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Boys Basketball: SWR falls when its shots don’t

Sometimes the ball just will not go in the darn basket.

That’s how it is with basketball sometimes. It can be an exasperating thing, as evidenced by the anguished look on the face of Shoreham-Wading River’s Tom Bell. Bell shuddered with frustration after his team’s difficult 32-27 loss at home to Sayville on Saturday morning.

“Not the best feeling,” were the sophomore guard’s first words in a postgame interview. “It’s tough.”

Points were hard to come by in the Suffolk County League V game — for both teams, but especially for SWR.

Here are the facts:

SWR scored only two points through the first 11 minutes, 24 seconds, from Matt Cook’s game-opening layup. It was the only basket the Wildcats scored from their first 13 field-goal attempts. Cristian Mercado finally broke that drought when he nailed a three-point shot in the second quarter.

In the first half, SWR shot a frigid 3-for-21 from the field.

At the same time, Sayville (6-4, 4-2) was encountering offensive troubles of its own. They just weren’t as severe as SWR’s difficulties.

That’s what can happen when two good defensive teams meet.

“I would give us an ‘A’ on defense,” SWR coach Kevin Culhane said. “That’s how well we played. I think in terms of shot selection, I would say we got a good, solid ‘B’. We got good shots, they just didn’t fall.”

SWR (4-5, 1-4) shot 23.7 percent from the field. Sayville was a little more efficient at 31.6 percent, but the Golden Flashes also held a 37-25 rebounding advantage, allowing the Wildcats only five offensive rebounds.

“To be honest with you, a lot of times when guys score, it has a lot less to do with us [coaches] than people sometimes think,” Sayville coach Garrett Lynch said. “We knew we were going to struggle shooting here. This is a gym where our team has perennially always had a difficult time shooting here, but a lot of it is also attributed to their defense. They played great defense. They played hard. There’s always credit due on the other side as well.”

Sayville used a high 2-3 zone to slow down Bell, and it worked. Bell was limited to eight points.

As for SWR, Culhane said: “We played a man-to-man and then we switched off screens, and we just felt that that worked better. The defensive game plan almost worked to perfection.”

SWR held Sayville’s Jesse Mas to five points.

“Even when our offense isn’t flowing, we just keep playing hard on defense,” Bell said. “We gave a hundred percent effort on defense.”

In the second half, Culhane moved Cook to the wing, played Tristan Costello in the post and saw some positive results. Despite its shooting woes, SWR, which had trailed by as many as 16 points with 4:14 left in the third quarter, somehow stayed in the game. The Wildcats whittled away at that lead in an improbable comeback attempt. A turnaround jump shot in the lane by Costello and a Bell layup off a pass from Cook following an Adam Gawreluk steal ignited a game-closing 10-2 run. That spurt also saw a conventional three-point play by Bell, a bank off the glass by Costello and a free throw by Bell.

Fittingly perhaps, neither team scored over the final 1:55.

“They just played really physical,” said Costello, SWR’s top scorer with nine points. “They boxed out on defense. We got really good shots. We just couldn’t finish them. That’s what it came down to at the end.”

Sayville’s P.J. Kloska led all scorers with 12 points. In fact, he was the only player in the game to reach double digits. Max Llewellyn added eight points and 13 rebounds. Lucas Rhodes grabbed 10 boards.

In its previous game, SWR totaled a season-low 25 points in a loss to Miller Place Thursday.

“We were shooting pretty well in the beginning of the year,” Culhane said. “I think now kids are a little banged up. I think they have to rest their bodies a little.”

It can get frustrating.

Said Bell, “We just got to trust our offense, trust what we do.”

Notes: Cameron Loschiavo, who has had to contend with the flu as well as back and ankle injuries, could be a remedy for SWR’s recent offensive ills. Kevin Culhane said the junior guard can shoot from the outside. Loschiavo started Saturday and had three points. Culhane said, “He’s not a hundred percent yet.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River, lined up for the national anthem, managed only two points through the first 11 minutes, 24 seconds, and shot 23.7 percent from the field against Sayville. (Credit: Bob Liepa)