CLASS A SEMIFINALS | TORNADOES 95, WILDCATS 52
At times Tuesday night, Shoreham-Wading River coach Kevin Culhane couldn’t help but watch in awe as the Harborfields Tornadoes discected his team’s defense in the Class A semifinals.
“I said to the referee one time, ‘we just played as good a defense [as we can play], and they scored at will,'” Culhane said.
The Tornadoes – a team that brings back memories of those great Amityville teams of Jason Frazier and A.J. Price from a decade ago — lit up the scoreboard against the Wildcats en route to a 95-52 victory in front of a standing-room only crowd at Harborfields High School.
Harborfields senior Justin Ringen put on a shooting clinic against the Wildcats, scoring a school-record 40 points. He drained six 3-pointers through the first 9 minutes of the game, a dazzling shooting display that left Shoreham staring at massive hole. Ringen finally looked human when he missed with an airball a minute later on a long 3-pointer.
“Ringen just killed us the first half,” Culhane said.
The Wildcats (12-8) knew they were in for a nearly impossible challenge against Harborfields, a team that hasn’t played a meaningful second half of a game since December. It was the fifth time this season the Tornadoes surpassed 90 points in a game. Their only two losses have come against private schools — Long Island Lutheran and Mt. Saint Michael. In December the Tornadoes (16-2) beat the No. 1 seed in Class AA, Half Hollow Hills West, by 12 points.
“They’re so good, how many weapons can you stop?” Culhane said. “They’re one of the best teams Long Island has seen.”
Harborfields will play for its third straight Class A county championship Friday against Amityville at Farmingdale State College. Harborfields coach Chris Agostino will go up against his brother Jack, who coaches the Warriors. The teams met last year in the finals and the Tornadoes won. They went on to the state championship before losing to Jamesville-DeWitt.
Playing their first playoff game after a first-round bye, the Tornadoes came out flying against the Wildcats in an electrifying first quarter. The Tornadoes shot a sizzling 14 of 21 (67 percent) from the field to go ahead 33-7. Of their two misses in the quarter, one was a missed dunk by Ringen and the other was a long buzzer-beater as the quarter expired.
Five of the first six baskets for Harborfields came in transition off turnovers. The Tornadoes ran off 12 points before John Kovach finally put the Wildcats on the board.
During an early timeout, Culhane compared the team’s situation to their season as a whole. They’ve been down before at 2-5 in league and on the verge of missing the playoffs. They didn’t quit then, he said, and shouldn’t now.
The Wildcats responded with a valiant effort the rest of the way. They got rolling offensively over the final three quarters but could only trade baskets at best.
“I’m so proud of my kids,” Culhane said. “They could have bailed out and they didn’t. It’s a testimony to the three seniors, Robbie [Bray], John [Kovach] and Chris [Mahoney]. They didn’t let us quit.”
The Wildcats never got within 28 in the second half. They played mostly even with the Tornadoes in the second half until they closed out the game on a 19-4 run. Junior Kevin Turano led the Wildcats with 18 points.
Ringen tied the school record of 38 on a step-back jumper with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. He hit the 40 mark to break the record just over a minute later.
Culhane said it was one of the best performances from an opposing player that he’s seen.
“He’s terrific. We worked on different things,” Culhane said. “We went man-to-man in the second half. We did a good job except for stopping Ringen. I know it sounds simplified.”
Harborfields senior John Patron was the only other Tornado in double figures. He scored 18, most of which came in the paint. Senior guard Lucas Woodhouse orchestrated the offense beautifully with a career-high 20 assists.
“They have three all-county kids,” Culhane said. “I tip my hat to them.”