Boys Basketball: SWR’s maturity shows in quality win
Last season, with a starting lineup that included several sophomores, coach Kevin Culhane let his young Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball team play through its growing pains. As unpleasant as that may have been at times, the more mature Wildcats can now appreciate being the team administering pain rather than being on the receiving end.
Through plenty of offseason work, a summer league championship, AAU ball and fall clinics, the Wildcats have worked on their game since their 4-16 season of 2018-19. Look at how they’re doing now.
SWR pulled to within one win of equaling its win total from last season with a sterling performance in its Suffolk County League VI opener Friday. The Wildcats never trailed and used their hounding defense to pull away to a 61-49 victory over visiting Mount Sinai.
Culhane called it the most complete game SWR has played since 2013.
“We all believe in each other and know where we’re at, so this is just the beginning,” said senior Cameron Loschiavo, who totaled 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. “Last year we settled for a lot of threes. This year we’re more focused on attacking the basket and moving the ball a lot.”
There was no settling for threes by SWR (3-1 overall), although the Wildcats did hit six of them (three by Tom Bell) from 16 attempts as part of their 45% shooting. “When we did take threes, they were more open because we broke the defense down,” said Culhane.
High-percentage shots, some coming off 15 SWR steals and 20 Mount Sinai turnovers, made a difference. On defense, SWR employed a 2-2-1 three-quarter-court trap and a 2-3 half-court trap to disrupt Mount Sinai (2-2 overall).
“Defense is everything,” said Loschiavo.
That defense limited Mount Sinai to 37% shooting, including 2-for-11 from beyond the three-point arc.
Asked how he would rate his team’s defense in the game, Culhane used a scale of 1 to 10. “I’d like to say 10, but I’d say nine,” he said. “The effort was fantastic. We work really hard in practice about how to play different angles and when they see it and when we teach it and they pick it up, that’s the fun part as a coach.”
Bell and Loschiavo split SWR’s points in the first quarter, which ended with the score 14-9.
Bell had 14 points by halftime and finished with 19 points and eight assists. Joe Dwyer supplied 14 points and Tristan Costello came down with nine rebounds for SWR.
Dwyer drilled successive three-pointers and a layup for a 33-18 lead before Mount Sinai’s Ryan McNeely (18 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals) closed out the first half with four free throws in the final 7.3 seconds. The last two of those foul shots were the result of a technical foul called against Culhane, who was unhappy with some officiating calls.
SWR’s 11-point halftime lead was later cut to six early in the third quarter thanks to a bucket by Justin Rinck, a top-of-the-key three by McNeely and a shot off the glass by McNeely.
But that was really Mount Sinai’s last true threat. SWR maintained its intensity and gained further separation on the strength of a 13-2 run, during which Costello took the ball to the hoop for three layups.
Mitchell Cummings brought Mount Sinai 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We learned to mentally stay in the game and not get down on ourselves and not get too high,” Loschiavo said. “You got to keep playing physical the entire game.”
Bell said: “Last year we were young … It was a learning experience … We worked the kinks out. Now we’re just a better team this year.”
SWR had opened the season with wins over Southold and Shelter Island, sandwiched around a loss to Hampton Bays.
Culhane believes League VI is the deepest league in Suffolk. “It’s a tough league,” he said. “I said, ‘We got to bring it every game, every day.’ And defense will carry us.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs. It’s not going to be easy, but at least we got one win in the right direction.”
Photo caption: Coach Kevin Culhane talking to his Shoreham-Wading River players during a timeout in Friday’s game against Mount Sinai. (Credit: Bob Liepa)