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Kelli Ryan, Ally Tarantino prove defense is key for Miller Place

Miller Place's Kelli Ryan (20 points) shoots for

Miller Place's Kelli Ryan (20 points) shoots for three over Wyandanch's Rasauna Melendez in first half at Miller Place on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The Miller Place girls basketball team experienced more than its fair share of hardships last season in the midst a 5-12 campaign.

But after taking down Wyandanch at home, 59-50 on Tuesday night, junior Kelli Ryan believes this team can improve by leaps and bounds.

“This shows we’re capable of beating anyone if we play defense,” Ryan said.

Ryan was the catalyst for Miller Place, putting up 20 points in a non-conference, season-opening victory.

After knocking down four three-pointers early in the contest against a zone defense, Ryan forced Wyandanch to switch to man-to-man. Ryan then displayed her offensive versatility by slashing to the basket and getting out in transition.

Miller Place led 32-19 at the half before Wyandanch fought back to take a 48-45 lead in the fourth quarter. Morleasia McCloud led the comeback effort with 10 points in the third. McCloud finished with 26 points.

Ryan had two fast-break layups as part of a late 10-0 run to help give Miller Place a 55-48 lead with about two minutes remaining.

Ally Tarantino, who added 13 points for Miller Place, held McCloud to just four points in the fourth quarter.

Miller Place coach Joe Read raved about Tarantino’s shutdown defensive effort late.

“She was a force on offense, but we really needed her on McCloud tonight.”

Read, like Ryan, believes this win held added significance.

“The first game sets the tone for the season. I think the first victory is really important.”

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