At first glance, the Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball team will appear vastly different from a year ago. Gone are three of the Wildcats’ tallest players, who made up one of the biggest frontlines Shoreham coach Kevin Culhane has had during his tenure.
The size may not be there this year, but the Wildcats do return a stout defensive team with toughness and athleticism.
“We just have this inner toughness,” Culhane said. “They’re going to figure out how to win or keep the game close. What we don’t have in basketball ability, we do make up in toughness and athletic ability.”
The Wildcats will rely on the defensive end this year after losing two of the top scorers from last year’s team: Danny Hughes and Jonah Caldwell. It’ll be more of a mix offensively this year and any number of players may end up as a leading scorer on a given night.
The Wildcats are coming off a stellar season that saw them finish one game away from a league title. For as exciting a ride it was through the regular season, the Wildcats (14-5 overall in 2014-15) were left with a bitter taste after losing by two points to Sayville in the Class A quarterfinals.
Much like last season, the Wildcats were playing a bit of catch-up at the start of the season because of the football team’s deep playoff run. Culhane said he wasn’t sure just how many players from the football team were going to come out for the basketball team. And then a few players he thought would be back opted not to play.
If there was any rust, the Wildcats didn’t show it in their season opener on Friday. The Wildcats took down Eastport-South Manor, 50-32, in non-league and outscored the Sharks 17-5 in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats will rely on four seniors throughout the year: Doug DeMaio, Jon Constant, Jason Curran and Kieran Qualley.
DeMaio and Constant are both guards who Culhane said are the best two defensive guards in the league, in his opinion.
“They’re just tough-minded kids,” he said.
Qualley is a strong outside shooter who has a more versatile game this year, Culhane said. Qualley is entering his third year on varsity.
Curran, the quarterback of the football team, will see an increased role this year after mostly coming off the bench last season as a sixth or seventh man.
He gives the Wildcats some size at about 6-foot-2.
A new addition to the team is freshman Liam Mahoney, who will take over the point guard duties.
“He’s very athletic, a good runner and has good size and interior toughness,” Culhane said.
Kenny DeGolyer, a junior, made a splash in his first varsity game by scoring 14 points to lead the team in the win over Eastport.
Shoreham opened the league season Tuesday at home against Miller Place.
“I’m happy the way they’re coming along,” Culhane said. “It should be a fun season.”
Photo Caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Kieran Qualley is one of four seniors expected to start for the Wildcats this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)
Consistency was never lacking last year from Riverhead’s Tyrese Kerr.
“He was our double-double man,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti.
In all but one game last year Kerr scored double-figure points while grabbing double-digit rebounds, Rossetti said. A versatile forward who can score from the outside or in the paint, Kerr will be the “workhorse” for the Blue Waves this season.
“He’s kind of embraced that role,” Rossetti said.
Kerr brings a strong, physical game to the court, which makes him a tough matchup. If an opponent puts a big guy on him, the 6-foot-3 Kerr can beat him on the perimeter. If there’s a smaller opponent, he can take advantage in the post.
“We’re going to utilize him depending on who’s playing him,” Rossetti said.
The Blue Waves are coming off a tough season that ended with a 6-12 overall record. The team had mostly juniors last year, so Rossetti is hopeful the Blue Waves can take the step forward this year and compete for a playoff spot.
“I think those kids took those growing pains and used it as a motivating factor,” he said. “They’re really working hard in practice.”
Sharron Trent and Lintell Brown are both returning varsity players who bring experience to the court. They both play on the wing as guards.
The Blue Waves will turn to a first-year varsity player at point guard in junior Will Sanders. He played the point on the JV the past two years.
“He’s doing a nice job of distributing the ball and pushing it when we need to,” Rossetti said.
Senior Steven Ascanio, a second-year varsity forward, gives the Blue Waves some size up front. Malik Washington is another guard with a wealth of varsity experience who brings leadership to the team.
It’s been a busy schedule of scrimmages for the Blue Waves so far in the preseason in preparation for the non-league opener Friday against Connetquot. Rossetti said he’s been impressed with the team’s chemistry so far and the positive vibes.
“Even the guys on the bench are hooting and hollering for the guys on the court,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see.”
The Blue Waves will see some changes in league this year, notably the addition of Huntington. Rossetti said the Blue Devils will likely be the favorite this year.
The Blue Waves begin the league season Dec. 15 at home against Newfield.
For the first time in more than a decade, a new face will roam the sidelines for Bishop McGann-Mercy. Mike Clauberg, who led the Monarchs to a pair of county titles and more than 100 wins in 13 years, resigned as the head coach.
The Monarchs will turn to Kevin O’Halloran, a longtime coach at Pierson and The Ross School, to replace Clauberg. O’Halloran worked as an assistant with Clauberg last year at Mercy.
The Monarchs, who went 6-12 overall last year, will feature a senior trio this season. Kevin Santacroce, Nick Kneski and Joe Jeskie are all returning varsity players who will see the bulk of the time on the court.
Santacroce, a 6-foot-3 forward who was the quarterback of the football team, averaged 18 points per game last season. Jeskie is a 5-foot-10 point guard and Kneski is a 6-foot guard.
“We should go as far as they take us,” O’Halloran said.
The Monarchs won’t have the deepest team this year with a nine-man roster to start. The Monarchs quickly found out how important it is to have their starters play big minutes. In the non-league opener against a tough Stony Brook School team, Santacroce picked up three early fouls. Stony Brook went on to outscore Mercy 25-9 in the second quarter en route to a 78-60 win. Santacroce still finished with a team-high 20 points, while Jeskie added 16.
“We got to be smart but we could be tough,” O’Halloran said.
The Monarchs can play multiple styles depending on the game, O’Halloran said. The Monarchs will face a typically tough schedule in league this year featuring Babylon and Center Moriches, among a few other strong teams. Mercy opens the league season Dec. 14 at Center Moriches. The team’s home opener is a non-league game Thursday against Southold.