Tuesday was a good day to be a Stony Brook Bear.
It started at about 6 o'clock that evening when the girls basketball team defeated visiting Southold /Greenport, 45-36, to clinch a League VIII title. Senior Keara Vancol and her teammates celebrated together, then went their separate ways before reuniting a few hours later through a group text message.
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That was at about 8:30 p.m. after the Stony Brook boys basketball team beat host Southold, 58-32, to clinch a League VIII crown of its own. The boys had gone straight to their phones to share their accomplishment with the girls.
"After a game we always check our phones to see how the [boys team] did because it makes us feel just as good to see them win," Vancol said. "It wasn't just our team but both teams could just enjoy that moment and be excited for one another."
Added Tyler Abrahamsen, a guard on the boys team: "The guys and girls teams are friends off the court, so as soon as we found out, we sent a bunch of texts back and forth. It's a small school and really is a cool atmosphere to play in, so it's rewarding especially when the guys and girls both win."
"It's especially great that we both won on the same night," point guard Marco Masakayan said.
This season has been one of redemption for both squads.
Last year the girls team won only four games and missed the playoffs, ending a streak of seven consecutive league championships.
With its core group returning in Vancol, Allie Damianos, Ali Rothaar, Madison Rylands and Ariana Odom, the team recommitted itself over the summer by attending a challenging camp at Princeton University in late August. The Bears finished 10-4 this season and had a 10-1 league record.
"I think Princeton made us closer and made us communicate better," Odom said. "We had to push each other and learn how to move together on the court. We played six games in like 48 hours."
Rylands epitomized that commitment. Instead of returning home to Saudi Arabia at the end of the school year, the senior guard stayed on Long Island for the summer to help strengthen the team's cohesiveness.
"I wanted to be here with them and grow as a player, and it wouldn't have been the same if I didn't go with them [to Princeton]," Rylands said. "It would have affected the way we played this year and we wouldn't have been connected like we are."
The Bears (14-3, 13-1) earned their second consecutive league boys basketball title but are looking past that, with a devastating loss in last season's Suffolk Class C final still on their minds. Stony Brook fell to Pierson on a three-pointer at the buzzer.
"We went to the locker room right after that and it was the most heartbreaking moment for any of us on the team," Masakayan said. "Ever since then we've been talking about getting that county championship back."
This season the team added depth to its frontcourt with top rebounder Andrew Daniel, a 6-6 forward from Thailand, and 6-4 German exchange student Max Pitsch, who recently returned from a wrist injury he suffered earlier in the season.
Daniel and Pitsch have complemented Masakayan, Abrahamsen and Brandon Odom in the backcourt, putting the team in prime position to reach its ultimate goal. "We feel confident in every situation," Abrahamsen said. "We certainly feel like we have a good team and that loss last year put an extra kick in us so we want to take care of business this year."