COUGARS 45, WILDCATS 40
Each time Shoreham-Wading River coach Dennis Haughney glanced up at the scoreboard throughout the third quarter Saturday against Commack, it seemed as if the number for the visitors was frozen.
The Cougars had little trouble in the first half creating turnovers and finding ways to get to the free-throw line. By halftime the Cougars held a 30-17 lead over Shoreham, seemingly on their way to a blowout.
“Our goal in halftime was by the end of the third quarter to try to get it into single digits so we could make a game out of it in the fourth quarter,” Haughney said.
They did just that by limiting Commack to one field goal in the third quarter as a 14-point deficit was trimmed down to six going into the fourth.
The Wildcats fought back to take a three-point lead when sophomore Taylor Whiffen drilled a 3-pointer with 2:47 left, but the Cougars persevered to win 45-40 at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
After Whiffen’s trey, the Wildcats didn’t score again as the Cougars closed out the game on an 8-0 run.
“We haven’t really executed the way I would like yet,” Haugheny said.
The Wildcats dropped to 0-2 in the non-league schedule. Their first loss came Thursday against Walt Whitman, a League II school. Commack is a League I school.
“We were pretty competitive with both teams,” Haughney said. “It gives us an idea of what we can do better at.”
The Wildcats opened the fourth quarter with a flurry, scoring five quick points to slice the lead down to one. Center Chelsea Hughes connected in the post for a bucket that put the Wildcats ahead 35-34 with 4:26 left. It was their first lead since the score was 3-2 early in the first quarter.
Commack responded with a clutch 3-pointer by Kerry Haller as the shot clock was winding down with 3:56 left. Junior Cari Gostic tied the game on the Wildcats next possession by hitting a runner in the lane off glass. Whiffen, who led the Wildcats with 13 points, then hit the 3-pointer from the right side a minute later.
An offensive rebound putback by Commack center Chloe Mellon gave the Cougars back the lead with 1:16 left.
Senior Alyssa Fleming had a chance to tie the game at the line with 19 seconds left. After missing the first shot, she intentionally missed on the second for a rebound. But the Cougars came down with it and the Wildcats were forced to foul.
The Wildcats fought back in the second despite having a lot of foul trouble issues to deal with. Junior Meghan King, the team’s only returning starter, fouled out late in the third quarter. Hughes picked up her fourth foul in the second quarter. She managed to stay on the floor long enough to provide some big minutes down the stretch before finally fouling out with 1:59 left. Sophomore Shannon Rosati also played much of the fourth quarter with four fouls.
With Hughes (6-foot-1) and King (5-foot-11) out, the Cougars controlled the glass in the final two minutes.
“It would be nice to have a girl like Meghan or Chelsea down low even for an offensive rebound,” Haughney said.
A big part of the defensive effort in the second half for Shoreham came down to keeping the Cougars off the line. Commack shot 18 free throws in the first half and connected on 11. The Wildcats, meanwhile, were 3-of-8 from the line in the first half.
From the start of the third quarter until two minutes were left, the Cougars only shot eight more free throws.
In the second half the Wildcats limited the turnovers as well, as they adjusted to the trap Commack was using at midcourt. On the other end, the Wildcats were able to force more turnovers and get Commack out of rhythm.
“In the beginning of the third quarter we switched to a halfcourt trap and it kind of threw them for a loop a little bit,” Haughney said. “They started slowing down a little bit. We got a couple steals out of it and layups.”
The Wildcats got eight points from Rosati, six from Gostic and five from King.
Melissa Lobaccaro led Commack with 13. Freshman Erin Storck scored 11, eight of which came in the first half.
“As dejected as they were not to win it because these girls are really competitive, if they look at the big picture, it might pay off for them to realize they competed with some pretty good schools and played well,” Haughney said.
Free throws will be an area to focus on going forward. The Wildcats shot just 7-of-18 (39 percent).
“We always focus on free throws,” Haughney said. “It’s different than game pressure, so maybe we’ll try to figure out a way to put more pressure on them [in practice].”
The Wildcats return to action Thursday against Wyandanch at home.