The signs are there that this is a program on the rebound.
One couldn’t tell by the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys basketball team’s deceptive 4-16 record from the last school season, but the eye test didn’t lie. The Wildcats were competitive in many of their games in competitive Suffolk County League V. They had definitely made strides since their 1-19 season in 2017-18.
“We were very young last year, very inexperienced,” coach Kevin Culhane said. “We started three sophs last year. Last year I think we learned on the fly.”
What’s more, they demonstrated a hunger for winning. That hunger was seen this past spring with the commitment players showed to workouts. That commitment carried over to this summer, and with that came a tangible result: a Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools championship.
“It’s a great sign,” said Culhane, who believes it’s the first time SWR has won a Brookhaven Summer League title. “I think the commitment level with these guys is phenomenal.”
SWR’s varsity team defeated Pierson, 45-38, in the final last Thursday evening at Eastport-South Manor High School. SWR junior Tom Bell was named the championship game MVP.
“They were ecstatic,” said Culhane.
The Wildcats, coached by Tim Gilmore, the school team’s varsity assistant, finished with a 9-2 record and outscored their opponents, 490-386. “I think our scoring was up a lot more,” said Culhane, who guided the SWR junior varsity team to a summer league final. “For the most part, our rebounding was better, but it still has to improve, but our commitment to defense, both on the varsity level and the JV level, was what helped us have success in the summer.”
The SWR JV team lost in the small schools championship game to Westhampton Beach, but raised its record from 0-10 last year to 7-4 this summer.
The varsity Wildcats featured 10 players with previous varsity experience. Among them were seniors Chris Baumeister, Max Calovi, Aidan Drost, Peter Flanagan, Cameron LoSchiavo, Antonio Maccaro and Jacob Vogel and juniors Tristan Costello, Adam Gawreluk and Bell. Another junior, David Tedesco, was injured the past school season. The other team members were Sean Kelly, Matt Martell, Cayden Mulroy, Thomas McInnis and Brendan Sicari.
The rigors of League V last winter may have helped SWR sharpen its skills.
“I think playing in that league made our players see that we need to do better as a team and as individuals,” Culhane said. “The players developed great team chemistry, great support for each other. I saw great enthusiasm for both the JV and the varsity teams.”
The key, as Culhane has said a number of times before, is for his players not to put their basketballs away until November.
“I think that’s the big thing,” he said. “We need the ball in our hands as much as possible. I like what we have coming up on the JV. We have good athletes who are starting to become good basketball players.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River emerged as the No. 1 small school team in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. (Credit: courtesy photo)