Boys Basketball: Wildcats turn free-throw contest into victory

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River point guard Kevin Turano fighting for a rebound with Newfield's James Manginelli.


Some point guards can be fiery. And then there are others like Kevin Turano. Calm, easygoing, even-tempered.

“Very unflappable,” said Kevin Culhane, the Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball coach.

Turano is in his second varsity season with the Wildcats, but first as a starter. He hardly got any playing time last season as a backup to Kevin Davis, who was an all-county player. But Turano evidently picked up a thing or two in his apprenticeship, which is bearing fruit.

When last season ended, Davis looked forward to high school graduation, and Turano had a new job awaiting him.

“I said, ‘Kevin, this is your team now,’ ” Culhane recalled. “And I said, ‘Go enjoy it for two years.’ I said, ‘You’re going to have ups and downs and I’m going to be in your ear chirping.’ I said, ‘You have to understand that, you know, it’s not personal. I want you to get better,’ and he has. He’s got a pretty thick skin.”

Turano’s cool demeanor came in handy for him and his teammates Saturday when the Wildcats won a non-league game against Newfield that had turned into a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch. The Wildcats sank 9 of 10 foul shots in the final 1 minute 46 seconds to hold off the visiting Wolverines and wrap up a well-earned 62-58 victory.

“We needed a win,” said Turano, whose team had lost its previous three games and four of its past five.

Shoreham needs to win four of its five remaining games in order to earn a playoff spot.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's John Kovach splitting Newfield's Darrin Kasier (24) and Willie Jackson while attacking the basket.

John Kovach went 6 for 6 from the foul line for Shoreham during the final 1:46 and finished the game going 12 of 14, with a game-high 24 points and 9 rebounds. Turano recorded 16 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 rebounds.

Rafael Rodriguez was the high scorer for Newfield with 11 points. Jarrell Cowell added 10 points and Jeremy Ducker had 6 assists for the Wolverines.

Shoreham (6-7, 2-5 Suffolk County League VI) never trailed, although Newfield (1-10, 1-5 League III) twice tied the score, the last time at 48-48 on a three-point shot by Ducker in the fourth quarter.

It was around that time when Culhane said he turned to his bench and said, “Let’s see what we’re made of.”

His team responded. After a pair of free throws by Kovach gave Shoreham a 58-55 lead with 9.8 seconds left, Culhane adopted the strategy of intentionally fouling Newfield and sending the Wolverines to the foul line rather than giving them a chance to shoot a potential tying three-pointer.

It worked.

Willie Jackson made two free throws to pull Newfield to within a point at 58-57 with 7.8 seconds to go, but then Turano responded in kind, restoring Shoreham’s three-point lead with 6.8 seconds remaining.

Shoreham sent Newfield’s Darrin Kasier to the foul line with 5.2 seconds to go and the Wolverines in the double bonus. Kasier, who returned to the game after taking a hard fall on his right elbow while grabbing a rebound in the third quarter, made the first shot, but a lane violation was called against Newfield on the second attempt.

Kovach’s final two free throws with 3.5 seconds left sealed the result.

“Turano buried them,” Culhane said. “He and Kovach, that’s a lot of intestinal fortitude. I give them a lot of credit. We work on a lot of pressure foul shooting, but still, it’s a little different in games than it is in practice. I tell you, that was a clutch performance.”

Both teams shot high percentages from the field — 53.7 percent for Newfield and 60.6 percent for Shoreham. But Shoreham’s 18-for-22 count from the free-throw line made a difference, along with Turano’s play.

“I thought Turano played probably the best game of his short high school career,” Culhane said. The coach added, “He was a major reason why we won today.”

Culhane knows something about the point guard position, having played point guard for Sachem when he was in high school. It’s a position that carries a lot of responsibility. A point guard is often seen as the extension of a coach on the court, calling the offense and running plays.

Shoreham power forward/center Chris Mahoney said Turano has “a ton of pressure on him, and as a junior, I think he’s doing well above what he’s expected to do. I’m really proud of him. He has the ability to take on multiple defenders and still work the ball around and set up plays.”

Not only that, but Turano kept his cool when the game heated up.

Said Turano, “You got to stay calm at all times.”

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