A tough loss, champions nonetheless

47-41 in Suffolk championship game


Bellport’s exciting playoff run ended Sunday in a 47-41 loss to Westhampton in the Suffolk AA championship game.

But while the Clippers’ season is over, they have plenty of things to be proud of—making their first-ever appearance in the championship game, playoffs wins over Comsewogue and No. 1-seeded Half Hollow Hills East, and just making it to the postseason after winning only three games last season.

“All I can say from a coach’s standpoint is how proud I am of the girls,” said second-year Clippers head coach and Bellport alum Rynese Smith. “We faced a lot of adversity this year. We were down and a lot of people counted us out, but we still got to a Suffolk County championship.”

“Our community backed us up, our friends and our family,” Smith said. “Things didn’t fall our way, but things happen, and that’s the beauty of sports.”

That support was evident Sunday when Bellport supporters packed the gym at Suffolk Community College’s Selden campus, after giving the players an emotional pregame sendoff in downtown Bellport.

The No. 5-seed Clippers, who ended their season at 16-7, ran into a tough opponent in No. 2 Westhampton.

Hurricane point guard Sandra Clarke led all scorers with 19 points and led a fierce defense that forced numerous Bellport turnovers. The Hurricanes double-teamed Bellport’s leading scorer Autumn Simon (15.5 ppg), limiting her to 10 points, and making it tough for Bellport to score in the paint.

Westhampton was up 19-8 at the end of the first quarter.

Bellport stormed back in the second quarter scoring 11 points to Westhampton’s four points, and the Clippers were down at the half, 23-19.

Bellport tied the score at 23 about a minute into the third quarter when Kaylee Graham stole the ball and drove downcourt for a layup, two of the six points she scored during the quarter.

The Clippers were down 33-30 at the end of the third quarter. They were again within three points at 41-38 when Simon sank a pair of free throws with 1:10 remaining. From there, Westhampton’s Clark took control, driving the lane and getting fouled three times, connecting on four free throws.

The game ended on a long three-point basket by Bellport’s Mariah Battist, one of her three three-pointers for the game.

“Bellport’s an excellent team,” said Westhampton coach Katie Powers, whose team improved to 21-2 and won its first Suffolk AA championship since 2020. “I couldn’t speak more highly of their coach, Rynese Smith, and their program. It was an excellent, hard-fought game by both teams.”


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