Boys Basketball: Wildcats expect big things from their big men

Shoreham-Wading River's Jon Constant protecting the ball under pressure from Greenport's Sam Strickland. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Shoreham-Wading River’s Jon Constant protecting the ball under pressure from Greenport’s Sam Strickland. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Size isn’t everything for a basketball team, but it sure is nice to have.

Certainly, height can be overrated, but when that height is accompanied by talent, it can make a difference. That is something the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys basketball team can appreciate.

When the Wildcats take the court, they are typically taller than their opponents. With one of their taller teams in recent years, the Wildcats are hoping to emerge from the shadows.

Shoreham can present a daunting prospect for opponents who have to look up to the 6-foot-6 Jake Blandi, the 6-4 Dan Hughes, the 6-4 Ethan Wiederkehr, the 6-3 Jonah Caldwell and the 6-2 Kieran Qualley.

For a small school, that sort of verticality is a luxury. That post presence gives the Wildcats options, opening up room for their outside shooters.

“It’s the first time we’ve been this tall in a long time,” Shoreham coach Kevin Culhane said. “We try to take advantage of it.”

It’s quite a contrast to last season’s undersized team, which had three starters who were 5-9 or shorter.

Among the big men, Blandi, Caldwell and Hughes are seniors, Qualley is a junior and Wiederkehr is a sophomore.

To make better use of Caldwell’s athleticism and quickness, Culhane said Caldwell will play on the wing, which will be something of an adjustment for him, having played center most of his life because of his size and jumping ability.

“It’s a lot of footwork,” said Caldwell, who is focusing on improving his ballhandling. “You have to have good hands to catch these crazy passes from the guards.”

Culhane said Caldwell is a big key to the team’s fortunes. “Jonah and Danny are going to make this team go,” he said.

Hughes is coming off what Culhane said was a “phenomenal” second half of the school season.

The word on Blandi, the towering center, is that he has improved a lot, said Culhane.

Wiederkehr has been described as a young, up-and-coming player to look out for. Culhane said Wiederkehr has a “great shot” of making the varsity team for this coming school season.

“Ethan Wiederkehr has come a long way,” the coach said, adding, “He’s understanding how different it is playing at this level.”

With those big bodies, the Wildcats can expect to do quite well for themselves in the rebounding department. Caldwell and Blandi combined for 19 rebounds in a 42-34 win over Greenport in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Thursday night. It was the team’s fourth win in as many games.

“Rebounds are the best because they’re just easy points,” said Blandi.

The rest of the Wildcats totaled only 6 rebounds, though, and both teams finished with 25 boards each. Then again, the Wildcats were missing some players, including Hughes, who watched the game from the bench after having undergone oral surgery, according to Culhane.

Caldwell had quite a game for himself, taking the ball to the hoop for a game-high 23 points. He shot 7 of 8 from the foul line.

After fouling out with 24.1 seconds left in the game, Caldwell wore a sheepish grin as he was greeted at the sideline with a handshake from Culhane while on his way to the bench.

Darrius Bolling, the fluid Greenport sophomore who wore purple sneakers to match his team’s purple shirts, led the Porters with 13 points. Alex Perez added 8 points and 11 rebounds.

The Porters (0-4) fared better than Shoreham’s first three opponents this summer. The Wildcats held Miller Place to 15 points, Mattituck to 24 and Hampton Bays to 19.

“We have great chemistry, great ball movement,” Caldwell said. “No one’s selfish on this team. That’s rare nowadays in basketball.”

Some uncommon height helps, too.

UNBEATEN NO LONGER The Southold First Settlers had been rolling along so well, too.

Following wins over Mattituck, Miller Place and Greenport, the First Settlers were one of the three unbeaten small school teams in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League prior to Thursday night’s games. Now Shoreham-Wading River and Westhampton Beach remain alone in the top spot.

Southold’s fine run came to a crashing halt with a 42-25 blowout by Mount Sinai in Shoreham.

Christian Dular proved to be quite a handful for the Southolders. The Mount Sinai senior produced 19 points, including 6 of 7 free throws and a 3-pointer. Nolan Kelly supplied 7 points and 11 rebounds to the victory, Mount Sinai’s third in four games.

Dular registered 8 points as the Mustangs burst out to an 18-0 lead before the First Settlers finally got on the scoreboard with a free throw by Dylan Van Gorden. That was followed with three straight baskets by Liam Walker, who finished with 17 points and 6 steals.

No other Southold player scored more than 3 points. The First Settlers were held to 23.5 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded, 35-16.

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Southold's Patrick Majsak is flanked by Mount Sinai's Harrison Back, left, and Nick Schmitt. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Southold’s Patrick Majsak is flanked by Mount Sinai’s Harrison Back, left, and Nick Schmitt. (Credit: Garret Meade)