The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats may have a greater appreciation for the importance of balance than many other high school boys basketball teams. When Kevin Davis went down with a broken ankle early last season, it sabotaged the Wildcats’ season. They were thrown off-balance and missed the playoffs.
This season Davis is back and healthy. Not only that, but the Wildcats have more of an inside game than they did last season to go with their perimeter play. Balance has been restored. It makes all the difference.
“You have to have balance,” said Shoreham-Wading River Coach Kevin Culhane.
Now that the Wildcats can throw the ball in the paint to people like John Kovach, Kevin Galligan, Michael Clancy and Christopher Mahoney, opponents can’t afford to smother Davis and his back-court partner, Ryan McAlary.
That inside game was on full display Monday night when the taller Wildcats put their height to good use against the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs in Riverhead. The Wildcats used a 13-3 run to take a 22-11 lead in the second quarter and then scored the first 14 points of the third quarter to pull away to a 62-29 non-league win.
Shoreham-Wading River’s ball movement and shot selection was good and its defense helped produce 24 turnovers by McGann-Mercy, twice as many as those of the Wildcats (3-2, 1-0 Suffolk County League VI).
“It’s good,” Kovach said. “It’s definitely a confidence-booster when you can come out and run well.”
The 6-foot-4 Kovach surely did his part, scoring 16 points and falling one rebound short of a double-double. “Kovach’s very talented,” Culhane said. “If he realized how good he can be … he’s just scratching the surface.”
Davis added 14 points and six assists. Ian Dowd supplied 10 points off the bench.
In fact, 12 Wildcats played, nine scored and the Shoreham-Wading River bench outscored McGann-Mercy’s, 26-2.
Those weren’t the only lopsided numbers related to the game. Shoreham-Wading River also held notable advantages in rebounds (41-29), steals (18-8) and field-goal shooting percentage (43.6 percent to 31.6 percent).
McGann-Mercy Coach Mike Clauberg also lamented 14 missed layups by his side in the first half alone. “And they were pretty much layups that were makeable,” he said in a meeting with reporters following a postgame talk with his players in the locker room. “When you miss 14 layups and you can’t make the easy baskets go in, then you’re going to be obviously not able to stay in games.”
It was easy to see why McGann-Mercy (1-6, 0-1 League VII) suffered its fifth straight loss. For the Monarchs, it was a long night.
“Things that you wouldn’t think happened in basketball, they happened today,” said Clauberg.
McGann-Mercy forward Danny Hartmann said: “Tonight just [stunk]. The first quarter we started off pretty good, and then it just went downhill. We just weren’t playing as a team, trying to force everything.”
Liam McArdle led McGann-Mercy with 10 points. Hartmann contributed seven points and 11 rebounds.
Clauberg blamed lack of effort and discipline, saying his team had taken a “huge step backwards.” Addressing his players at halftime, with McGann-Mercy trailing by 32-18, Clauberg compared the team’s play to the performance of his car. “When I start my car up in the morning, I have to let it sit for five minutes, otherwise it stalls,” Clauberg said, noting that the vehicle needs a tune-up because one of the pistons probably isn’t firing correctly. “You need five pistons to run an engine, so if I got a tune-up right now and all five pistons are running correctly, I’d be doing good right now, and I’m not.”
Meanwhile, the outlook is brighter for Shoreham-Wading River, an athletic team with three proven scorers and other players who can be complementary scorers.
“We’re looking to rebound this year and do a lot better,” Kovach said. “When we execute like we did today, we do a lot better than if we don’t. Last year one of our top players went down and we just kind of lost our heads and we didn’t play like we should have, but we definitely can do real good this year.”
One thing is for sure: balance helps.