WILDCATS 50, TUCKERS 45
The Shoreham-Wading River High School girls basketball team suffered a blow recently when one of its best players, senior forward Taylor Whiffen, transferred; she now plays for Sachem East.
The Wildcats undoubtedly felt the loss, but they can be thankful they still have Courtney Clasen. A powerful reminder of Clasen’s value was given Friday when the forward seemed to be everywhere at once, making big plays down the stretch to hold off Mattituck in a non-league game in Shoreham.
What did Clasen do in her team’s 50-45 victory?
Just about everything.
The 5-foot-9 junior scored 21 points, just 1 shy of her career-high, shooting 8 of 16 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. She also was a force under the boards, coming down with 19 rebounds in addition to blocking 9 shots. And, for the record, her statistical line also included 4 steals and 2 assists.
Perhaps even more impressive afterward was the postgame reaction of her coach, Adam Lievre, when asked about Clasen’s performance. “Typical” was the word he used.
A typical showing for an atypical player.
Katie Hoeg, who guarded Clasen for most of the game, called her the best all-around player she ever played against.
Clasen’s contributions were the undoubted difference. The Wildcats (4-3) twice built leads as large as 10 points, only to see Mattituck (5-4) close the gap after 5 straight points by Shannon Dwyer and back-to-back baskets by Tiana Baker (the first a 3-pointer). They were part of a 14-2 run that gave the Tuckers a 41-39 edge in the fourth quarter. But moments later, Dwyer picked up her fourth personal foul. She then was charged with a blocking foul to foul out with 3 minutes 5 seconds left in the game.
That was a gut punch for the Tuckers, who held a 1-point lead at the time of Dwyer’s exit to the bench. Meanwhile, Clasen, athletic and fast, continued to do her thing as the contest saw six lead changes in the final 3:57.
Mattituck’s last lead came when Liz Dwyer, Shannon’s younger sister, hit a foul-line jumper for a 45-44 score with less than two minutes to go. Those were Mattituck’s last points.
A free throw by Shoreham’s Jessica McCormack evened the score at 45-45.
Perhaps fittingly, Clasen’s hustle brought about the go-ahead point for her team. After McCormack missed her second free throw, Mattituck’s Courtney Murphy came down with the rebound, but Clasen stole the ball away from her and drew a foul. Clasen made one of the foul shots with 1:19 to go, putting her side ahead for good. Later, she converted a layup off a slicing drive through the middle of the lane and hit a pair of free throws after Baker fouled out with 8.3 seconds left.
Shoreham’s next leading scorer after Clasen was Shannon Rosati with 8 points.
Shannon Dwyer, who shot 5 of 15 from the field and sank 6 of 8 foul shots, finished with 16 points. Liz Dwyer produced 10 points. Hoeg collected 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals to go with 6 points.
It was the fourth game the Wildcats played since they lost Whiffen, but it was also the first game back for Kerri Clark, the senior guard who suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener. Clark supplied 7 points coming off the bench.
Mattituck, which had won three of its previous four games, is no stranger to injury, either. The Tuckers are without Colby Prokop for the rest of the season. The junior guard suffered tears to her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood.