WILDCATS 49, PHANTOMS 37
Shoreham-Wading River coach Dennis Haughney could see the hard work junior Kerri Clark put in every practice and the way she prepared for each game. So there wasn’t any hesitation on Haughney’s part when an injury forced him to insert Clark into the starting lineup two games ago.
In her first start against Amityville Thursday, Clark poured in a career-high 15 points as the Wildcats won in a blowout.
Against Bayport-Blue Point Tuesday in a pivotal League VI game, she topped that in the first half.
When Clark swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer to conclude the first half at Shoreham-Wading River High School, the 5-foot-2 point guard had as many points (17) as the Phantoms. She finished with 24 as the Wildcats led from start to finish in a 49-37 victory.
Clark became the first Shoreham player this season to surpass 20 points in a game.
“My shot was on and I felt that during warmups,” Clark said. “I knew I should shoot the ball more and I had a lot of open opportunities.”
Clark sank four 3-pointers, which was also a season-high for a Shoreham player this season.
“There’s a reason why she’s doing well,” Haughney said. “She’s prepared like she’s ready to play every practice. That’s why she’s ready.”
Senior guard Sabrina Santiago had been starting for Shoreham in the backcourt alongside junior Shannon Rosati. But against John Glenn Jan. 15 — the lone league loss for the Wildcats — Santiago banged her knee and has been sidelined since.
Clark, who had been in the rotation off the bench, got the call to the starting lineup.
“I work hard every practice and today I had an opportunity to show everything,” Clark said.
“She’s definitely one of the better shooters on the team,” Haughney added.
Clark played all 32 minutes against Bayport and was admittedly fatigued afterward. But it was well worth it.
“I was looking forward to see what she could do with the opportunity,” Haughney said. “She made the most of it.”
The Wildcats (10-4, 7-1 League VI) also got 15 points from Rosati, who was key in transition off turnovers. The Wildcats love to play pressure defense and it allowed them to force 10 first-quarter turnovers. Shoreham jumped ahead 17-7 after one.
While the guards excel at jumping in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers, Haughney said having two bigs down low to anchor the defense gives the guards confidence to play aggressively.
Senior Meghan King and junior Taylor Whiffen are both 5-foot-11 and give the Wildcats an intimidating presence down low.
“They know Meghan and Taylor are going to be there to protect them from behind,” Haughney said.
The Wildcats already clinched a playoff spot and still have the league title within reach. John Glenn, the perennial road block, knocked off Shoreham 54-36 and is still unbeaten at 6-0. The Wildcats will face Glenn in a rematch at home Feb. 8 in the final game of the regular season.
“Hopefully if things work out well that will be for a league title,” Haughney said.
The Wildcats have beaten the three teams they must face before Glenn (Mount Sinai, East Hampton, Miller Place) by an average of 32 points.
Haughney said he felt Bayport was the next best team in the league after Glenn and his own squad.
The Phantoms, who got 16 points from Paige Faherty Tuesday, fell to 8-6 overall and 4-4 in league.
“It was almost like a playoff-type game,” Haughney said. “I think they’re going to be a playoff team so it was a nice game.”
Bayport jumped out to a quick 7-0 run in the second quarter to trim Shoreham’s lead to three. It was as close as the Phantoms would get the rest of the way. The Wildcats ended the quarter on an 11-3 run to take a 28-17 lead into the locker room.