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Jillian Colucci leads Port Jefferson to first Long Island championship

Port Jefferson's Jillian Colucci, left, gets pressured by

Port Jefferson's Jillian Colucci, left, gets pressured by Rachel Graves of East Rockaway during the Long Island Class C championship at SUNY Old-Westbury on Monday, March 6, 2017. Credit: James Escher

If the Port Jefferson girls basketball team is tired in school Tuesday, it’s because Jillian Colucci started a dance party.

When Colucci received a pass from Joclyn Lebron and heaved a shot from three feet inside midcourt just before the halftime buzzer Monday night, she gave the Royals reason to dance. The shot hit nothing but net and gave Port Jefferson a 14-point lead en route to a 67-49 win over East Rockaway in the Long Island Class C final at SUNY Old Westbury.

But on a school night with little time to celebrate, Colucci said the Royals would take advantage of the long ride home. “Yeah, it’s a school night,” said Colucci, who had 13 points, seven assists and four steals. “We’ll probably sing and dance on the bus.”

Colucci, whose buzzer-beater capped a 9-0 run to end the first half that made the score 36-22, wasn’t the only spark in the first Long Island championship in program history. Courtney Lewis scored 30 points, 18 of which came in the second half after Colucci sent the Royals into the locker room with a flourish.

“We went crazy,” Lewis said. “We just all sprinted into the locker room. It definitely gave us all momentum going into the second half.”

The moment was surreal for coach Jesse Rosen, who led the Royals to their first county title since 1927. “I’ll be honest with you, as that fell, I forced myself to look around the gym and soak it all up,” he said. “When that shot falls, it just seems like people are smiling on us.”

There were plenty of smiles from those wearing Port Jefferson purple as the second half progressed. Colucci and Lewis were joined by fellow seniors Jackie Brown (11 points, eight rebounds), Corinne Scannell and Gillian Kenah in putting the game out of reach. Kenah made two free throws with 5:09 left for a 60-39 lead, matching the Royals’ largest lead at 21 points.

“To make history with these girls, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Colucci said.

A sound defensive strategy to keep the ball out of East Rockaway center Alessia Drevnyak’s hands was employed successfully throughout the game. Whenever Drevnyak appeared ready to receive an entry pass, a Royal would slide over to prevent the attempt.

Lewis credited Kenah and Samantha Ayotte for playing well in the post against Drevnyak, who still scored 19 points. Juliet McCarthy had 14 and Brooke Degiulio added 11.

The complete effort put Port Jefferson in position to play either Section I or Section IX in a regional final at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Old Westbury.

Perhaps the Royals will have more reasons to dance.

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