Ward Melville dominates Newfield in Suffolk AAA quarterfinals

Newfield High School vs. Ward Melville High School, Suffolk AAA quarterfinals. A shot attempt by Ward Melville, which won 62-38 and stayed alive in the playoffs. // Photo By Nick Mongiovi/Long Island Advocate

By Nick Mongiovi

The roof of the Newfield High School gymnasium Feb. 21 was practically blown off by the pregame warmup music and spirited basketball fans. That didn’t stop the Ward Melville Patriots from coming into Newfield’s house and beating the Wolverines 62-38 in the Suffolk AAA quarterfinals.

Ward Melville dominated in all facets of the game, especially down low in the paint. The Wolverines had no answer and lost by 24 points.

“In the third quarter, we didn’t make any adjustments, to be honest. We were only down eight points,” said Newfield head coach Andrew Gallo. “We wanted to lock in our defense and make a run offensively, but when that didn’t happen, we started to put a little bit of pressure on them to see if they could cough it up. We went to a little bit of a smaller lineup with Josh Hayes running the point, hopefully to bring the big kid [Lorenzo] Beaton out. But everything we had, they countered.”

Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo with the starting lineup for the Suffolk AAA quarterfinals playoff game vs. Newfield. // Photo by Nick Mongiovi/Long Island Advocate

Beaton was the reason for many of Newfield’s troubles. No matter what Gallo threw at Ward Melville, Beaton beat the opposition to the ball, racking up 12 points, all from inside the paint, along with 20 rebounds.

“Our game plan really didn’t shift much. All year, it’s been to play hard-nose half-court defense and good-help defense,” Gallo said. “That didn’t change much, and we actually wanted to get out and run on them, which I thought we did in the first quarter, but that kind of slowed up. Got to give credit to them.”

Newfield senior center Jacob Roman briefly left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. The score after the first quarter was 16-12 in favor of the Patriots, but the Wolverines looked as if they were chasing 20 points.

“They played like they wanted it more than us,” Roman said. “I know I wanted it. I know he [Michael Favalaro] wanted it, but at the end of the day they were the better team.”

In the first five minutes of play, the Patriots looked as if they would be the ones to lose by 24 points. Newfield was flying up and down the court as the squad burst out to an early 5-0 lead. That didn’t last long as Ward Melville began to pressure the Wolverines.

“I think the game slipped away from us in the second quarter,” said junior guard Michael Favaloro. “We left it all out there, but we couldn’t get it done.”

This was one of the five matchups that these two teams have had against each other over the past three seasons. Ward Melville won four of those games.

Ward Melville has won four out of the past five games against Newfield. // Canva graphic by Nick Mongiov

The Patriots’ starting lineup comprised mostly seniors, including Beaton, Eddie Hughes, Devin Lynch and Luke Chitkara. The lone non-senior starter was junior guard Neelesh Raghurama. Raghurama was making it rain from behind the arc, as he cashed in four three-pointers and led all scorers with 22 points.

While a trip to the next round against No. 1 Bay Shore was on the line and the energy was at an all-time high, some of the players’ high school basketball careers ended that night. For the juniors and the rest of the lowerclassmen, they can return next year and make another run at a championship. Some seniors, like Roman, might not get to play again.

“There’s a lot more important things in life than basketball,” Roman said. “I’m graduating, a couple others are graduating, so we just have to go on in life and be stronger, let this be a learning experience. There are things that are going to come in life that are going to hurt, but you need to bounce back.”

Coach Andrew Gallo talking with his team during a timeout. Gallo struggled to find answers for Ward Melville. // Photo by Nick Mongiovi/Long Island Advocate

But for the juniors and sophomores, along with the coaches who will return in 2024-25, they are motivated to reach the playoffs.

“We just finished in the locker room talking, and we have a primarily junior-led team, so we’ll be back next year,” Gallo said. “I intend on getting us back to this spot and going forward.”

As for the players…

“I think this was a great learning experience,” Favaloro said. “I think we’ll be better next year, even though we had a great year this year.”