As it rounds the final turn toward the regular-season finish line in a desperate push for the playoffs, the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls basketball team, having lost its last two games, knows what it has to do.
As in bounce back.
The actual physical act of rebounding basketballs off the backboard and rim has been a team strength and is a big reason why the young SWR team is in playoff contention.
“It’s probably the best rebounding team I’ve had,” said Adam Lievre, who is in his sixth season as SWR’s coach.
That’s high praise, indeed, and a huge chunk of it goes to the team’s top three rebounders. Through SWR’s first 16 games, Melissa Marchese averaged 9.5 rebounds per game, Hayden Lachenmeyer had 8.5 and Abby Korzekwinski 7.9. That amounts to about 26 boards a game from three players. Nice production.
“Between myself, Hayden and Abby, we’ve really excelled in rebounding,” Marchese said. “As long as we’re in the right place at the right time, we’re going to get those rebounds we need.”
Lievre said, “Collectively, all three of them make each other better rebounders.”
The value of all that glass cleaning is unquestioned.
“It’s a big part of our turning our defense into offense,” Lachenmeyer, a junior forward, said. “Rebounds are very important.”
The rebounds were there Wednesday evening for SWR, just not the final result the Wildcats were hoping for. They faced a respected opponent in Sayville, which handed the Wildcats a 62-43 Suffolk County League V defeat on their home court.
Coach Phil DePompeo, whose Golden Flashes (13-4, 11-4) have won six straight, has a good deal of talent to draw from, starting with Jenna Harclerode, who can seemingly do everything, from bringing the ball upcourt to passing to shooting (from deep range, too) to making steals to grabbing rebounds. The junior put up 14 points with three three-pointers, 12 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and three blocks.
Sayville had good scoring balance, with five players in double figures, including Maria Buffardi (12), Kerri Gunther (12), Emma Famularo (10) and Dominique Rinaldi (10). Gunther also grabbed nine rebounds and had six assists.
The progress of SWR’s starting eighth-grade forward, Grace Ann Leonard, continues. She picked up 12 points along with eight rebounds and four steals. Korzekwinski had nine points and seven rebounds. Marchese came down with 13 rebounds, six offensive.
SWR (7-10, 7-8), coming off a 54-49 loss to Elwood/John Glenn three days earlier in a game in which the Knights shot an astounding 22-for-24 from the foul line, appeared to lack energy.
“They knew it, Brittany [Davis, SWR’s assistant coach] and I knew it; I think the parents knew it,” said Lievre.
SWR’s only lead of the game was at 3-2. The Wildcats held a 41-37 rebounding edge, but their 30.6-percent shooting from the field and 21 turnovers didn’t help their cause. “It wasn’t one of our best games,” said Lachenmeyer.
SWR had won six of seven before that loss to Glenn. Now it needs to win two of its last three regular-season games if it is to see the playoffs.
If SWR is to do that, it will need to continue hitting the boards hard.
Marchese wasn’t a starter for the first two weeks of the season. Her enthusiasm for rebounding has helped. It’s not easy work, but she enjoys it, nonetheless.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “You have to box people out. I like to knock people over. My job on this team is to bring the energy, be a leader and get as many rebounds as I can.”
Lievre called Marchese “one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever coached. She uses her body to get positions on rebounds better than anybody I ever had. She’s not as big as some of the other kids; she’s not the tallest kid out there, but she physically mixes it up on every shot.”
Shooting is not a team strength, and that feeds into the high number of rebounds SWR can pull down.
“We have a ton of offensive rebounds this season,” Lievre said. “It’s good and bad. We miss a lot of shots, so we get a lot of second-chance shots, but they’re there for those. They get good position … We’ll take them.”
SWR would also like to take a spot in the playoffs. That’s especially true for the team’s only two seniors, Michele Corona and Marchese.
Marchese said, “I don’t want it to end any sooner than it has to.”
Photo caption: Abby Korzekwinski (left) is greeted by her Shoreham-Wading River teammates while the starting lineups are announced prior to Wednesday’s game against Sayville. (Credit: Bob Liepa)