Boys Basketball: Mercy wins game made memorable by its oddness

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Kurt Ryder, who scored 17 points for Bishop McGann-Mercy against Smithtown Christian, takes off for a layup.
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Kurt Ryder, who scored 17 points for Bishop McGann-Mercy against Smithtown Christian, takes off for a layup.


An advertisement for good basketball, it was not. Sloppy play. Breakdowns on defense. Fouls galore. One missed shot after another. Horrendous foul shooting (in the case of one of the teams).

It all added up to one of the worst-played — and oddest — high school boys basketball games at the varsity level that the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School gym had seen.

This was a non-league game that neither Smithtown Christian or McGann-Mercy could feel good about. The only saving grace for the Monarchs was that they won, 51-47, in overtime on Wednesday night.

At times it seemed as if neither team wanted to win, giving the other side another chance to take the game. In the 4-minute overtime, though, it was the Monarchs who prevailed for their first win from three games this season. Kurt Ryder’s layup at the start of overtime put the Monarchs ahead to stay, although the finish couldn’t have been easy on the nerves of McGann-Mercy’s exasperated coach, Mike Clauberg.

A runner by Kevin Santacroce and a free throw by Nykel Reese gave the League VII Monarchs a 49-45 lead with 1:02 to go in overtime.

Corey Collins followed up a missed 3-point attempt for Smithtown Christian, making it a 2-point game.

Later, a steal by Collins set up a missed 3-point shot by Kyle Straker. The Monarchs rebounded and were fouled. Greg Gehring and Santacroce each sank a free throw in the final 6.8 seconds to help seal the ugly win and hand Smithtown Christian, a League VIII team, its second loss in three games.

Smithtown Christian coach Dan Skaritka bemoaned before the game that he couldn’t wait for the day to end. When he called it the worst day in his life, he might have been doing so tongue in cheek. What didn’t make the day any better for him was the fact that he was missing three regular starters. The Knights could have used them.

It was a strange game, considering the Monarchs won despite shooting a poor 23.8 percent (15 of 63) from the field and 1 of 13 from beyond the 3-point line.

But Smithtown Christian had its issues, too. The Knights shot miserably at the foul line: 6 for 20.

Perhaps even more than that, though, they were hurt tremendously by foul trouble. Twenty-nine of the game’s 51 fouls were whistled against Smithtown Christian. The Knights were losing a battle of attrition. Four of their players — Zack DiBlanda, Cody Collins, Ron Linsalato and Connor McCabe — fouled out.

And how’s this for a strange fact? The Monarchs made only 1 of 15 field-goal attempts in the second quarter, yet still took a 15-14 lead into halftime.

For all of the uninspired play, the game was close,

It looked as if Smithtown Christian would leave Riverhead with a win when it took its biggest lead of the night at 42-35 on a free throw by Linsalato with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter.

Somehow, some way, McGann-Mercy whittled away at that lead as the Knights left the door open just enough for the Monarchs to squeeze back in. Two free throws by Reese and two baskets by Ryder, including a layup off his own steal with 26.2 seconds to go in the quarter, pulled the Monarchs to within a basket of the visitors. Both teams then missed a pair of free throws before Santacroce grabbed an offensive rebound and banked in a right-handed hook shot, tying the score at 43-43 with 8.2 seconds to go in regulation time.

The Monarchs survived the final hectic seconds of the fourth quarter as they watched Smithtown Christian miss a close-range shot. Ryder collected the rebound and chucked a mid-court shot that fell short before the buzzer sounded.

Ryder ended up with 17 points. Reese collected 19 rebounds (8 offensive) to go with 11 points, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. Santacroce had 10 points and 9 rebounds.

Cody Collins led Smithtown Christian with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Straker added 11 points and Linsalato had 9.

For a while there, considering the way the Monarchs were playing, a win seemed highly unlikely for them. Then again, ’tis the season of miracles.

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