If the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys basketball team reaches the playoffs, the Wildcats just might look at Monday’s dramatic comeback win as a major turning point.
Senior guard Cameron LoSchiavo scored five points in the final 44.3 seconds as Shoreham overcame an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to register a 72-70 victory at rival Mount Sinai.
The result gave the Wildcats (6-7, 4-5) a fighting chance to reach next month’s Suffolk County Class A Tournament. A loss might have been too steep a hill to climb — they would have been 3-6 with the loss with seven games remaining in the League VI season. Teams need to finish with at least a .500 league record to reach the postseason.
“Definitely not easy, but our five guys on the court, our heads are up, we can come back from anything,” said junior guard Joe Dwyer, who scored a game-high 25 points. “We have a lot of confidence now. We’re going to make some noise and we’re going to get that playoff spot.”
“We just keep fighting, whether we’re winning or we’re losing,” said LoSchiavo, who finished with 12 points. “We keep pushing 100 percent. We don’t let up.”
Shoreham snapped a four-game losing streak as the Mustangs fell to 6-7, 3-6.
“It gives our team confidence,” Shoreham coach Kevin Culhane said. “We’ve lost some really close games this year. Today we found a way to win. I tell the kids down the stretch we have to find a way to find the game. Today they figured it out and did a great job.”
The Wildcats’ task looked difficult in the fourth quarter. They stared down a 63-52 deficit after the Mustangs’ Andrew Korakis (15 points) hit a driving shot with 5:16 remaining.
Slowly, but surely, Shoreham chipped away.
On offense, junior guard Tristan Costello kept on driving to the basket to tally 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter while Dwyer stayed outside to contribute six points and junior guard Thomas Bell (13 points) sank a vital three-point shot.
On defense, the Wildcats made life difficult for Mount Sinai.
“I had confidence in these kids,” Culhane said. “This is something that we worked on as a coaching staff, keeping positive no matter what the score is. We always say, ‘The game is over when you decide the game is over. If you’re going to keep playing, we’re playing until the buzzer.’ ”
The final 77 seconds turned into a battle of wits and a chess game as five timeouts were called, three by Mount Sinai.
Ryan McNeely’s layup (team-high 21 points) gave the Mustangs a 70-67 lead with 1:17 remaining. Bell had an opportunity to move the Wildcats closer, but he missed two free throws with 1:11 left.
Nine seconds later, LoSchiavo forced NcNeely to lose the ball out of bounds, giving Shoreham another opportunity. LoSchiavo sank two foul shots to creep within 70-69 with 44.3 seconds to go.
The Mustangs brought up the ball, but Paul Gomes lost it out of bounds with 32.6 seconds remaining. LoSchiavo hit a driving basket as Nick Cergol fouled him with 13 seconds left. The senior guard added a foul shot to complete the three-point play for a 72-70 edge.
“Cam is as tough as nails,” Culhane said. “Regardless if he scores two points or 22, he’s going to be ready to take the shot.”
Mount Sinai supporters at the Wildcats’ end of the court tried to make it difficult for LoSchiavo by making as much noise possible and stomping on the bleachers.
“You just got to block that out,” LoSchiavo said. “You learn that as you play more and get more and more experience. You just got to block that out.”
Costello said, “He’s got ice in his veins.”
Culhane said that LoSchiavo sinking his final free throw was so important. “People don’t realize, that foul shot makes a hell of a difference,” he said, “because if he misses it, all they need is one bucket to win. We change our whole defense predicated upon scoring.”
On the ensuing possession, Gomes missed his shot. The Mustangs couldn’t convert the rebound as the final buzzer sounded. The Shoreham bench bolted onto the court to celebrate.
LoSchiavo realizes there are challenges that lie ahead if the Wildcats are to reach the postseason.
“We’re definitely excited, but we’re not overconfident,” he said. “We still have to take every game seriously.”