Bowl is the stuff dreams are made of: “I’m going to Disney World!”
But for the girls of the Northport High School basketball team, those five words have become an annual sentiment. From Dec. 17-21 the Lady Tigers, along with Head Coach Richard Castellano, will be heading down to Florida to compete in a tournament with teams from all over the country – and even from Canada.
“We’re not going down there to lose,” Castellano said, while also noting Harborfields High School will be making the trip down for the tournament.
First though, before the Lady Tigers start soaking up the sun, they’ll kick off their regular season with a League II matchup Friday night against visiting Central Islip. The girls will tip off at 6 p.m., and Castellano is hopeful that the girls will be able to shake off some preseason kinks in order to get things rolling for the 2014-2015 season.
“Right now we’re a little challenged offensively – but we can always play tough defense,” the veteran head coach said. “We’re doing a lot of full-court defense, trying to put pressure on other teams because that helps us play pretty up tempo and convert defense into offensive opportunities.”
This season, the Lady Tigers are working to stop offensive penetration, not allow easy shots and rebound well to kick the ball up the court in transition. It’s going to be a team effort, Castellano said, with all of the 15 Lady Tigers on the roster expected to contribute.
“These girls don’t know how good they can be yet,” he said.
One of those girls, Northport’s point guard, Alycia Gimler, a junior, is coming back from an injury. Another, Erin Henningson, a junior forward and captain, is a strong rebounder and tough defender who, at 5-foot-10, “plays bigger than her size,” Castellano said. Northport’s second captain, Sarah Simmons, was called the team’s best shooter by Castellano and, as a four-year varsity player, will be called upon early and often this season.
“She’s beginning to realize that people look to her for scoring,” he said. “She can score from the outside, plays real good defense and has a nice move to the hoop.”
With this core – along with the Lady Tigers’ final captain, LauraMae Cocchi, a senior – Castellano hopes to build upon the success Northport found last season when it was 15-5 and advanced to the Suffolk County quarterfinals.
“This is a tough league, and we’re going to play some tough games, but we always expect to win,” he said.
With five Long Island championships under the school’s belt, it’s tough to say that Castellano shouldn’t expect to win at this point. The journey will begin on Friday against Central Islip and then continue on Dec. 16 as the girls travel to Connetquot for the second game of the season that’s scheduled to tip off at 6:15 p.m.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014; A32)