WILDCATS 44, PHANTOMS 30
At one point during Shoreham-Wading River’s 44-30 League VI victory at Bayport-Blue Point Thursday afternoon, Wildcats coach Dennis Haughney noticed his team rushing through each offensive set one time without working the ball around.
As he yelled out to the players on the court, encouraging them to run through a set two times, he heard a voice from the bench directing the same order. It was from starting forward Taylor Whiffen, who while only a sophomore, has proven to be a valuable leader.
“She’s like a coach on the bench,” Haughney said.
Whether on the court — where she scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds — or from the bench, Whiffen has developed into a vocal leader for the Wildcats in only her second year on the varsity. Whenever she took a breather on the bench, her voice still resonated across the gym as yelled out advice or instructions to her teammates.
“It’s good when you have a sophomore doing some of those things,” Haughney said.
At 5-foot-10, Whiffen possess a versatile inside-outside game. She scored the Wildcats’ first seven points, capped by a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that tied the game at 7.
While basketball has been a secondary sport to most girls on Shoreham’s teams in recent years, it’s the only game for Whiffen. She plays year-round, including on an Amateur Athletic Union team call the Lightening. Her first practice with the team is Sunday and the season extends into the summer. She also plays during the fall leading into the school season.
As a full-time basketball player, Whiffen said she feels a responsibility to be a leader on the team.
“Shoreham is always athletic,” she said. “We’re not really a basketball team, but I really want it to be.”
“She understands the game,” Haughney added. “She loves it. She’s not just an inside player. She tries to work on all parts of her game.”
Her 3-pointer sparked a 22-0 run for the Wildcats, who shut out the Phantoms in the second quarter to blow the game open. Bayport went 13 minutes without a point from the first quarter into the third. Bayport freshman Paige Faherty, who scored a game-high 11 points, ended the drought when she put back an offensive rebound with 6:07 left in the third to make it a 26-9 game.
The Wildcats executed the long run thanks in large part to the effort from the bench. Late in the second quarter the Wildcats went with all five subs on the court, a testament to the team’s depth.
“I’ve been playing all 11 girls in every game,” Haughney said. “They give us a boost. It really depends on how any one kind is playing on one day. Everyone’s getting opportunities. I think we’re gelling together.”
Ten players scored for Shoreham in the victory, led by 10 from sophomore Shannon Rosati. She also added five steals.
“Everyone works so hard,” Whiffen said.
The victory over Bayport brought the Wildcats to the midway point of the League VI schedule. At 4-2, the Wildcats (7-5 overall) find themselves in strong position to make the playoffs. They’ll need two more wins in their final six before turning their attention to getting as high a seed in the Class A playoffs as possible.
Bayport fell to 6-5 overall and 2-3 in league.
The Wildcats forced Bayport into 17 first-half turnovers. But the Wildcats struggled shooting in the first quarter (3 of 17) before turning it on in the second.
Consistency in knocking down shots continues to be a key for Shoreham.
“We’re not finishing the way we can or the way we should to be a real top team,” Haughney said. “We’re getting the looks and we’re getting better.”
The effort on defense is never a concern. If anything, the Wildcats simply hope to play more under control on defense to limit some of the fouls that are a byproduct of their aggression. Bayport went to the free-throw line 25 times. Luckily for the Wildcats, they only knocked down nine shots for a 36 percent clip. The Wildcats did get to the line as well. They finished the game 14 of 27 (52 percent).
The Wildcats got six points apiece from senior Alyssa Fleming and junior Meghan King, who also hauled in nine rebounds.
Shoreham has a week off before returning to the court at Amityville Jan. 19. The Warriors defeated Shoreham earlier this season for one of their two league losses. The other loss came against undefeated John Glenn.