This Suffolk title was a long time coming — a really long time.
Port Jefferson seniors Courtney Lewis, Jillian Colucci, Corinne Scannell, Gillian Kenah and Jackie Brown led the Royals to the elusive Suffolk Class C girls basketball championship, beating No. 4 Pierson/Bridgehampton, 46-43, Saturday night at Riverhead High School to put to rest memories of previous attempts at the crown.
It’s the program’s first county championship since 1927, said coach Jesse Rosen.
“We’ve been to this game almost every year and we always lose, so it feels awesome to finally win as a senior,” said Lewis, who had a team-high 12 points before fouling out with 1:17 left.
“This is 90 years in the making,” said Colucci, whose mid-range jumper with 3:02 left in the game ended Pierson’s 9-0 run to begin the fourth quarter. “The five seniors, we grew up together. We’ve been playing this sport together for four years, so it feels good to finally get this one in our last year.”
Joclyn Lebron made a free throw with 16 seconds left and Scannell (11 points, 12 rebounds) made two with eight seconds left to seal the victory for Port Jefferson (17-3).
Pierson made five free throws in the final 40 seconds to keep it close but had to foul to stop the clock. Lebron and Scannell capitalized on the free-throw attempts.
“Sometimes when the strengths aren’t on, it’s really the will that you have that allows you to finish how you need to finish,” said Scannell, noting the team’s struggles to make jumpshots.
A burst at the beginning of the third quarter gave the Royals the necessary advantage to stave off a furious Pierson comeback. Leading 24-19 at halftime but not content with the offense, the Royals were efficient in a 10-0 run to start the third.
After Lebron made a three-pointer from the left wing at the final buzzer of the third, Port Jefferson led 38-25. Colucci’s jumper in the fourth gave Port Jefferson a 40-34 lead after watching that 13-point lead dwindle thanks to the electric play of Nia Dawson, who had 17 points.
Colucci fouled out with 17 seconds left, leaving the Royals to close the game without two of their top players.
That’s when the seniors turned to some of the younger players to finish what they had started.
Said Colucci: “We have so many younger players who stepped up and hit some big shots, and the team just kept its composure and we pulled it out.”