Tiffany Slicklein passes the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
February 12, 2014 | 04:37 PMAt the No. 8 seed moving into the playoffs, the Kings Park girls basketball team will have to work hard to progress through the brackets.
Despite their placement, the Kingsmen have had a successful season, ending with an 11-3 mark in League IV play, second to the undefeated, 14-0, Huntington Blue Devils.
"Personally, I thought we should've been a little higher than that," Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said of his team's seed. "We had a loss against Bellport and a loss to Northport that I think is what dropped us down."
The coach said he has a great group of kids, even with only 10 players on the squad. The team works hard every game despite not having any subs, and Edmundson said even through running drills it hasn't been easy for his team.
"It was an interesting season coming in," senior center and co-captain Emily Stephens said. "We have a lot of young players that we didn't really expect to end up on our roster so that ended up creating a lot more competitive practice for us."
Emily Santoli dribbles the ball up the court. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Stephens also had a difficult start to the season, coming off an ACL injury at the end of last school year that required surgery last June. She missed the beginning of the season, and was finally cleared to play in December, but it's been a slow return.
"She kind of crawled back early on in the season and has come a long way," Edmundson said. "She's had a [22-point game] down the stretch and we're very impressed with the way she's handled the injury and dealt with coming back from the injury."
Stephens said it's made her stronger.
"If anything, it hardened my resolve to give whatever I have this season," Stephens said, adding that even when she couldn't play, she tried to help work with some of the younger girls. "Where I've lessened in scoring I've made up for in assists and rebounds. I've been working as hard as I could. … It definitely made me a smarter player, and every time I go out on the court I want it more."
Edmundson said he's also been impressed with freshman guard and forward Tiffany Slicklein, who he said has been unbelievable — scoring in the double digits in 11 of the team's 18 overall games.
"You look at her playing and you don't even know she's 14 and in the ninth grade," Edmundson said, adding that she leads the team in rebounds and has score a multitude of 3-pointers. "She's strong as an ox, understands the game and makes a lot of the right decisions — stuff you don't expect from a young girl. She's definitely been a standout."
Stephens said the team has become close despite being so varied in age, and said that Tom Edmundson and assistant coach Rich Edmundson have helped bring the team together with pasta parties and spending the weekends together.
Kings Park will host the No. 9-seeded Commack (9-3) today, at 5 pm. The two teams faced off in their first game of the season, where the Kingsmen took a 53-43 win, but Tom Edmundson said both teams are much improved.
Shannon Ahern maintains possession of the ball while she looks down the court to make a play. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Senior point guard and co-captain Shannon Ahern said that being in a new league with the bigger schools will bring some challenges in the playoffs, but feels the team has a great chance.
"We had a lot more competition but it strengthened us," Ahern said. "We are definitely looking forward to the playoffs and anything can happen in them. As long as we play our best, we can make a run for it."
Tom Edmundson said that if the team can get past Commack, they may end up facing the No. 1-seeded North Babylon, and they'll be looking for payback, as the team knocked Kings Park out of the playoffs last season.
"It's definitely something that we can do — we could make a run for the county championship," he said. "The girls believe it, I believe it and we've just got to go out there and show it."
Stephens said both teams are physical, fast and play a competitive game, but added that the Kingsmen are infamous for having great second halves, and that's something the team is going to have to change moving into the playoffs.
"Third and fourth quarters, we'll pick it up and we'll go on a run," Stephens said. "I think it's important that instead of waiting for the second half to go on those runs, that we come out strong and stay that way. I'm confident that if we take care of business and we do everything that we have to do — play together and play good defense — that we'll be making a run in the playoffs."