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

01/24/13 6:44pm
01/24/2013 6:44 PM

WILDCATS 45, MUSTANGS 17

The game itself was surely not a work of art. It is highly doubtful that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be calling to request video of Thursday’s girls basketball game between Shoreham-Wading River and Mount Sinai. In fact, the Shoreham-Wading River coach, Dennis Haughney, said he wouldn’t watch the game video if he didn’t have to.

Not that Shoreham-Wading River didn’t play well, because it did, and in the process, the Wildcats coasted to a 45-17 win that kept them running virtually neck and neck with Elwood/John Glenn in the race for the Suffolk County League VI championship. It was Shoreham-Wading River’s 11th win in 12 games and third straight victory since an 18-point loss to Elwood/John Glenn.

This could be a special season for Shoreham-Wading River (11-4, 8-1), which is seeking its first league title since 2002.

“You want to give it a shot,” Haughney said. “We don’t talk about it a lot.”

But the Wildcats have a lot to play for, nonetheless.

“We’re working so hard,” junior forward Taylor Whiffen said. “There’s something for us to accomplish. We’ve been trying this for years. Last year we wanted to win [the league], but this year we really think we have a chance.”

Shoreham-Wading River kept its chances looking good by taking care of business Thursday at Mount Sinai High School in a game that didn’t always look so good.

For most of the opening six minutes, the score stood at 2-0 Shoreham-Wading River thanks to a basket by Meghan King. Both teams were in a shooting funk, and the first quarter ended with the score 6-0. But as the Wildcats slowly picked up their scoring, their defense remained intense, and Mount Sinai (7-7, 2-7) struggled mightily. The Mustangs finally got on the scoreboard when Carissa Gulli made a free throw 1:55 into the second quarter.

Mount Sinai managed only 3 points in the first half from three free throws, and it missed its first nine shots from the field. Shoreham-Wading River held the Mustangs without a field goal until Kate Hogan put in a two-handed shot in the paint 16 seconds into the third quarter.

Mount Sinai shot 6 of 34 (17.6 percent) from the field for the game, yet managed to make it a 10-point contest when a basket by Marisa Colacino cut Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 17-7 early in the third quarter.

Haughney couldn’t rest easy. “I’ve seen crazy stuff happen,” he said.

But the Wildcats then scored the next 9 points — 6 of them coming from King — to run the score to 26-7. Later, Shoreham-Wading River opened the fourth quarter with a 16-4 spurt in which six players scored for the Wildcats, giving their side a 42-15 lead late in the game.

King had a big day. Before the senior forward made her exit along with teammate Courtney Clasen with 1:49 left in the game, she had collected 15 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals and 1 blocked shot. Keri Clark added 10 points with the aid of three 3-point shots. Clasen totaled 5 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot.

Shoreham-Wading River outrebounded the home team by 44-27 and by 18-5 on the offensive glass.

What King liked best about the game, though, was Shoreham-Wading River’s ball movement.

“It was a good game for passing,” she said. “We still had mistakes, obviously, and that’s going to happen with every game. We were finding the open girl and passing inside.”

Shoreham-Wading River didn’t exactly shoot the lights out, hitting 15 of 46 (32.6 percent) field-goal attempts, but it played aggressive defense, challenging Mount Sinai shooters at every turn.

Jessica Parente was the top scorer for Mount Sinai with 8 points.

“Defensively, we always work hard, and I think that always gives us a chance,” Haughney said. “I really feel like we haven’t brought our best game yet as far as just all around hitting shots and whatnot. I guess we’re just athletic enough and work hard enough and do enough good things just to win the games.”

Shoreham-Wading River started the day in second place, a half-game behind Elwood/John Glenn. The teams will meet in their final regular-season game on Feb. 8 in Shoreham. That game could be for the league crown.

“I think we’re finally starting to work as a team,” Whiffen said. “We’re moving the ball more, our shots are falling. We’ve been working hard, and it’s paying off. We haven’t played our best game but we’re still working hard, and it will come.”

bliepa@timesreview.com