Forster's 24 lead Huntington past Bellport
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This contest, as it was billed, did prove to be a game of numbers.
As in the gaudy numbers that Bellport's Arella Guirantes is always capable of posting, versus the numbers Huntington, with its depth, could throw at the superstar to counter.
But midway through the second quarter Thursday night, as the Blue Devils began to overwhelm Bellport in their 57-40 girls basketball victory, it became abundantly clear: There's strength in numbers. Literally.
"We have great team chemistry,'' said guard Katie Reilly, whose perimeter defense and deflections ignited several fast breaks. "We also have a lot of really good players.''
But one player, especially, had the scorekeepers, um, crunching the numbers: Heather Forster.
The 6-2 forward racked up 24 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks and three steals as Huntington (6-0), in the midst of a breakthrough season, extended its lead in Suffolk League IV.
"My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball inside,'' said Forster, who made seven layups. With Huntington's typically balanced scoring, it was only the second time this season it had an individual reach 20 points. "Everyone contributes and we feed off each other.''
Forster was being modest, but accurate. Huntington's offense thrived in transition, capitalizing on turnovers caused by a pressure defense. The Blue Devils also threw a plethora of looks at Guirantes, Long Island's leading scorer averaging 34 points. She has topped 40 three times already this season, but Huntington had her number -- somewhat -- holding the forward to 25 points (10 in the first half).
Katie Nugent scored 11 points, and Samantha Lynch had nine points and three steals for Huntington. Joellen Ceide added seven points and six rebounds.
Huntington confounded Bellport (3-2) with traps and constant swipes at the ball. It had two steals in the first 49 seconds of the third quarter, the second by Reilly, which led to Lynch's layup to push the lead to 35-17. Jasmine Seaton and Dynasia Simmons each scored five points for the Clippers.
But the Blue Devils' foremost priority, coach Michael Kaplan said, was containing Guirantes, who has accounted for 66.9 percent of Bellport's scoring. She was so much of a focus in practice, Huntington brought in a boy from its junior varsity to simulate the 5-10 star's size and athleticism.
"We actually did a really good job against him,'' Lynch said with a chuckle. "I think we frustrated him a little bit.''
That carried over, as Huntington steadily double-teamed Guirantes in the paint and on the wing, and even sent midcourt pressure when she brought the ball up.
Conversely, Bellport could do little to slow Forster, whose height proved a mismatch inside. "She was aggressive offensively,'' Kaplan said, "and on defense she was a monster.''
And Thursday night, she was No. 1.