TROY, N.Y. — There was a certain aesthetic guiding this particular group of Port Jefferson girls all season. A balanced mindset propelled them into the record books and made them perhaps one of the best group of athletes — male or female — in the school’s history.
So even after a runner from the right baseline by Hannah Morse rattled in at the final buzzer and gave Watkins Glen a 65-63 win in the state Class C championship game at Hudson Valley CC on Sunday, the Royals held their heads high and spoke with the same grace they had throughout their magical run.
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“It’s a great experience to go off my senior year as a state finalist and history with Port Jeff basketball,” Jillian Colucci said. “It’s awesome. I’m proud of my girls.”
Courtney Lewis scored 23 points, Samantha Ayotte had 12 and Corinne Scannell added 11, but Watkins Glen’s 28-10 point differential in the fourth quarter was the difference.
Lewis, Scannell, Colucci, Gillian Kenah and Jackie Brown were the team’s lone seniors, and all started. Colucci, Scannell and Brown were part of the girls soccer team’s run to the state Class C title in the fall, putting this group in elite company in Port Jefferson.
Everyone played a role in the Royals’ ascent. Lewis, a 2,000-point scorer, provided the go-to offensive punch. Kenah, a post presence, saved her best basketball for the playoffs. Colucci, Scannell and Brown were stabilizing forces in crunch time, thanks to their previous experience chasing a state championship.
“To say that they made history and left a legacy is probably about as apropos as it could be,” coach Jesse Rosen said. “Honestly, it’s an understatement. To have younger girls on this team seeing what they put in on a daily basis and just having this experience as a whole, just to get this experience, obviously it’s something that’s never happened in Port Jeff, ever.”
But this game wasn’t just about the seniors.
Ayotte, a freshman, generally is the first sub off the bench. She saw extended playing time in the second half because Lewis picked up her fourth foul with 42.6 seconds left in the second quarter.
Lewis sat the entire third quarter and Ayotte picked up the slack. She capped a 20-4 Royals run in the third quarter with a three-pointer from the right corner, extending Port Jefferson’s lead to 53-37 entering the fourth.
“Sam is going to be a phenomenal high school basketball player, and she showed glimpses of it today,” Rosen said.
Ayotte credited the seniors for her growth. “They always support me in practice and I learn so much from them as a team,” she said. “And just on the floor, I learn everything from them. I just look up to them in every way.”
Even though Port Jefferson was a couple of shots away from a state championship, this is a group of athletes who will be celebrated — both for their athletic prowess and their skills as leaders.
“We did the best we could,” Colucci said. “That’s all you can ask for.”