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Girls Basketball: SWR comeback attempt falls short in semifinal

Shoreham-Wading River’s postseason adventure has come to an end, and it took a high school girls basketball team similar in style to the Wildcats to end it.

Harborfields plays a relentless, pressure defense.

Sound familiar?

It was that sort of defense that brought Shoreham to the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, but it was at that stage Tuesday night when the Wildcats were brought to a halt.

Shoreham, which had trailed by as many as 12 points twice in the second half, was down, but not beaten — yet.

The Wildcats whittled away at host Harborfields’ lead, pulling to within four points when a Mikayla Dwyer putback made the score 39-35 with 2 minutes, 59 seconds left.

“We fought to the end,” Shoreham coach Adam Lievre said. “We thought we had another run in us.”

The only problem for the Wildcats was those were their final points in the game. No. 2 seed Harborfields closed out the game on a 10-0 run, eight of those points coming from Christiana de Borja, for a 49-35 victory and a return to the county final. The Tornadoes lost to Islip in last year’s county final. They will face No. 1 Mount Sinai, a 68-54 winner over No. 4 Sayville, for the title Friday at Riverhead High School.

“Everything’s got to be hard for us,” Harborfields coach G. Davis Lavey told reporters after the game. “This is what they’ve learned, to be comfortable when the game gets uncomfortable.”

A big factor in the game was Grace Zagaja, the senior center who pulled down a career-high 23 rebounds (11 offensive) to go with 10 points, four assists and three steals in addition to deflecting passes and making life difficult for the Wildcats. Zagaja grabbed 22 rebounds in last year’s county semifinal against Elwood/John Glenn.

“You got to know where she is all the time because she’s all over the court,” said Lievre.

Falyn Dwyer opened Harborfields’ game-ending run by hitting a basket while being fouled with 2:52 to go.

Harborfields’ skillful point guard, de Borja, who headed to the bench after picking up a technical foul for her third personal foul with 3:54 left in the second quarter, didn’t return to the game until the start of the fourth quarter. She scored the last eight points in the game’s final 1:25, converting a conventional three-point play and then sinking 5 of 6 free throws to ice it.

“I just knew that we would stay poised and all of us know how to face adversity,” said Zagaja, who played the entire game.

Dwyer led League V champion Harborfields (19-1) with 13 points.

Shoreham (18-3), the League VI co-champion with Mount Sinai, suffered its first loss in nine games without a single scorer in double figures. Mikayla Dwyer and Mackenzie Zajac led the Wildcats with nine points each.

“I think we completely gave it our all,” Shoreham’s Maria Smith said. “We had the momentum for a little while, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to win the game.”

Harborfields held a 19-14 halftime lead, which might have been more had the Tornadoes not had trouble finishing. They shot 8 for 31 in the opening half.

Zagaya grabbed 13 rebounds (nine of them offensive) in the first half alone, two more than the entire Shoreham team.

Harborfields broke an 11-11 tie with a Madison Brady layup, a hoop off a nice baseline move by Hallie Simkins and another bucket by Brady.

“They’re a very athletic team like we are,” said Shoreham’s Lindsey McKenna.

McKenna, a senior, added: “This is the best senior season I could have asked for. I just really love these girls and I’m sad it’s going to come to an end tonight.”

After emerging from the postgame meeting with his players, Lievre said, “To go 18 and 3 with a league championship is the memory that they get to keep.”

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