The focus these days for the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls basketball team has been on Mikayla Dwyer’s right knee. That’s because the Wildcats know they need a healthy Dwyer on the court in order to get a leg up on the tough competition.
So, Shoreham must have been thankful it didn’t need Dwyer to play a full 32 minutes Thursday against a struggling Southampton team that had only seven players available for the Suffolk County League VI game. Some question remained as to whether Dwyer would play at all because of the ailing knee, but the senior guard was out there among the starting five, wearing a bandage wrap and a knee pad.
Dwyer played sparingly — she had two points, two assists, two steals and a rebound in the estimated eight minutes she played — while her friends took care of the rest, handing visiting Southampton a 56-38 defeat.
“You could just tell that she didn’t have the push,” Shoreham coach Adam Lievre said. “I knew she wanted to play more in the second half, but it just wasn’t worth it.”
Earlier in the season, Dwyer hurt her knee while taking a fall in a game. She has since fallen on the knee several times and has experienced swelling, said Lievre.
“I don’t think it’s nothing, but it’s a nagging thing,” he said, noting that trainer Jason Lee has been working with Dwyer. “She’s going to fall and I can pretty much guarantee — we have what, four or five weeks left in the season? — she’s going to fall on that knee again at some point and maybe the brace … will give her a little relief when she does fall on it.
“If she has to sit out a week, she’ll sit out a week. We’ll have to deal with it. Obviously we need her healthy as much as possible, but if she can’t be her explosive, athletic self, it’s not the same. It’s not ideal, but I’m not going to lose a tremendous amount of sleep over it right now.”
Dwyer, who had been averaging about 13 points per game, left the gym after the game before she could be interviewed. She is the type of player who makes a difference on the court.
“She’s done everything for us — offense, defense, energy,” said Lievre.
Asked how important Dwyer is to the Wildcats, senior guard Erin Triandafils said: “She is very important. She’s a very good ballhandler and she makes things happen and she has a good shot, so when she’s out, it messes us up a little bit.”
As it has for much of the season, though, Shoreham’s defense rose to the challenge Thursday, forcing 35 turnovers by Southampton.
“I think we’ve improved our defense,” said Michele Corona, who led Shoreham with 11 points.
Shoreham (8-5, 6-3) went in front for good with the aid of a 7-0 burst in the first quarter. A six-point Shoreham lead after one quarter was stretched to 10 by halftime before the Wildcats shot 8-for-12 from the field in the third quarter for a 48-24 advantage.
“I think our defense was really good tonight,” Triandafils said. “Our defense usually leads to our offense.”
Eleven Wildcats scored, including Triandafils with nine points, six steals and five assists and Erin Malone with eight points.
Taylor Pike brought Southampton (1-8, 1-8) 21 points.
The result of the game, the opener of the second half of the league season, pulled Shoreham to within two wins of clinching a playoff berth.
In the bigger games to come, Shoreham will undoubtedly need Dwyer’s presence on the court.
“She’s an athlete at a different level, as is Erin [Triandafils],” Lievre said. “At our level in League VI, in girls basketball, athletes can win games. Her first step is quicker than most other players. That’s what makes her so tough to guard and so tough to play. She’s just really fast.”
That is, when her knee isn’t bothering her.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River coach Adam Lievre talking to his players after the first quarter. (Credit: Bob Liepa)