Awe-inspired efforts. All-American performances. All-world personas. And a few champions were crowned, too. Welcome to the Long Island high school winter sports scene. Jason Molinet and Long Island Pulse magazine followed it all, from its snowy beginnings to its breathless conclusion in overheated gyms. Here are our highlights:
Best Season: What a wrestling season it was. The contingent Suffolk County sent to the state Federation Wrestling championships in Albany was a record-setting bunch. Eight wrestlers from Suffolk won titles, tying a meet record. Rocky Point alone had three winners. Rocky Point senior Stephen Dutton led the parade of champions, capturing the 140-pound weight class in the state Division I final. It was his second straight title. Newsday crowned Glenn wrestling as the top winter sports team on Long Island after winning its second straight Suffolk Division I team title. The program has won 58 dual meets in a row and senior Nick Meinsen took home the state crown at 130 pounds.
Best Finish: In 2009, North Babylon’s Berfrantz Charles lost the state title in the 55-meter dash by one hundredth of a second. Talk about agonizing. This winter, the senior looked to be on pace for an encore. Charles ran second to Edison Tech’s Mark Canady in two preliminary heats of the 55-meter dash, only to come back and leg out a victory in the final at the state Federation Indoor Track and Field championships in Ithaca. Charles ran the 55 in 6.391 seconds, winning by 0.007 of a second. It was a personal best. But what goes around comes round as Charles was edged out in the long jump. His leap of 23 feet, 8.5 inches was good for second.
Best Effort: No one made a more determined effort in a loss than North Babylon’s Bria Hartley. The senior point guard set a Suffolk playoff record with 51 points in a 72-69 loss to eventual state champ Sachem East in the Suffolk Class AA title game. It’s reminiscent of a similar performance from the past when Cold Spring Harbor’s Wally Szczerbiak went off in a playoff loss to Hempstead. Hartley was recently named Miss Basketball in New York and signed with Connecticut. See her play in the McDonald’s All-American game on ESPNU at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Best Coach: Sure, Tom Diana has a gym full of talent. But the Uniondale boys basketball coach pulled off a remarkable 18-4 run and a Nassau Class AA title with a 64-61 win over Baldwin. It was the program’s eighth county title since 2002. Why the fuss? Because Diana did it with just one returning starter from last season’s Long Island championship squad – and with a cast of freshmen and sophomores. It takes supreme ability to harness 14- and 15-year-olds and recast them as champions.
Best Follow: Tobias Harris, who else? The Tennessee-bound basketball standout from Half Hollow Hills West was not just a phenom on the court. He was a social networking star, too. Harris created a fan page on Facebook and Twittered, where he shared his every thought in what turned out to be a wild ride of a season. Harris led Hills West to its first Long Island Class AA title and lost in the state title game. Along the way, Hills West went 24-2 and Harris was named Mr. Basketball in New York. But his season isn’t over. The McDonald’s All-American game is next. Follow him at: http://twitter.com/Tobias31