T-Birds Eliminated From Suffolk Playoffs

HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, Mar. 5

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Although it’s always preferred, this year’s Lady Thunderbirds reached a point where they weren’t concerned with just “winning,” head coach Adam Cirnigliaro said.

They just didn’t want the season to end.

The 2014-2015 Thunderbirds’ season came to a close with a playoff loss to Copiague on Feb. 17.
The 2014-2015 Thunderbirds’ season came to a close with a playoff loss to Copiague on Feb. 17.

“More than just wins and losses, our team was extremely close,” the first-time head coach said. “We just didn’t want it to end… I absolutely loved this season.”

After finishing League II play, the Thunderbirds (10-9) were awarded a no. 14 seed in this year’s Suffolk County Class AA tournament. Facing No. 3 Copiague in the first round on Feb. 17, Hills East had its season come to an end with a 58-42 defeat.

“They jumped on us early,” Cirnigliaro said.

The girls played hard, he added, but Copiague thrived with 21 points from one of its speedy guards, Ihnacinse Grady.

Hills East was led by Kristen McKenzie, a senior captain, who scored 19 points. Aliyah Minor, another senior and captain, scored 8 points in the setback.

“We have a lot to replace next year, especially at the forward position,” Cirnigliaro said.

Both McKenzie and Minor spent time at that position this year for the Thunderbirds. Averaging 15.8 points per game through league play, McKenzie was named an All-County player this year, he said. For the second-straight year, he said, Minor was awarded All-League honors.

“There’s going to be some intangible stuff that we’ll lose from [our seniors],” he said.

Haley Cohen, Tiffany Coleman and captain Dani Lulley round out that group of seniors for Hills East.

“But while we’ll lose a lot, we still have a good core coming back,” Cirnigliaro said.

Mesha Rivers, a captain as a junior on this year’s team, is set to return and capitalize on a season where she averaged 7.9 points per game. Eighth-grader Sophia Tawil, along with freshmen Jessica Womble, Alexa Wallace and Jessie Maurer, make up a group of underclassmen that Cirnigliaro is excited to see on the court next season. Rachel Silverman and Jessica Mersand, a pair of juniors, round out the Thunderbirds’ roster.

With his first year as a head coach in the books, as he prepares for next season, Cirnigliaro said he’s already started work on a new team motto for 2015-2016.

“Every time we step onto the court, we need to focus on urgency,” he said. “That’s something we want to pick up starting now; every time we step into the gym, we’re not just there to be there. That’s the mentality that’s going to take us a long way.”

Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, Mar. 5, 2015;  A23)

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