The 2010-11 Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats feature no one dominant scorer, no one player they can consistently look to for baskets. It may sound like a negative, but in reality, it can work as a positive. It forces teamwork, and also means the opponent has no one player to center its defense around.
In 10 games for the Wildcats, they’ve had six different players lead the team in scoring. And mostly when they’re going well, it’s their defense that puts the pressure on the opponent, allowing the Wildcats to get their rhythm on the other end.
It’s a formula that worked to perfection Tuesday afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River High School against Mount Sinai, the defending league VI champions.
“We do it off the defense,” said Shoreham coach Dennis Haughney. “We just try to work the ball and whoever ends up getting the last shot closest to the basket is good enough for us.”
The Wildcats forced 20 turnovers in the first half alone against the Mustangs, as they turned a 13-13 game after the first quarter into a 30-13 halftime lead. Starting with a Cali Lavey putback in the final minute of the first quarter, the Wildcats went on a 23-0 run that stretched into the third quarter. Mount Sinai (0-4 League VI, 0-9 overall) went 12 minutes without a field goal before junior Danielle Diaz converted on a fastbreak. Diaz, who opened the game hot from beyond the arc, scored a game-high 14 points for the Mustangs.
“We turn the ball over way too much,” said Mount Sinai coach Kevin Walsh. “It results directly in points and then the other team gets more possessions.”
In addition to forcing turnovers, the Wildcats also dominated on the glass, which lead to plenty more looks at the basket. In the first half the Wildcats shot 13-of-41 (32 percent) while the Mustangs got only 19 field goal attempts, connecting on 5 (26 percent).
“We had some pretty good size on them and got a lot of offensive rebounds,” Haughney said. “We’re not a great outside shooting team so that’s why we really have to do it with the defense to get it going for the transition points.”
Lavey and center Corinne Wiederkehr both did well rebounding and it helped lead to points for both of them. They each scored 10 points to lead the Wildcats, who had nine different players score in the game.
The Wildcats (3-1 League VI, 5-5 overall) led by as many as 26 before the starters took a seat for the fourth quarter. Meghan King scored eight points and Michelle Gostic and Sarah Franck each had six for Shoreham.
The Mustangs ended the game with a flurry, scoring 13 straight points to close the deficit to 12. Junior Christina Harman and sophomore Marisa Colacino both hit 3-pointers during the run. For the game the Mustangs connected on five treys. Diaz hit three, all in the first quarter as she burst out of the gate for 11 of the Mustangs’ 13 first-quarter points. Mount Sinai led by as many as eight early in the first quarter before the Wildcats got rolling in the final two minutes.
Haughney said slow starts have been a norm for Shoreham.
“Once we get things figured out we do pretty good for the most part,” he said.
After losing all their starters from a year ago, the Mustangs have a faced a difficult path this season, on and off the court. With only nine players to begin the season, the Mustangs lost two starters to serious health issues. And they happened to be the team’s only two seniors. Liz Debski, the team’s point guard, suffered a concussion early in the season. Walsh said she had a history of concussions and doctors determined it was too risky for her to continue playing, for another concussion could lead to long-term problems.
After that the Mustangs lost their starting center, Diana Lopez, to kidney problems. Walsh said she’s currently in the hospital and may need a kidney transplant.
“Right before they both definitely weren’t going to be able to play any more, they were voted the team captains,” Walsh said. “It’s a leadership void. They have a calming influence on the court. The girls would be a lot more confident if they were out there with them. We lost a lot emotionally, intellectually and physically.”
The Mustangs’ two biggest problems against Shoreham — turnovers and rebounding — were the two areas where Debski and Lopez would have had a big impact.
The Mustangs called up two junior varsity players to bulk the roster back up to nine. Four of those players are sophomores and one a freshman.
Walsh said he’s hopeful the experience the young players get on the court this season will pay off going forward.
“Ultimately the only way you’re going to get better is to get playing time,” Walsh said.
He pointed to the boys team last year, which lost every game until winning its final two. The players all worked on their game in the offseason and came back this season to win six of their first nine games.
“I’m hoping we can start to experience some success as the season winds down and they we can carry that over,” Walsh said.