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Nov 26, 2012 3:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Expectations Remain High For Experienced Lady Mariners Team

Nov 26, 2012 4:10 PM

Before the start of practice last week, members of the Southampton girls basketball JV and varsity teams gathered around a small table placed at center court and watched as senior Kesi Goree signed her letter of intent to play college hoops at the New York Institute of Technology next year.

Smiling and posing for pictures with her parents, Goree then headed to the locker room, pulled her hair back into a ponytail, put on shorts, and got down to the business of practicing for what she and her teammates hope will be another banner season for the program.

The celebration of Goree’s future was a fitting illustration of what’s at stake for the Lady Mariners in the present. Goree is one of a handful of players who have been part of the varsity for several years now, and they’ve gone through a lot together, from the growing pains of being a young team and taking their licks against more talented, senior-laden squads to winning long-awaited Suffolk County and Long Island Class B Championships last season. With every player returning from that championship team, the Lady Mariners are the favorites to repeat as both county and Long Island champs and once again be the dominant team in League VII.

Of course, any team that has tasted success in a previous year—and brings back all its talent—wants not only to continue that success but to take it a step further. Last season, the Lady Mariners fell one game short of a spot in the New York State Final Four, falling to powerhouse Irvington in the Southeast Regional Final. If Southampton can get back to that game again this year, it’s a safe bet they’ll face the Lady Bulldogs once again. The three-time defending state champion Irvington team lost only one starter, guard Marley Giddins, and returns its standout center, Lexi Martins, and point guard, Brittany Lai.

Before they worry about Irvington, however, the Lady Mariners will be focused on tackling a non-league schedule that features some of the best teams in the Northeast, which head coach Richard “Juni” Wingfield said will get them ready for the rigors of the regular season and beyond. It’s a challenge that the Lady Mariners are surely ready for, however, as they possess about as much experience as any varsity team can have.

Goree is perhaps the best illustration of that point. The senior captain is now in her sixth year as a varsity player, and Wingfield said her leadership has been on display for many years. Goree is a versatile player who can mix it up in the paint with the best of them, grabbing rebounds and scoring inside, but she also has long shooting range, making her a double threat. Wingfield, however, was more eager to talk about her character rather than the technical aspects of her game.

“We call her ‘Captain Kesi’ for a reason,” he said. “She leads by example, and she’s also the person who is willing to be vocal. We expect her to be the person who will set the tone.”

Goree averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds for Southampton last year, was an All-Division player, and is just 126 points away from reaching the 1,000 career point plateau.

Southampton also brings back senior Paris Hodges, one of the best players on Long Island. Hodges, an All-County player last year, led the team with 18 points per game and always filled up the stat sheets with plenty of rebounds, assists, blocks and steals as well. Hodges has a complete game—she can drive to the hoop, shoot long-range jumpers and grab rebounds inside—and is college-bound as well: She will play at Brandeis University next year. Wingfield said that Hodges’s versatility, as well as her positive impact on the players around her, make her an invaluable player.

Senior twin sisters Cassidy and Carley Guida also return to the team and will be key players once again. Cassidy, an All-League player last season, is one of the best three-point shooters in the county, while her sister, Carley, is a tenacious defender who has also shown an increased ability to score. Carley was limited at the end of last season by an ankle injury but should be back at regular form by the start of the season.

Junior Noelle Hodges will return to a starting role this year as well, and is another versatile player for the Lady Mariners. Wingfield compared her to Magic Johnson and Sue Bird, saying she is a “natural” who has the type of basketball ability and IQ that can’t be taught.

Another key player for Southampton will be senior forward Dominique Taylor, who has built a reputation as a lockdown defender and rebounder. Taylor provided the winning points for her team in a nail-biting victory over Hampton Bays in the county championship last season.

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Go Mariners!!!!
By Wagoneer (28), Southampton on Nov 28, 12 10:02 AM
Good photos!
By traffic (26), Southampton on Nov 30, 12 3:46 PM