The controversial call still sticks. The memory of it may not go away any time soon.
A questionable foul was whistled against Shoreham-Wading River, leading to the game-winning free throw for Sayville with 4.4 seconds left in a Suffolk County Class A outbracket girls basketball game last season. That sort of memory is not easily deleted.
“Thanks for bringing up bad memories,” said SWR coach Adam Lievre.
On a more positive note, SWR (9-12 last season), after dropping five of its first six league games, turned its season around to extend its remarkable string of playoff appearances to 13 successive years, according to Lievre’s predecessor, Dennis Haughney.
“When we went on Christmas vacation, we were teetering on going in the wrong direction,” said Lievre (71-46 entering his seventh season). “As the season went on we got better and better and better.”
More good news for the Wildcats: They still have Abby Korzekwinski. The All-Conference senior forward was good for 12 points and eight rebounds per game.
“Obviously, she’s committed herself to getting better every year,” Lievre said. He added: “She’s been able to add a little bit of everything to her game … She can give us options. She’s really been able to fill a lot of roles. Her role has grown. She went from being a secondary player to a leader of the team, and we expect a lot out of her every day.”
SWR can also expect good things from senior forward Hayden Lachenmeyer (five points, eight rebounds) and freshman guard GraceAnn Leonard, the League V Rookie of the Year last season. Lachenmeyer’s main responsibilities are defense and rebounding. As for Leonard, she does “just a little bit of everything,” Lievre said. “If you look at her stats, they probably don’t tell you much. But if you watch her day in, day out, her speed and athleticism. She plays the top of a 1-3-1 zone by herself.”
SWR is rich in depth at the guard position with Annie Sheehan, Sophie Costello, Carlie Cutinella, Alexa Constant, Megan Greene, Kelly Cassidy, Isabelle Sheridan and Rachel Sereno. Mia Rosati and Ashley DeLumen help out in the front court.
“I think we have a very good team,” Lievre said. “I think we’re balanced. Although I don’t know the rotation yet, I feel comfortable with our roster. I think we’re going to have a very strong lineup and a very strong bench.”
For all of its success in reaching the playoffs, SWR has never won a county title.
“It’s nice to make the playoffs,” Lievre said, “but I would like to do a little more than that.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about chemistry, it’s Lawrence Mandresh. Mandresh is an advanced placement chemistry teacher at Riverhead High School. In his new capacity as Riverhead’s third coach in as many years after Jackie Zilnicki and Kenny Coard, he’s looking to facilitate chemistry on the court.
Mandresh is no newcomer to Riverhead hoops. He had been the Riverhead Middle School coach for six seasons and coached all but one or two of his current players when they were in middle school. He knows that varsity is a different game.
“Winning is great at middle school,” he said. “Not winning isn’t accepted at high school. Everyone likes to win.”
Riverhead (4-16) didn’t win as much as it would have liked last season. Mandresh, who describes himself as a physically active coach on the sideline (“I’m a little on the crazy side”), preaches unselfish, aggressive team play.
“Although a .500 season would be fantastic between league and non-league games, we’re still hoping to make a push for a playoff spot,” he said. “Anything is possible when no one else knows what you have.”
The Blue Waves have five returning varsity players in Ce’Ahnie Khan, Megan McIntosh, Kendal Kwasna, Jordan Palmer and Kaleigh Seal. Also on the squad are Kelyn Banegas Lopez, Sienna D’Albano, Mackenzie Dorr, Zyaire Hartfield, Lauren Kruger, Victoria Leonardi, Michaela Ligon and Ava Malanga.
“I know these girls,” Mandresh said. “There isn’t one girl on this team who isn’t a fantastic person. They listen … They’re hard workers in school. They are what you want your high school students to be like.”
Photo caption: Abby Korzekwinski, an All-Conference senior forward, brought Shoreham-Wading River 12 points and eight rebounds per game last season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)