High School Boys Basketball

Newsday runs a full-court press on Long Island high school boys basketball.

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Bob Herzog

Bob Herzog has worked in the sports department at Newsday since 1976. He has covered baseball, football and college basketball.

He has edited and written for several award-winning Newsday special sections on baseball, football and Long Island sports history.

Herzog grew up on Long Island, graduated from Commack High School where he was co-captain of the baseball team, and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Chase Gurcan leads way as St. Anthony's clinches No. 2 seed in playoffs with win

St. Anthony's forward Chase Gurcan is pursued by
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St. Anthony's forward Chase Gurcan is pursued by St. John the Baptist defender Aaron Klag on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.(Credit: Steven Ryan)

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The Chase was on.

St. Anthony's forward Chase Gurcan streaked downfield after a nifty long pass was lofted over the St. John the Baptist defense. Gurcan was ahead of the pack but was denied a goal on a save by Nick Maldarella.

But the Chase wasn't over.

Less than a minute later, Gurcan converted a couple of short passes from T.J. Butzke and Zach Capolongo to score what proved to be the clincher in the Friars' 2-1 victory over St. John the Baptist Thursday night in a CHSAA thriller played before a crowd of more than 200 who braved wind, chill and drizzle in South Huntington.

"Really nice soccer. Fast, short passes. Make the defense work. One touch. One touch," Gurcan said, spitting out fast, short sentences that mirrored the Friars' style as they concluded their league season at 9-3 and clinched the No. 2 seed in next week's league playoffs.

Their opponent? None other than St. John the Baptist (7-4), which had won the first meeting, 2-1, on Sept. 30 and will be the No. 3 seed for the semifinal matchup at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

"This was huge," said Gurcan, a senior who has 15 goals and also assisted on Capolongo's goal in the first minute. "It was the last home game for the seniors and with the playoffs coming we wanted to show that we have the upper hand."

The Friars' defense, led by senior midfielder Beau Hornberger, had the upper hand for much of the game, limiting SJB to a handful of shots on goalie Jonathan Graziosi. But one of those shots got through about a minute after Gurcan had provided a 2-0 lead, as Aidan Keenan netted his 22nd.

Hornberger was especially tough on playmaking midfielder Chris Abruzzo. "That's my job. Win the 50-50 balls and be tough in the middle," Hornberger said.

Thursday night's game, though meaningless as far as Tuesday's playoff matchup was concerned -- No. 4 Kellenberg plays No. 1 Chaminade in the other semifinal -- was played with much verve on both sides. "This gives us a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs," said Hornberger, another senior. "We wanted to send a message."

That message is clear:

The chase for the CHSAA and state titles is on.

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Joe Marcino, started Wantagh High School football program, coached Freeport, dies at 91

Joe Marcino, 91, who started the Wantagh High

Joe Marcino, 91, who started the Wantagh High School football program and was its first varsity coach in 1954.

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Long after their athletic careers were over, many of Joe Marcino's former football players from several Long Island high schools fondly called him "Coach."

Marcino, who started the Wantagh High School football program and was its first varsity coach in 1954 and also coached for more than a decade at Freeport High School, died on Monday at Glens Falls Hospital following a brief illness. He was 91.

"There are men in their 60s who still called him 'Coach,' " said his daughter, Maria Marcino of Massapequa. "He touched many lives in the athletic community and created bonds that lasted a lifetime."

Marcino coached at Wantagh from 1954 to 1963, compiling a record of 50-26-2, according to Newsday statistics. Five of his teams lost just once in a season.

After leaving Wantagh, Marcino coached for 13 years at Freeport High School, where two of his teams were undefeated. In 1969, the Red Devils were 7-0-1 and in 1972 they were 7-0-2. Both of those teams won league championships. The '72 squad tied Bethpage, 6-6, in the county title game and was declared Nassau County co-champion. Marcino's overall record at Freeport was 46-58-5.

Marcino was born May 25, 1923, in upstate Whitehall, and graduated from Whitehall High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in World War II, achieving the rank of sergeant. According to Maria Marcino, her father served in Iwo Jima in 1945 and was awarded the Bronze Star for devotion and courage under enemy fire.

After the war, Marcino attended SUNY at Cortland, receiving a master's degree in education. His first teaching and coaching job was at Lindenhurst High School before he went to Wantagh. After retiring as teacher and coach at Freeport, he was an assistant football coach at Clarke High School, C.W. Post (now LIU-Post) and St. John's University.

"He was a humble man who did his best for his family and all that knew him," Maria Marcino said. "He always had words of wisdom or encouragement. Some of his favorite expressions were 'stay focused' and 'keepa going.' His memory will be embedded in their hearts forever."

Marcino moved back to his hometown of Whitehall in 1990, bought a parcel of land, and according to Maria, "fulfilled his dream of building a cabin on the hill with the help of his three sons. He spent his days tending to his apple trees and garden, and always enjoyed visiting with family and reminiscing with longtime friends."

In addition to Maria, Marcino is survived by another daughter, Vicki Marcino of Massapequa; three sons -- Michael of Newton, New Jersey, Brian of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and Joseph of upstate Middle Granville; and a sister, Anne Soothcage of Glens Falls. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A graveside service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Whitehall. The family suggests that contributions be made in his memory to the Whitehall American Legion Post No. 83, 148 Main St., Whitehall, NY 12887.

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Nick Spillane's three TDs, offensive line lead Carey over Garden City

Carey's Nick Spillane runs for the second-half touchdown

Carey's Nick Spillane runs for the second-half touchdown against Garden City on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

The long of it was a game-breaking 73-yard touchdown pass from Mike Catanese to Mike DeLeo.

The short of it was touchdown runs of 2, 5 and 1 yard by wildcat specialist Nick Spillane.

But the heart of it for unbeaten, defending county and Long Island champion Carey was its veteran offensive line, which controlled the game from the first play from scrimmage and was the key factor in the Seahawks' 26-0 victory over Garden City Saturday in front of an overflow crowd in Franklin Square.

"The strongest point of this team is the guys up front," said DeLeo, who also rushed for 72 yards as Carey improved to 6-0 in Nassau II and extended its winning streak to 18 games. Garden City fell to 5-1 and was shut out by Carey for the second consecutive year in the regular season.

"It's the best part of our team," said Conor Colasurdo, who rushed for 41 yards on six carries and also made two key defensive plays at middle linebacker.

Catanese, who only had to throw six passes, gained 10 yards on a run up the middle on the game's first offensive play, a bit of foreshadowing as he rambled for 92 yards on 10 carries, all between the tackles.

So, let's introduce the guys who comprise Carey's Fab Five: tackle Jorge Cerquera (6-4, 225), guard Joe Randazzo (6-4, 230), center Bob Kelly (5-11, 215), guard Gabe Alejo (5-10, 270) and tackle Anthony Catapano (6-2, 280).

"They're big and they're physical," Carey coach Mike Stanley said of the quintet that features four returning starters from last season's 12-0 Rutgers Cup-winning squad. The only newcomer is Randazzo. "They're all one-way players and we felt they would be a strength of this team, especially with multiple guys who can carry the ball."

The Seahawks used those carriers midway through the first quarter to march 64 yards in 11 plays, capped by Spillane's 2-yard burst on a direct snap. Then, after forcing another punt, Colasurdo carried four times for 32 yards to set up Spillane's 5-yard dart up the middle.

Yet another three-and-out followed and on third-and-11, DeLeo got behind the secondary for a 73-yard game-breaking touchdown down the left sideline that made it 19-0 in the second quarter. "I thought they'd be in man coverage," Stanley said. "It's hard to get big plays on Garden City so to get one there was huge."

Garden City twice had chances to make it a game. The Trojans moved from their 23 to the Carey 19 late in the first half. But on fourth-and-14, Colasurdo stepped in for an interception at the 8. "I didn't think they'd be running there so I dropped back. The pass rush was good and he threw it right to me."

It was still 19-0 in the third quarter when Garden City drove from its 34 to the Carey 21. But on fourth-and-1, Colasurdo stood up Brian Haeffner and was joined by a flock of Seahawks. No gain GC; big gain Carey.

"When our defense gets backed up, we like it. We like a challenge," Colasurdo said. "Our D-line penetrated, I hit him and then it was a gang tackle. We shut him down and shut them out."

Good line, kid, but not the best line of the day.

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Jordan Gowins rushes for 111 yards, 1 TD, but St. Anthony's falls to Stepinac

St. Anthony's running back Evan Killen, left, quarterback
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St. Anthony's running back Evan Killen, left, quarterback Steve Genova and running back Jordan Gowins, right, look on against Stepinac in a CHSFL football game on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014.(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

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Archbishop Stepinac was too fast, too elusive and just plain too good Friday night, defeating St. Anthony's, 38-21, in South Huntington.

The victory improved Stepinac (Westchester County) to 5-0 in the CHSFL and in command for the top seed in the league playoffs. St. Anthony's fell to 3-2 in league play and 4-3 overall.

St. Anthony's has won 11 of the past 13 CHSFL titles, and it's only the second time in that span that the Friars have lost back-to-back games. Iona Prep beat St. Anthony's, 40-30, on Sunday.

"They are really good. We have to deal with their speed," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said before the game. But his Friars were unable to do it.

Navy-bound quarterback Brandon Coleman was slick and deceptive in running the spread offense, which produced several big plays.

Coleman connected with Giancarlo Furio for a 30-yard touchdown that tied it at 10 early in the second quarter. The game turned moments later when Gavin Heslop returned Steve Genova's pass 68 yards for a touchdown that gave the Crusaders a lead they never relinquished.

Genova was accurate early, completing his first 10 passes, but suffered consecutive interceptions that slowed down the Friars, who punted only once. But Genova was under pressure all night, getting sacked eight times and eventually being driven to the sideline with an injury midway through the fourth quarter. Replacement Tom Walsh was sacked once by the relentless Crusaders' pass rush.

St. Anthony's Boston College-bound running back, Jordan Gowins, returned after missing 21/2 games with a hamstring injury. He gained 111 yards on 18 carries, with a touchdown and a two-point conversion run, but he wasn't at full speed and wasn't a major factor.

Tyquan Ennis gave Stepinac a 24-13 lead with a 56-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep, but St. Anthony's responded. Genova ducked under a would-be sacker to hit Danny Jones with a 10-yard touchdown pass, and Gowins' two-point conversion run got the Friars to within 24-21 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

Then Stepinac stepped up and took control. The Crusaders increased their lead to 31-21 early in the fourth quarter when Heslop scored on a 27-yard touchdown jaunt moments after Coleman hit a 27-yard screen pass.

After forcing the Friars to punt, Stepinac put the game away when Malcolm Major, after a great ball fake by Coleman, broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run. The PAT made it 38-21 with 8:55 left, and St. Anthony's had no answer. Major also had a 67-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown in the second quarter.

Ennis was a two-way force, contributing two sacks and a big stop on Gowins early that forced St. Anthony's to settle for a field goal.

"If we keep them off our quarterback, we'll be OK," Reichert said before the game.

But the Friars couldn't and they weren't.

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Jack Agostino out as Amityville boys basketball coach

Amityville head coach Jack Agostino directs his players

Amityville head coach Jack Agostino directs his players against Jericho in the Long Island boys basketball Class A final at the David S. Mack Arena on March 9, 2013. (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

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Jack Agostino, who ranks fifth all-time in Long Island history with 473 career victories, is out as boys basketball coach at Amityville.

Amityville athletic director Ted Tsirigotis told News 12 Thursday that "as of now, he is no longer our basketball coach," but added that Agostino, the team's coach for 27 years, is one of three candidates who have officially applied for the position.

A source close to Agostino, however, said, "Jack was told he is not getting the job."

A decision on the new coach is expected to be made at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Amityville school board. The first practice is on Nov. 19.

In a statement issued to Newsday late Thursday afternoon, Amityville school superintendent Dr. Mary Kelly said, "As coaching appointments are made on a season-by-season basis, the district is in the process of hiring a basketball coach that will carry on the tradition of excellence for the Amityville basketball program. As we are still actively accepting candidates, the district cannot provide details on the process. However, an appointment is expected to be made at the November Board of Education meeting."

Agostino guided Amityville to a 473-128 record and .787 winning percentage. His Warriors won four straight state Class A public school and state Federation titles (2000-2003), the only Long Island boys basketball team ever to accomplish that feat. Amityville won 23 league, 11 county class titles and nine L.I. titles under Agostino.

Last season, his team beat Glenn, 74-73, for the Suffolk Class A title but was stripped of its championship three days later by Section XI, the Suffolk high school sports governing body, for using an ineligible player. The player in question, who appeared briefly in two playoff games, was "a junior varsity eighth-grade student who was not cleared to play on the varsity level," Kelly said in a statement at the time.

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Can Carey keep its winning streak going against unbeaten Garden City?

Carey's Brett Campos, left, gets congratulated by teammate

Carey's Brett Campos, left, gets congratulated by teammate Gabe Alejo after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of a Nassau II varsity football game against host Westbury on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. (Credit: James Escher)

There was a changing of the guard at the top of Nassau II last season, when Carey dethroned four-time defending county champion Garden City by beating the Trojans, 20-16, in a tense title game. The Seahawks, who went on to win the Long Island championship and Rutgers Cup, are still flying high and carry a 17-game winning streak into Saturday's matchup of 5-0 teams at 2 p.m. in Franklin Square.

"We always know when we play Garden City we're playing a well-coached football team with great athletes and a winning tradition," Carey coach Mike Stanley said. "You have to play your best."

Carey has been doing just that so far, led by senior running backs Mike DeLeo, Conor Colasurdo and Nick Spillane. "It's great that we can distribute the ball in different directions," Stanley said.

Garden City has firepower, too, led by running back Brian Haeffner and quarterback Tim Schmelzinger, a dual threat. "They have plenty of guys who can handle the ball," Stanley said.

Don't forget the defenses. Garden City is typically stingy, allowing a Nassau-best 8.6 points per game. Carey isn't far behind at 9.8.

Plainedge (5-0) at Lawrence (5-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.: This is another huge matchup of Nassau III unbeaten teams that will likely determine the top seed for the county playoffs. It's the third season in a row that the Golden Tornados and Red Devils enter their regular-season contest with perfect records. And it features Long Island's top two scorers -- running quarterback Davien Kuinlan (18 touchdowns) and running back Jordan Fredericks (17) and two potent offenses. Plainedge is averaging 43.4 points per game and Lawrence 41.4.

Freeport (4-1) at Baldwin (5-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.: This rivalry dates to 1924. It is one of the oldest and fiercest on Long Island. Freeport leads the series 45-29-1 and has won five of the last six, including last year, 21-6. The Bruins, a No. 8 seed in Nassau I in the preseason, feature big-play back Matt Eberhardt while the Red Devils are led by running back D'monte Woody (12 TDs) and sophomore quarterback Rashad Tucker.

Locust Valley (5-0) at Roosevelt (4-1), Saturday, 2 p.m.: Locust Valley barely kept its Nassau IV unbeaten season alive last week when Owen Trepeta intercepted a two-point conversation pass with no time on the clock to hold off Clarke, 21-20. It only gets tougher for the Falcons this week against the defending county champs. Shamari Kirkpatrick leads the Rough Riders with 15 touchdowns; John Pedranghelu has scored nine times for LV.

Sachem East (5-0) at Brentwood (1-4), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: Look who is undefeated in Suffolk I -- Sachem East, which entered the season as the No. 11 seed. The Flaming Arrows have a tough defense that surrenders only 10 points per game, excellent special teams and a revived offense directed by quarterback Javon Abraham.

East Islip (3-2) at Riverhead (4-1), Saturday, 2 p.m.: This is a big game in deep, balanced Suffolk II, where Bellport is the lone unbeaten team. East Islip has its usually tough defense (10.1 ppg) and features quarterback Jack Hannigan. Riverhead is dangerous when Ryun Moore (10 touchdowns) gets running room.

Stepinac (4-0) at St. Anthony's (3-1), Friday night, 7 p.m.: After last week's loss to Iona Prep, the host Friars can't afford another loss if they want to earn the top seed for the CHSFL playoffs. St. Anthony's must contain Stepinac's passing game, which has produced 12 TDs, but hopes to have star running back Jordan Gowins (12 TDs) back from a hamstring injury.

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