To call the challenge that awaited Shoreham-Wading River Saturday a tall task would be putting it mildly.
The Islip Buccaneers, the No. 2 seed in the Class A bracket, boast not one, but two six-footers in their starting lineup. Meghan Oberg, a 6-foot-2 senior who can shoot from the outside and handle the ball, teams up with junior Sanne van Poelgeest, a 6-foot-1 forward with a deft passing ability, to form an intimidating frontcourt.
If that’s not scary enough, senior Taryn Ohlmiller, a 5-foot-8 guard, can shred an opposing defense in any number of ways.
“I didn’t hide it from them over the last couple of days,” said Shoreham coach Adam Lievre. “All of you are going to be at a major height disadvantage.”
The No. 7 Wildcats battled valiantly against their much larger opponent, but could simply couldn’t match up with the Bucs over 32 minutes. Islip led from start to finish in a 61-40 victory that sends the Bucs into the semifinals Tuesday against the winner of Hampton Bays and Westhampton.
Ohlmiller, a standout lacrosse player in the spring, led the Bucs with 27 points while van Poelgeest added 20. The two outscored Shoreham by themselves.
Islip coach Dave Goodman described Ohlmiller as “the ultimate athlete.”
“She’ll defend, she passes the ball well,” he said, pointing to her stat line that included 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals.
The Wildcats, even in the face of a daunting opponent, stuck to their identity on the court. Shoreham played man-to-man defense against the Bucs, forcing several players to match up one-on-one against a much larger opponent.
Junior Maria Smith mostly guarded Oberg while junior Lindsey McKenna and sophomore Lydia Kessel faced van Poelgeest for much of the game.
The Wildcats limited Oberg to 7 points.
“We went back and forth whether we were going to play zone or man,” Lievre said. “We decided we played man all year and we’re going to stick with that. I think we did what we were planning on doing.”
Smith, who scored 8 points, was a force on the boards.
“Maria played her best game of the year,” Lievre said. “It was a good way to finish her season and build on that into the offseason and into next year. She really worked hard.”
Shoreham junior Mackenzie Zajac led the Wildcats offensively with 17 points.
The Bucs wasted no time getting to work, scoring four seconds into the game on a layup by Ohlmiller. Two minutes into the game, the Bucs led 10-0, forcing a quick timeout from Lievre.
While it looked like the Wildcats were in for a long afternoon, they actually played Islip even over the rest of the half. The Bucs led 31-21 at half, leaving a glimmer of hope for the Wildcats. Shoreham closed within single digits briefly at the start of the third quarter, but the Bucs quickly got back to work, scoring 25 points in the quarter, to effectively end the game. The Bucs (15-2) built a lead as big as 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Goodman said every girl in his starting lineup can shoot from beyond the arc, including Oberg and van Poelgeest. The Bucs didn’t shoot as many deep balls as they normally do because of the man-to-man defense. When teams sit in a zone against Islip, the Bucs can feed the ball into the middle, wait for the defense to collapse and then dish it out to a wide-open shooter.
“If you’re playing us man, that means our big is sitting down there man-to-man,” Goodman said.
The Bucs, the League V champions, shot 3 of 14 from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats (9-9) will return nearly their entire team next year.
“The positive was we worked from start to finish,” Lievre said. “The intensity, effort and emotion was there from start to finish. Other than a win, you can ask for anything other than that.”
Photo Caption: Islip guard Taryn Ohlmiller shoots a free throw as Shoreham-Wading River juniors Mackenzie Zajac (22) and Maria Smith prepare to box out Islip’s 6-foot-2 forward Meghan Oberg. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)