TROY, N.Y. — There’s an infectious vibe around the Port Jefferson girls basketball team.
Every game the Royals have played since last month’s Suffolk Class C championship has represented another milestone in the program’s record books, and they know it. This “can’t lose” personality stems from a brimming confidence each player on the roster exudes during every moment of the game.
So even though the Royals were outplayed in the first half, they still found themselves tied with South Seneca in Saturday’s state Class C semifinal at Hudson Valley CC. Naturally, they remained upbeat.
Composure proved key as Courtney Lewis made 17 of 22 free throws — including 11 makes from the line in the fourth quarter — en route to a 31-point performance in Port Jefferson’s 71-53 win.
The Royals will play Watkins Glen at 11:45 a.m. Sunday for the state Class C title.
“The game got a lot slower in the second half, and they fouled a lot more,” said Lewis, who scored 20 points after halftime. “We did a really good job keeping our composure and not freaking out.”
Jackie Brown’s three-pointer from the right corner at the third-quarter buzzer sent Port Jefferson into the fourth with a 47-44 advantage, a lead the Royals steadily increased.
Lewis opened the fourth by converting a three-point play and then went up-and-under on the right side on the next possession, extending the lead to 52-46.
Brown made a three-pointer from the right wing with 4:25 to play to give the Royals a 59-47 lead. Their final 12 points came on free throws, 10 by Lewis.
“Courtney’s just phenomenal on the line. That girl doesn’t miss,” said Jillian Colucci, who had 14 points.
As a whole, the Royals converted 22 of 30 free-throw attempts.
Their ability to attack the basket opened shooters on the perimeter. As defenders collapsed to prevent easy layups, Brown and Colucci found themselves alone on the outside. The two totaled 7-for-15 three-point shooting.
Lewis, Brown and Colucci are three of the team’s five seniors. Gillian Kenah and Corinne Scannell are the others, and the five have started together for most of the season.
Coach Jesse Rosen credits them for the mentality that has trickled down to the younger members of the team.
“It’s an interesting juxtaposition, the intensity and the composure of this group,” Rosen said. “To have those two things together is a unique mixture. Having that intensity and having that composure makes for a nice state championship run.”
In Scannell’s opinion, the seniors are simply setting the example for future Royals to follow.
“It’s almost a trailblazer mentality,” she said. “We’re setting the way. As far as we go, it’s history, so we want to go as far as we can while we still have a chance.”
Sunday’s game against Watkins Glen truly will be one last ride for the core, as it’ll be their final high school game regardless of the result.
An effort like the one the Royals put forth against South Seneca could yield a state championship, as Port Jefferson played one of its most complete games since the beginning of the playoffs.
The offense came naturally, and the defense held its ground despite several size mismatches.
“We’re always confident, but we’re not overconfident,” Colucci said. “We don’t let it get in our heads. We’re out for gold, and I think we’re going to get it.”
At the very least, they’ll be playing for each other.
“The five seniors, we want to do it one last time together,” Brown said. “We’ll definitely leave it all on the court together.”