I mentioned in my first article that I cover high school sports for my school’s radio station, 91.9 WSHR. I’ve been doing that for five years, and I’ve been able to see some great moments, and great local athletes. There are a few reasons why I can’t get enough of this stuff, and spending a Saturday without work going to some HS basketball games made me realize a couple of reasons why I love it so much.
First of all, I love sports. I think that’s the most important thing, and nothing more needs to be said about that.
Among the most popular high school sports on Long Island are football, basketball and Lacrosse. Football and lacrosse will pack out any stadium at any given time, provided that the game is at least decent. Basketball is slightly less popular, but packs out gymnasiums for big games. This past decade, Long Island has been a hot bed for girls basketball talent. Players such as Eugenia McPherson (North Babylon HS., St. John’s University), Samantha Prahalis (Commack HS., Ohio State), Kristen Doherty (Sachem East HS., Boston College) and most notably, Bria Hartley (North Babylon HS., UCONN). Lacrosse programs churn out top prospects annually. The William Floyd Football team won three consecutive Long Island Championships (LI Champions do not compete for State championships, in football), and at the end of the 2007 season, were nationally ranked #25 by Sports Illustrated. Big things happen in Long Island sports.
There’s also the history aspect. I love Long Island, and the history of this Island. It’s amazing to think that seventy years ago, most of the Island was farmland. School districts didn’t start featuring athletic teams until the 1920’s or 30’s, at the earliest. As the school districts began, so did the amount of sports teams. And as the sports teams gained achievements, the schools built a legacy. As the years rolled on and America underwent the transformation from a rural to suburban/urban society, more districts appeared on Long Island.
One of the coolest things in Long Island High School Sports are the banners commemorating any league, county, Island or state championship that hang from the walls in every gymnasium. Schools such as Sachem, which is known for girls basketball and football, or Northport, which lead the county with most girls basketball county championships (9) are filled with banners. The Northport gymnasium is so covered with banners, it’s almost impossible to tell if there is actually a wall behind them! Seeing banners hung for Samantha Prahalis’ Gatorade State Player of the Year Award at Commack, or the banner recognizing the #25 national ranking of the William Floyd football team is what makes Long Island so great.
Each school, each district, has their own story. And it’s happening in your own backyard. Granted, the level of play is not as sharp as it is in higher levels. But these are kids in your neighborhood making headlines. You don’t have to take a trip into the New York City, you don’t have to shell out a fortune for even the worst seats. You don’t have to worry about paying eight dollars for a hot dog. It’s kids playing the game hard, playing to win, and above everything else, doing what they love.