Boys basketball shoots high this winter


Evan Dash

Senior center Daniel Dash dunks the basketball in a close home game against Massapequa on Dec. 15. Port Washington won with a close score of 41-39.

Dylan Spilko and Matt Levine

The Port Washington boys’ varsity basketball team is off to a roller-coaster start to begin the 2017-2018 winter season.  The Vikings began their season with three straight losses, but have now worked their way back up within their conference, Conference AA-II, with two straight victories.  Port Washington now holds a record of 2-3, sitting second behind Herricks (3-2) in their respective conference.

The team is full of bright young athletes who are now stepping into their key roles since many of the team’s important players have moved onto college.  Since the team doesn’t have any captains, the Vikings look to their seniors for leadership.  Seniors Daniel Dash, Garrett Ressa, Conor Shanahan, and Jack Stolper are the main contributors to Port Washington’s recent success in climbing out of this early season hole. The Vikings, lead by Coach Sean Dooley, still have many basketball games left to play this season.

On Dec. 6, Port Washington played their first game of the season against a strong Syosset team, who matched up very well against the Vikings.  Port Washington started strong in the first half, gaining a 12-point lead headed into the third quarter, led by Shanahan and Dash.  However, Syosset came storming back in the third quarter, outscoring Port Washington 18-7 in the third frame.  Syosset then thwarted the Vikings’ comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, eventually sending Port to their first defeat of the season with a final score of  55-48.  Shanahan was the top scorer for Port Washington with 15 points, and Ressa did not trail too far behind with a total of 12 points.

Starting with a 0-1 record, the Vikings then visited Manhasset on Dec. 8, and the hard-fought game by Port Washington ended in an overtime thriller.  The boys began with a slow start, trailing by 5 at the end of the first quarter.  However, due to a strong second quarter led by Shanahan and junior Joe Melkonian, Port improved the score, and they were down by only one point at the half.  The game was neck and neck all the way until the fourth quarter, when Port was just within reach with just under 15 seconds remaining in regulation.  At 45-47, Shanahan drove into the paint but got fouled on the way to the basket.  In a clutch manner, he then sank two straight free throws to send the game to overtime.  The Vikings soon were outbattled by Manhasset senior Jack Cargiulo, who nailed the game-winning layup with just 11 seconds left to send Port Washington to 0-2 on the season.

The Vikings’ luck didn’t fare much better against the team from Great Neck South team during their third matchup of the winter season.  Port went down very early in this one, trailing by 9 at the half.  Senior David Sabzehroo of the opposing team led the charge, finishing the match with 7 made three pointers, and having 24 points in total.  The Vikings were then outscored 27-19 in the third quarter, extending Great Neck South’s lead to 18 headed into the final quarter.  Port’s comeback attempt was held short and another loss was added to their record, losing 54-44.  Dash and Shanahan were held to a combined 8 points. The Vikings’ leading scorers for the match were Melkonian, who finished with 11 points, and Ressa, who cashed in for a total of 9 points on the day.

The fate of Port Washington’s season would soon be determined by their next matchup against Massapequa.  The Vikings were desperate for a win and needed their key players to be on top form for this showdown.  Port Washington started the game determined to win; they controlled the game in the first quarter while only letting up a total of 3 points to Massapequa and ended the half with an 8 point lead.  The game tilted in the Vikings’ favor the rest of the way, as Melkonian, Dash, and Ressa took care of business on home court.  Dash’s free throw with just five seconds left gave Port Washington a two-point lead in its non-league win of 41-39.  Massapequa attempted a go-ahead three-pointer at the buzzer, but the ball grazed the front of the rim.  Melkonian led Port Washington with 12 points.

With a record of 1-3, Port Washington looked to keep their momentum going in a positive direction with a matchup against West Hempstead on Dec. 16.  Port got off to yet another rocky start in this one, as they fell behind 12-8 in the first quarter.  However, for the rest of the game, the team’s core players showed their talents, and the offense exploded in the upcoming quarters.  Outscoring West Hempstead 24-8 in the second quarter, Port only continued to extend their dominance into the second half, going in with a lead of 32-20.  Led by Ressa and Shanahan, Port easily shut down West Hempstead for the rest of the game, and finished the consolation tournament game with a final score of 58-38 to push the Vikings’ record to 2-3.  Shanahan and Ressa were the main contributors for the Vikings in this contest, as they scored 20 and 16, respectively.  Port Washington’s next matchup was on Dec. 19 at Schreiber High School.

With the team thriving from two straight victories against tough opponents in Massapequa and West Hempstead, Port Washington will look to carry this success into future matchups.  Port Washington’s defense was stellar in these two victories, and they will need to continue that if they want to put themselves in a position to win games in their conference.

“The keys to success thus far for the team winning games has been keeping a very fast pace within the game that can lead to easy points on offense,” said Shanahan.

With the Viking’s next three matchups against Baldwin, Hicksville, and Westbury, the team firmly believes that the practices before these matchups help prepare them mentally and physically.

“As of recently, our practices have intensified.  Therefore, if we continue to practice like we play we will be well prepared for the big upcoming games.  We just want to go out there and play some basketball,” said Shanahan.

With some very tight games against Massapequa and Manhasset, Port needs to excel in these key moments where the game is on the line and the game can be in anyone’s hands.  However, Dash knows that everyone on his team is prepared to take the game-deciding shot when necessary.

“In key moments, we rely on the huge size advantages in the post that we have against our opponents and the three point shooting of our guards in clutch moments.  Coach Dooley’s system encourages us to go through a series of actions to get a good shot instead of drawing up a play for it, and anybody could end up shooting the clutch shot in a key moment,” said Dash.

With plenty of sharp shooters on the perimeter, Port Washington has more than enough weapons to utilize when the game is close and coming down to the final shot.

The goal for the Vikings’ varsity basketball team is to dominate their conference and to buy a ticket into the playoffs in February.  At a record of 2-3, Port will need major contributions from their senior class to do so, while also getting some help from other key players such as Melkonian and junior Johnny Bellini.  The Vikings are very early into their season, but coming off of two straight victories, they aspire to be a winning team come February.

“As a team, we’d like to grow and get better with every game so we’re ready to play our best basketball in February.  Whether that means a trip to the county final or a first round exit, we have bought into the idea that the process is more important than the result.  To us, a successful process means a peak that comes in February,” said Dash.