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Girls Basketball Preview: Zajac leads a deep SWR team

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12/01/2016 9:15 AM |

Shoreham-Wading River basketball player Mackenzie Zajac 112916

Only five basketball players can play on the court at a time for a team. The Shoreham-Wading River High School girls team has many more capable players than that. The Wildcats are deep.

That means Shoreham’s starting lineup is up in the air like a jump ball.

“There’s a lot of depth on the team,” said Adam Lievre, who enters his fourth season coaching the team. “If you were a starter last year, that doesn’t mean anything. I told them today, we have a good problem and a bad problem. The good problem is we are very deep. The bad problem is we can’t play everybody all the time.”

Mackenzie Zajac, a senior guard who has committed to play for SUNY/Cortland, is a big part of the team’s plans. The All-League player averaged 12 points per game last season.

“She’s obviously our most skilled basketball player,” Lievre said, “our outside shooter, someone we’re going to rely on.”

Shoreham (9-9 last season) has four other starters from the 2015-16 team back: forward Maria Smith, forward Lindsey McKenna, guard Sophie Triandafils and guard Mikayla Dwyer. They are all seniors except for Dwyer, a junior who was the League VI Rookie of the Year.

Lievre said Dwyer is a spark plug on offense. “She scores in bunches,” he said. “That’s really her game. She makes things happen.”

Varsity experience is also offered by senior guards Sam Higgins, Jesse Arline and Hannah Montenegro, junior guard Erin Triandafils and senior forward Maddy Bottari.

Courtney Wrigley, a senior forward who hasn’t played since she was in eighth grade, could make a big impact. “She has been more than a pleasant surprise, and that is an understatement,” Lievre said. “She has been great.”

Adding to the depth are sophomore guard Bella Meli and freshman forward Hayden Lachenmeyer.

“It’s definitely the deepest team I’ve had,” said Lievre, adding, “It’s probably the most talented team, too.”

It’s the old good news-bad news thing with Bishop McGann-Mercy (10-7). All but one of the Monarchs are returning players. However, the team has only eight players.

“God forbid we get into foul trouble,” coach Meaghan Macarthur said. “Everybody has to be on every game.”

The small roster doesn’t leave much room for injuries, either.

Mercy is led by All-Conference senior point guard Mia Behrens, All-League junior forward Melina Santacroce and junior guard Olivia Kneski.

Also back are: freshman point guard Chastin Giles, junior guard/forward Karen Nabrizny, senior guard/forward Megan Kuehhas and senior guard Savannah Hauser. Hauser, who has been on the team since she was a freshman, sat out the entire 2015-16 season with a torn ACL. Mary Grace Hartmann, a sophomore forward, is the lone addition.

“It’s not teaching everything fresh and new,” said Macarthur, who is in her second season as Mercy’s coach. “It’s building on what we had last year.”

“Even though we’re small, I’m really, really confident because we have a very wide range of abilities and can cover spots on the floor,” she continued. “Everyone can score and everyone can defend.”

Mercy reached the Suffolk County Class B semifinals last year, losing to Center Moriches, a team it had beaten twice during the regular season.

Said Macarthur, “We reached the playoffs and did great, but we weren’t mentally ready for it.”

Riverhead (16-4) is coming off quite a season, reaching the Suffolk Class AA quarterfinals.

“Don’t expect the same this year,” said coach Dave Spinella, who takes a 154-89 career record into the new season. It will be hard for Spinella to add to his 10-10 playoff record, though.

Riverhead lost its two best players, Sam Dunn and Dezarae Brown. Dunn, who is playing for LIU Post, totaled 1,016 points over four seasons with the Blue Waves. Brown is playing for the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx.

What is most notable about the current Blue Waves is they are all guards. Every single one of them.

That means it is time for Riverhead to reinvent itself. “You can’t always do what you’ve always done if you don’t have the same pieces,” said Spinella.

Riverhead does return its three starting junior guards. Two of them, Faith-Johnson DeSilvia and Kate McCarney, were All-Conference choices. The other, Kim Ligon, made All-League.

Also returning are senior Mary Reiter, sophomore Angie Graziano, senior Mackenzie Palmer, sophomore Regan Montefusco and sophomore Christina Dunn, the team’s tallest player at 5-foot-10.

Sophomore Katie Brown and juniors Natalie Cavaliere, Nia Johnson and Promise Trent are new additions.

Riverhead has been bumped up from League III to guard-rich League II. Who is going to be tough in League II?

“Everybody in the league,” answered Spinella, noting teams such as Northport, Half Hollow Hills East, Connetquot and Walt Whitman. “They’re all basketball schools.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior guard Mackenzie Zajac, who has committed to play for SUNY/Cortland, averaged 12 points per game last season. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

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