10/29/13 7:00pm
10/29/2013 7:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats celebrate after Kerri Clark scored the lone goal in Tuesday’s playoff win over Bayport-Blue Point.

CLASS A PLAYOFFS  |  WILDCATS 1, PHANTOMS 0

It seemed only appropriate that two league rivals in Shoreham-Wading River and Bayport-Blue Point would meet in a playoff opener.

In the regular season, both teams defeated each other once. Both games were decided by a goal, one in overtime. In the end, the teams shared the League VI title, although Shoreham had one more win at 9-3, while Bayport was 8-2-2.

The teams met once more Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the Class A playoffs with a trip to the semifinals against Sayville on the line.

“We definitely wanted to beat Bayport to show who was the true champion,” said Shoreham senior Kerri Clark.

In a tightly contested match that showed just how close the two teams are, the fifth-seeded Wildcats emerged victorious thanks to a Clark goal and stellar defensive work anchored by goalkeeper Kelly Wynkoop.

The Wildcats’ 1-0 victory at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue sends them into Friday’s semifinal against top-seeded Sayville. After missing the postseason a year ago, the Wildcats (11-3) are now one win away from returning to the county finals for the first time since 2006.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, especially as a senior,” said Clark, a four-year varsity player.

In a game where scoring opportunities were hard to come by, Clark delivered the game’s lone goal in the 44th minute. Freshman Alex Kuhnle carried the ball into the Bayport (10-4-3) end up the right sideline. Kuhnle sent a pass to sophomore Megan Kelly, who delivered the crossing feed in front of the goal.

Bayport goalkeeper Erica Friel slid toward Kelly, who flicked the ball between a defender and Friel. Clark was charging up the middle of the field, and while fighting off a defender, knocked the ball into the goal from a few yards out.

“I knew [Kelly] was going to cross it to me,” Clark said. “But the girl was on me so I had to kind of push through her. And I just kicked the ball into the net.”

KellyGoal2 on Make A Gif

make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

That Clark came through with the big goal was no surprise to coach Adrian Gilmore.

“She’s one of those kids that any time there’s a big opportunity or I need a goal, she seems to come through,” Gilmore said.

Clark already had an overtime winner on her resume from this season in a crucial 1-0 win over Miller Place Oct. 10. She also scored the Wildcats’ second goal in another big win over Center Moriches Oct. 2.

It was a tense 34 minutes for the Wildcats after Clark’s goal.

“That felt like the longest half of my life,” Clark said.

The Phantoms strung together five corner kicks after the goal. In the first half, they didn’t have any. Clark said keeping the Phantoms out of corner kicks was something the team focused on coming into the game.

“They’re definitely good in the air, so we wanted to keep them away from that,” she said.

On one kick with just under 14 minutes left, the ball was headed out to freshman Natalia Sandor, who drilled a shot from just outside the 18. Wynkoop got a piece of it and the ball deflected off the crossbar and out of bounds for another corner kick.

The Wildcats survived each time.

Shoreham notched its 10th shutout of the season.

“Bayport’s such an offensive team and when they get the ball, they’re dangerous,” Gilmore said.

Wynkoop came up with a few big saves and was aggressive coming out of the net to make a play before Bayport had a chance to get something going. Gilmore said Wynkoop controls the back, something she’s gotten better at over the past two years.

“We kept talking, if you’re going to be the goalie, you have to control the game,” Gilmore said. “I think she’s done a nice job of that this year.”

Late in the first half the Wildcats dodged a great scoring chance from Bayport when the Phantoms crossed the ball from deep in the left corner to the front of the net. The ball ended up behind Wynkoop, who was face down on the turf, and Shoreham defender Theresa Bender was there to clear the ball out.

A few minutes later when the players came to the sideline for halftime, Wynkoop went over to hug Bender for having her back.

“The defense was unbelievable this year,” Gilmore said.

It will need to be once again Friday to take down another rival in Sayville.

joew@timesreview.com

01/22/13 7:25pm
01/22/2013 7:25 PM

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.

joew@timesreview.com