Basketball can be a funny game. The Shoreham-Wading River High School girls team could afford to laugh about that notion Saturday.
Points were hard to come by in the first half of the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinal between Comsewogue and Shoreham. Neither side led by more than three points in the opening 16 minutes, which ended with Comsewogue holding a 17-16 edge.
Then third-seeded Shoreham won by 20 points.
“We knew that we were more of a second-half team and we were going to come back strong,” said junior guard Mikayla Dwyer.
As part of its second-half resurgence, Shoreham got its press going and ran. The Wildcats ran all the way to their eighth consecutive win, 47-27, much to the delight of the home fans who gave them a standing ovation.
Shoreham coach Adam Lievre said he told his players at halftime “we needed to score so we could set up our press.”
Once again, it was a matter of defense producing offense, something the Wildcats (18-2) are fond of doing. That defense made an impact in the turnover department. No. 6 Comsewogue (15-6) had 26 turnovers, to only 10 by Shoreham.
“We picked up our defense,” said senior guard Mackenzie Zajac, who brought Shoreham 12 points in her final game in the Shoreham gym. “We really focused on our defense.”
And that got the job done. Comsewogue shot 23.9 percent on its field-goal attempts and was 2 of 20 from three-point distance.
The play in the first half was tentative and both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket. For the first time this season, Shoreham faced a 3-2 zone, and that caused complications in the early going. And then there was that matter of playing a playoff game in front of a large crowd.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere,” said Dwyer, who finished with nine points, eight steals, two rebounds and two assists. “The nerves were definitely up there.”
Samantha Collins’ three-pointer from the top of the key, followed by Nora Gabel’s layup, gave Comsewogue a 17-14 lead before a last-second layup by Shoreham’s Maria Smith made it a one-point deficit by halftime.
“Honestly, I didn’t really stress it,” said Zajac.
Perhaps she knew something. Shoreham looked like a different team in the second half, which it opened with a 14-5 run for a 30-23 lead. Smith scored eight of her team-leading 14 points during that spell, which the senior forward ended with a nifty reverse layup. She shot 6 for 10 from the field.
Shoreham pulled away further by opening the fourth quarter with a five-foot basket by Smith and back-to-back three-point shots by Zajac.
“Once we started scoring, our defense got better,” said Lievre, whose team will play the League V champion, No. 2 Harborfields (17-1), in a semifinal Tuesday night.
Shoreham focused on Comsewogue’s biggest scoring threat, Gabel, who had nine of her 15 points in the first half. “Gabel is tough,” said Lievre.
After the game, Zajac, who will play next season for SUNY/Cortland, said it still had not sunk in that she had appeared in her final game in Shoreham.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” she said. “The four years went by in a blink of an eye.”
It’s a funny thing.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Mackenzie Zajac is fouled by Comsewogue’s Lauren Gray while attempting a steal. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)