Boys Basketball: Cook layup with :07 left lifts SWR

The beauty of basketball is seen in ball movement. And there was Shoreham-Wading River performing art on the court, whipping the ball around with sharp, crisp passes and then suddenly reversing things and swinging the ball in the opposite direction.

It was a beautiful thing for SWR fans to behold.

Along with that came dogged defense, clutch playmaking and tremendous guard play. It’s all part of the new and improved Wildcats, who bear hardly any resemblance to the 2017-18 team that struggled through a 1-19 nightmare last season.

“It was tough,” recalled the team captain and sole senior, guard Tom Bell, who along with guard Matt Cook are the only returning players from last season. “It just brought everybody down.”

Now the Wildcats are on the rise with a bright future ahead of them. It’s a beautiful thing, they say.

Exhibit A: A well-earned, hardfought triumph over visiting Bayport-Blue Point Wednesday. SWR turned in a quality performance and won, 54-52, on Cook’s tie-breaking layup in traffic with seven seconds left in the game.

SWR (4-2, 1-2 League V) led for much of the way, and even by as many as 11 points when a 10-0 run (six of those points coming from Tristan Costello) made it 40-29 with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter.

But Bayport (1-2, 1-1) is a quality team with a fine junior guard in Pierce Prendergast, who has length as well as talent and is tough to stop. The Phantoms charged back as Prendergast netted 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Cameron Loschiavo somehow made a circus-type layup while being fouled for a 50-47 SWR lead with 2:56 to play.

Bayport’s Jack Baron drilled a three-pointer from the right corner, evening the score. Then Prendergast was fouled with 1:18 left and sank both free throws for a 52-50 edge.

Bell tied the score for SWR with a pair of foul shots 12 seconds later, setting the stage for late-game dramatics.

Bell came down with an offensive rebound and fired the ball out to Cook, who drove into traffic in the lane and made the go-ahead basket.

With time running down, Prendergast was able to only flip a last-gasp attempt that was well off the mark.

“That was a great win for us,” SWR coach Kevin Culhane told reporters. “They hung in there. They did what they had to do and they won the game.”

Culhane said the last time SWR played this well was probably four years ago.

Bell (17 points, 10 assists, five rebounds), Costello (16 points, five rebounds) and Cook (15 points, nine rebounds, five assists) accounted for the bulk of SWR’s scoring. Bell knocked down four three-pointers.

Prendergast pulled down 10 rebounds, passed for four assists and blocked four shots in addition to his scoring. Zachary Silver (10 rebounds), Vincent Orlando and Baron each had nine points for Bayport.

After failing to finish games against Amityville and East Hampton, this ending was fulfilling for SWR.

Coming off last season, Cook said, “We knew that we had to improve.”

And they did.

“We’ve been playing in each other’s backyards all summer long, building chemistry,” Cook said. “It’s ball movement, defense. We’re playing our hearts out every single possession, basically.”

SWR has four players who can handle the ball in Bell, Cook, Costello and Loschiavo. The fifth starter is Adam Gawreluk, a 6-7 sophomore with a tremendous upside. “He’s got a huge potential,” Bell said. “As a freshman he was on JV and just barely played.”

The Wildcats are hoping for even better things ahead.

“We just want to build off this,” Bell said. He continued: “We’re doing great. We just got to keep it up.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Tristan Costello (16 points) attempting a layup while Bayport-Blue Point’s Pierce Prendergast (18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks) tries to stop him. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)