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.
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.”