The Eastport-South Manor girls basketball team doesn’t necessarily have a number in mind when it comes to defense. But lately, 30 seems to be the magic number.
With its 30-23 win over host Half Hollow Hills West in a Suffolk IV showdown on Friday, the Sharks improved to 4-1 in their last five games — each of which has featured the team’s defense holding the opponent to fewer than 30 points.
“We don’t think about the number,” senior Casey Travers, who had 13 points and six rebounds, said. “We just think about how we want to get stops to generate our offense, get the ball up the floor and then if we have to, settle into our offense and slow it down.”
The offense is a work in progress, but it did enough against a Hills West team that lead 16-12 at halftime. ESM opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run before Kayla Robertson (13 points) tied the game at 18 for Hills West (3-1).
ESM (4-0) then closed the quarter with baskets from Megan Henderson and Carly Travers, Casey's younger sister, for a 22-18 lead from which the Sharks wouldn’t look back. Henderson scored six of her eight points in the third quarter.
“We’re very intense on defense most of the time,” Henderson, who added 12 rebounds and five steals, said. “When we get sloppy, we have all the intensity to clean it up.”
What makes ESM’s defense unique, Henderson said, is that the Sharks focus on limiting looks in the paint.
“A lot of defenses that we play, they spread out,” Henderson said. “We keep ours tight and make them shoot.”
It was a sound strategy against Hills West, which struggled shooting throughout the contest. Robertson’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 28-23 with under a minute remaining, but Casey Travers converted two free throws with 32.8 seconds left to ice the win.
ESM coach Steve Giacolone said Casey Travers is now 114 points away from 1,000. She hit consecutive three-pointers to open the game, then nailed a long three-pointer for a 28-20 lead with 1:05 remaining.
“We always have help,” Travers said of the defense. “We’re always helping each other, talking. Getting loud is a big part of it. Just holding each other accountable. When you make a mistake, fix it.”
Alexandra Giacolone didn’t score but chipped in with 10 rebounds and three assists. Carly Travers had four points and four rebounds. Bella Arato added four points.
It was enough to overcome another team that just couldn't score 30.