December 06, 2006

Mariners Say This is Their Year

Although Southampton lost three starters to graduation from a team that lost by just one point in the class championship game, head coach Richard Wingfield has his talented group of athletes believing that the sky's the limit, regardless of the detractors who think otherwise.

"It's ridiculous for us not to think that we shouldn't win our league championship," said Wingfield. "We have senior leadership and experience. Over the years, what separates the good teams from the great teams is experience. We are smart enough and mature enough to know how to approach each game. And we need to approach each game like it's the championship game because if you don't take every team very, very seriously, you can get caught napping."

Yasmine Lamison, a senior small forward who was the Lady Mariners' most prolific three-point shooter and an All-League selection last season, returns to lead a talented core. "She's gotten stronger and a lot more confident in taking her game inside," Wingfield said. "Yasmine's always had this uncanny ability around the basket. She has really been able to mix her game up a lot more and she's a lot more versatile."

Joining Lamison once again will be Jasmine Dyson, Southampton's senior All-County point guard who is back to put her stamp on what she hopes is a championship season. "Jasmine has truly accepted that she is the quarterback of this team. She's our vocal leader . . . she is the point guard."

Dyson's outstanding ball distribution has also improved dramatically in the off-season thanks to competing in an elite AAU league. "She was our best ball handler last season and she's done a great job. Jasmine has the ability to drive to the basket and what's even more incredible is that she's also a strong post player."

Senior forward Desiree Halaka, a hard worker who hustles down the floor and makes everyone around her better, also returns, as does senior guard Alex Page, a warrior who has overcome rheumatoid arthritis to become one of the Lady Mariners' key players. "She's mentally clicked it up a notch and her outside shooting is outstanding. She'll start," said Wingfield.

Southampton will also have the luxury of junior varsity standout Imani Richardson this season. Richardson is a junior forward who helped lead her team to a 16-2 record last season. She's a terrific athlete, a true speedster who plays three sports. "Imani's just a quick, competitive young lady," Wingfield remarked. "She adds an incredible dimension to our team. She's not big, but she can really jump."

The most athletic player on the Mariners may in fact be Shalena Mack, a senior forward who brings excitement and instant offense. She is capable of breaking open a game if given the opportunity. Arguably the league's best "sixth" player, Mack proved last season that she can score at will. "She's going to give us a lot of minutes."

Sophomore Leah Eleazer, the leading scorer from Southampton's junior varsity last season, joins the big team this winter. Described as a natural talent who has yet to realize her potential, she played AAU ball last summer to improve her craft.

Guard Porshe Pettaway, a senior, also returns and, like many of her teammates, is a reliable outside shooter who can hit the open shot. Catherine O'Connor, a senior guard, moves up from the junior varsity along with juniors Phung Truong, Petrina DeRobertis and Sierra Gumbs.

"Our year is not just about playing some games. We know that we're going to be competing for the league title," remarked Wingfield. "We believe in something that we call five." That means that there are five essentials that we have to follow in order for this team to function on all cylinders. Positive communication. Possess a winning attitude. No egos. Stay motivated and self-disciplined. Constantly remind ourselves that we can't win with two players. We need all five players on the court to be contributing."

All signs point to Southampton being a well-oiled, well-conditioned machine that will be one of the top teams to watch in Suffolk County this season.

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