CLASS A SEMIFINALS | KNIGHTS 65, WILDCATS 25
The stingiest defense in Suffolk County was not in a very giving mood Wednesday night.
The John Glenn Knights came into their Class A semifinal game against Shoreham-Wading River having allowed the fewest points per game of any team in Suffolk County at 28.9. That’s translated into an undefeated season.
They were at their best against Shoreham, limiting the Wildcats to a season-low in points. The Wildcats didn’t hit double figures until late in the third quarter of a 65-25 season-ending loss at John Glenn High School.
“Their defense was unbelievable in the first half,” said Shoreham coach Dennis Haughney.
The Wildcats, after losing by only five points to Glenn in their last league game Feb. 7, came in confident that they could hang with the Knights. “I honestly felt good coming into today,” Haughney said.
But facing a suffocating defense anchored by 6-foot-2 senior Allison McKenna in the middle, the Wildcats were all too often forced into difficult, contested shots. And more often than not, they didn’t fall.
The Knights went on a 28-0 run from the first quarter into the opening minute of the third quarter. The Wildcats went 12 minutes without a point before Shannon Rosati hit a free throw to give the Wildcats their fifth point a minute into the third quarter. They misfired on 20 straight shots before senior Alyssa Fleming hit a runner in the lane for two of her team-high eight points.
“To have someone like McKenna, where their guards can play so tight and then she just helps out, it makes it so tough,” Haughney said.
The Knights shot well in the first half from the outside with everyone getting in the mix. By the third quarter, McKenna took over down low, scoring 17 of her game-high 27 points.
“When they’re going well, they’re hitting shots,” Haughney said. “The second [league] game against us they weren’t hitting shots. They had open looks and they missed them.”
When the Wildcats are going well, they’re forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. But the Knights took exceptional care of the ball, coughing it up only three times in the first half. That forced the Wildcats to work out of the halfcourt offense to get points, which is not their strength, especially against a team with a dominant center.
Haughney said the Wildcats jumped on the Knights early when they played the last time. But the Knights were ready for their defensive pressure this time, he said.
“They did a better job of holding back the point guard and they were bringing up McKenna and hitting her and she was kicking out,” Haughney said.
The Knights shot 54 percent from the field in the first half to take a 33-4 lead into halftime. It was the lowest point total in a half for the Wildcats this season. Their 25 total points was one shy of their previous low against Kings Park.
The Knights improved to 19-0 and will play Harborfields Saturday for a chance at their second straight county title. The Tornadoes won the previous two titles in Class A.
John Glenn spent two weeks earlier this season without McKenna, who had a high ankle sprain. Glenn coach Andrew Athanas said when she went down, the other players stepped up. When the Wildcats (12-8) played the Knights the first time in league, they were without McKenna and and still won by 13.
“It was a really valuable thing,” Athanas said of playing a stretch without McKenna. “Not only was it two games, but two weeks of practice. And they learned to play with each other. You learn what your teammates can do what they can’t do and who to give the ball to.”
The Wildcats will lose only one player off this year’s roster in Fleming. The Wildcats started two sophomores (Shannon Rosati and Taylor Whiffen) and a freshman (Courtney Clasen) against Glenn.
With Glenn losing McKenna next year and Amityville losing several of its top players, Haughney said the Wildcats should compete for a league title next year.
“I think they’re going to have a good shot at the leagues next year,” he said. “This is a solid group.”