02/19/13 7:21pm
02/19/2013 7:21 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Kari Gostic of Shoreham-Wading River passed Elwood/John Glenn defenders before putting up a shot.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Kari Gostic of Shoreham-Wading River passed Elwood/John Glenn defenders before putting up a shot.

SUFFOLK CLASS A SEMIFINAL | KNIGHTS 56, WILDCATS 49

Shoreham-Wading River’s girls basketball team has never advanced to a county final. Not even once. The Wildcats will have to live with that fact for at least another year.

It’s not so much that Shoreham-Wading River is cursed, as Elwood/John Glenn is blessed — with talent.

Elwood/John Glenn, one of the most successful programs in Suffolk County, has been a major obstacle in Shoreham-Wading River’s path to a county final, and was so again on Tuesday. With three of its players scoring in double figures, the third-seeded Knights beat No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River on its home court, 56-49, in a Suffolk Class A semifinal. It is the third straight year in which Elwood/John Glenn has ended Shoreham-Wading River’s playoff run. It is the fifth time in six years that Shoreham-Wading River has finished one win shy of a county final.

“We’ve had a lot of good opportunities, so I guess that means we have a pretty good program,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Dennis Haughney said. “We’ve been close for a while. It just so happens that they’ve been a little better. Maybe one day this program will get a little better than that program, and they’ll feel cursed for a while.”

With the victory, the defending Long Island champion Knights (18-2) earned a place in Friday night’s county title game at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue against No. 1 Harborfields or No. 4 Islip. It will be Elwood/John Glenn’s third straight county final.

“It’s a new bunch of kids, and they are the ones that are taking us to the final, not me, and they did a great job,” said Elwood/John Glenn coach Andrew Athanas.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Meghan King, playing in her final game for Shoreham-Wading River, posted 9 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Meghan King, playing in her final game for Shoreham-Wading River, posted 9 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal.

Elwood/John Glenn and Shoreham-Wading River (14-5) are the League VI co-champions, but the Knights, who have won all five of their playoff meetings with the Wildcats since 2008, were a notch better on Tuesday. Unlike the previous game between the teams, a double-overtime thriller won by Shoreham-Wading River on Feb. 7, Elwood/John Glenn was at full strength on Tuesday. Meaghan Haber, a senior guard, sat out the Feb. 7 game with an injured ankle; Mackenzie Sivilli, a junior guard, played hurt.

Both were in the starting lineup in the semifinal, though.

“It made a big difference,” said Athanas.

For one thing, Haber brought 14 points worth of offense to the Knights. They also received 16 points from Emma Klis and 15 from Tanna Mohammed. Klis and Sivilli had 5 assists each.

Successive 3-point shots by Haber, Sivilli and Haber again kick-started a 14-0 run that put Elwood/John Glenn ahead, 25-9, with 3 minutes 48 seconds left in the second quarter.

But Shoreham-Wading River showed resilience, pulling to within 3 points by halftime and taking the lead at 26-25 on back-to-back baskets by Sabrina Santiago (11 points, 5 assists) and Meghan King (9 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal) to start the third quarter.

The teams traded leads five times after that. Elwood/John Glenn went in front for good, 38-37, on a shot by Haber late in the third quarter, the second of four straight baskets by the Knights.

“It’s a game of runs, and they were the team that had more runs in them today,” said Haughney.

Elwood/John Glenn used a 13-2 surge to open the fourth quarter, 7 of those points coming from Mohammed.

“We really made sure that we used the clock,” Haber said. “We passed the ball. We really worked as a team and made sure we got that right shot.”

While Shoreham-Wading River started the game in a 3-for-15 shooting slump, Elwood/John Glenn showed that it is one of the better outside shooting teams around. The Knights hit on 48.7 percent of their shots from the field, including 7 of 14 from 3-point range. Shoreham-Wading River finished at 34 percent.

“They’re a very good outside shooting team, and I think that’s what killed us,” said Santiago.

It was Elwood/John Glenn’s accurate shooting that atoned for its struggles on the boards. The Knights were outrebounded, 36-23, and by 17-6 on the offensive end.

Courtney Clasen brought Shoreham-Wading River 12 points and 8 rebounds.

With the two teams having played each other three times this season (two of those games ending in Elwood/John Glenn’s favor), the players know each other well, “pretty much by almost middle name,” said Haber.

Haber said that despite her team’s successful history, the Knights knew better than to take anything for granted. “We knew this game we had to come out and really fight,” she said.

Elwood/John Glenn looked focused, and that was no accident. Athanas said the team was coming off its two best practices of the season. “They were pumped and ready,” he said.

Santiago said it was a season to remember for Shoreham-Wading River, which earned its first league title since 2002.

As for that evasive county final, she said, “One day we’ll get there.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

02/07/13 8:09pm
02/07/2013 8:09 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's Taylor Whiffen took an elbow to the head from Elwood/John Glenn's Jillian Del Grasso while shooting.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River’s Taylor Whiffen took an elbow to the head from Elwood/John Glenn’s Jillian Del Grasso while shooting.

WILDCATS 59, KNIGHTS 48 (2 OT)

Meghan King said she had never been at the free-throw line before, in a situation such as the one she faced Thursday, with not only a game on the line, but a league championship as well.

But there she was, having been fouled with her Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team trailing Elwood/John Glenn by 2 points with 12.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Talk about pressure.

King said she was telling herself at the time to approach it like she was at practice, focusing on the shots, not the scoreboard, and forgetting about the surroundings, the crowd and everything else.

And yet, it was still there. In the back of her mind, she said, an inner voice was reminding her of the significance of the free throws. That inner voice, King said, reminded her, “‘You know, you got to make these so we will win.”

After King hit the first free throw, Elwood/John Glenn coach Andrew Athanas called timeout, perhaps hoping to ice the senior.

No such luck.

King converted the second one as well as four more in overtime. In one of the most thrilling games in the team’s recent history, Shoreham-Wading River toppled visiting Elwood/John Glenn, 59-48, in double overtime to finish the regular season in a tie for first place in Suffolk County League VI with the Knights. It is the Wildcats’ first league title since 2002.

“It was well worth the wait,” said Shoreham-Wading River coach Dennis Haughney.

Elwood/John Glenn, the defending Long Island Class A champion, is a league champion for the 10th time in 12 years.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Rosati of Shoreham-Wading River attempting an off-balance shot while Elwood/John Glenn's Mackenzie Sivilli tries to stop her.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Rosati of Shoreham-Wading River attempting an off-balance shot while Elwood/John Glenn’s Mackenzie Sivilli tries to stop her.

The drama of Thursday’s game, which was pushed forward a day from the original schedule because of an expected snowstorm, left Haughney searching for words. “That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been involved with,” he said. “Unbelievable. I’m speechless, to be honest with you.”

A big difference between the two teams, which pushed each other to the limit, was King’s clutch free throws. It was nothing fancy, nothing spectacular, just basic free-throw shooting that paved the way for the Wildcats’ big win.

King was a driving force for the Wildcats, collecting 19 points and 18 rebounds, both game-high figures. But it was her free-throw shooting that proved critical. King, who shot 9 for 12 from the foul line, sank her last six attempts.

Asked about her skill as a foul shooter, King said: “I’ve had my ups and downs, but the past couple of weeks I’ve been staying after practice, just shooting, shooting and shooting it. I didn’t want to have the game in my hands and then lose it.”

Haughney said, statistically speaking, he was not sure if King is the team’s best foul shooter, but “she’s a streaky kid, and when she gets going, she’s the best.”

Shoreham-Wading River (14-4, 11-1) had a chance to win the contest in regulation time. With 2.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Courtney Clasen inbounded the ball to Sabrina Santiago, who was just across the mid-court line. Santiago dribbled between two defenders and pushed an air ball that fell well short of its target. The score remained 37-37.

The Wildcats had waited 11 years for a league championship, so what was another eight minutes? It was time for overtime.

King netted a pair of free throws with 11.5 seconds remaining in the first overtime period to put Shoreham-Wading River ahead, 44-42. Moments later, though, Elwood/John Glenn’s Monika Sivilli and Mackenzie Sivilli made passes to set up Lexie Koenke’s 15-foot jump shot, evening the score at 44-44. After a Shoreham-Wading River traveling violation with one second left in the first overtime, Mackenzie Sivilli received an inbounds pass from Emma Klis and hoisted a desperate attempt off the back rim at the buzzer.

On to the second overtime.

Shoreham-Wading River seized momentum and scored the first 8 points of the second four-minute overtime period to build a 52-44 lead. King, Taylor Whiffen and Keri Clark contributed points during that spurt.

The game was something of a battle of attrition, too, with three players fouling out. Shoreham-Wading River’s Shannon Rosati picked up all five of her personal fouls in the second half. Then, in the second overtime session, Klis and Alexis Groark fouled out for Elwood/John Glenn (16-2, 11-1), which shot 1 for 7 from the field in the second overtime.

ESPN would have classified the game as an “Instant Classic.”

When the end came, a tired Clasen was relieved. “I was like, ‘Thank God,’ ” she said. “After all those overtimes, I was wondering when it was going to end.”

Shoreham-Wading River, which won for the sixth straight time since an 18-point loss to Elwood/John Glenn on Jan. 15, received a double-double from Clasen, who had 13 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals, 5 assists and 1 block. Rosati scored 10 points.

Elwood/John Glenn, which saw its winning streak snapped at nine games, received 18 points from Monika Sivilli. Mackenzie Sivilli supplied 12 points.

After the game, the Knights were clearly upset at having failed to win the league title outright and having to share the crown.

“They obviously wanted it very badly,” Athanas said of his players. “It meant a lot to us.”

For King, the lesson of the day was a simple one that youngsters might want to listen to: Practice your foul shots.

“They come in handy,” she said.

bliepa@timesreview.com