Oceanside in playoff contention


Junior AJ Smith scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as Freeport continued its winning ways with a 43-26 victory over visiting Oceanside last Friday. The win was the sixth in a row for the Lady Devils, who improved to 10-2 overall and 6-1 in Conference AA-I. Senior Deja Hooks added seven points and nine rebounds, while Oceanside was led by junior Mara Stewart’s seven points.

The Lady Sailors, who fell to 8-4 overall, 5-3 in league play, hung tough for a quarter and trailed by just a point at 10-9 after one, but Freeport picked up its defensive intensity in the second quarter and began to pull away. Senior Taylor Smith, who had seven points, six rebounds, and four steals, led a defensive charge that forced key turnovers late in the half gave the Lady Devils the momentum.

Oceanside head coach Jason Manning saw the final minute of the opening half as the turning point. “We were right there with them, but a big three, a steal, and a three-point play turned it from a six-point game to a 12-point game,” Manning said. “That really changed the complexion of the game. They just had a little too much size, length, and athleticism for us.”

The Lady Sailors trailed 24-13 at the break, but any chance of an Oceanside comeback was put to bed early in the third quarter. Smith, who can be lethal from the perimeter, did an excellent job of beating her defender off the dribble and getting to the basket for layups. Freeport held a commanding 37-22 after three quarters and was never challenged over the final eight minutes.

Oceanside came into the game having won six of its last seven games, including a victory over a conference rival that has gotten the better of Oceanside over the past few years. In a 43-37 victory over Uniondale, the Lady Sailors got a game-high 14 points from Stewart. Emily Ott and Veronica Miller were perfect from the line in the final minute to ice the win for Oceanside. 

Prior to the win over Uniondale, the Lady Sailors traveled to Hempstead to take on the Lady Tigers. Hempstead kept things close for a half, but Oceanside exploded in the second half en route to a 60-30 win. The Lady Sailors outscored Hempstead 19-0 in the third quarter and never looked back. Eleven players scored for Oceanside, which got 18 from Stewart. Senior Jeannie Callanan added eight points.

Depth has been the key for the Lady Sailors. The emergence of Stewart and sophomore point guard Cassie Cesario has enabled Callanan, juniors Claire and Megan McNamara, and others to flourish in new roles. 

“We’re a much more balanced team than we were in the past,” Manning said. “It’s a different dynamic. Last year we had a girl scoring 20 points and getting 10 rebounds each game. This year, we have a different player stepping up each game.”

Oceanside, which has a bye this week, travels to Syosset on Jan. 31 for a 6:30 p.m. tip.