There's something to be said about high school competition in its purest form, as young athletes come together not for a paycheck, not for accolades, but for the love of sports. Nothing was more evident in Wednesday's Suffolk League VIII girls basketball game between Ross and Smithtown Christian.
"I love basketball," Smithtown Christian sophomore Natalie Armellino said. "Even though we're such a small team, who cares? We go hard on the court no matter what. We have eight players on our roster, and we all love playing together and playing for this school."
Smithtown Christian won, 48-23, in a game that may have been short on technique but was full of heart and drive with both teams competing until the final buzzer.
Senior Gennifer Vandeventer led the Knights (2-3, 1-3) with 13 points. Senior Victoria Linsalato added 11 points, sophomore Faith Schneider had eight and Armellino finished with six.
"A big thing for us is team effort," said Linsalato, who in four years on the team has had four different coaches. "We'll always come out and compete."
Gabby Ment scored nine points to lead Ross (0-6, 0-4).
First-year coach Teelah Grimes, who played at Dowling from 2004-2007, inherited a tough task of building the program that competes in Suffolk's lowest skill-based league and is classified as a D school, the lowest classification based on total enrollment.
"I always look for opportunities where I can be challenged," she said. "That's really what gave me even more of a desire to coach at this school. We're a small school, we don't have a lot of basketball accolades, but to know that I can come here and help build a program to where we could be an elite team is important to me."
Grimes said she is fulfilling her dream of coaching basketball and she hopes to teach her players all aspects of the game.
"It's been an incredible journey," she said. "I'm very passionate about basketball and I just want to give back to them what was given to me when I was a player. My goal as the coach is to instill the most important part of sports in general, which is to always work hard no matter what."
With the leadership of four seniors and the youth of four sophomores, Grimes said she is hoping to eventually compete for league and county titles. "We hope to build the future of the team this year," she said. "It's going to take small steps, but we know where we want to be and this year's team is just the beginning."