A photographer, taken aback by the height of the tall Amityville High School boys basketball players, asked one of the team’s coaches what they feed the Warriors. “Sunshine and milk,” he was told.
Sunshine and milk obviously did their bodies good.
And Amityville has put its physical prowess to good use this season. The Warriors, ranked 15th in the state and fourth on Long Island among Class A teams by the New York State Sports Writers Association, claimed the first of what they hope will be numerous titles this season Friday. Shoreham-Wading River played well and put up a valiant effort — and still lost by 28 points to visiting Amityville. But that says more about Amityville, which clinched the Suffolk County League VI championship with the 81-53 win, than it does about SWR.
“They’re obviously the cream of the crop, certainly in our league, if not … maybe even Long Island,” SWR coach Kevin Culhane said. “They’re big, they’re tough, they’re athletic. They are good basketball players.”
No question about that.
Two seasons removed from a state championship, Amityville (16-2, 14-0) could very well make a run at another one.
The loss aside, SWR (9-9, 7-7) has a lot to play for itself, namely a coveted playoff berth. The Wildcats need to win one of their last two regular-season games — at Sayville Monday and home against Wyandanch Wednesday — to secure a place in the postseason for the first time in four years.
“That would mean the world,” junior Joe Dwyer said. “That was our goal from Day One.”
None of the current Wildcats have played in a playoff game.
The Wildcats showed the heart of a warrior against the Warriors, but that wasn’t enough to match Amityville’s superior height, reach, bulk and strength. It was a lot to overcome. The Wildcats were outrebounded, 39-24, while Amityville dropped in 47.1% (32 of 68) of its field-goal attempts.
Amityville was just being Amityville.
SWR, however, did not appear intimidated by the team in red or the mystique surrounding it.
Amityville’s eighth straight win Friday featured nice numbers from familiar sources. Myles Goddard led five Warriors in double figures with 21 points. The junior forward also notched 15 rebounds. Divaahd Lucas was good for 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Darnell Evans added 13 points and four assists, Stephen Augustine had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Kamari Hough brought 11 points off the bench.
On the SWR side, Cameron LoSchiavo delivered 13 points and Tom Bell contributed 12 points and six assists.
Amityville opened the game with a full-court press in an attempt to unnerve SWR, but it didn’t seem to rattle the Wildcats.
Perhaps the 19-13 score in Amityville’s favor after the first quarter could be seen as a minor victory for SWR. Goddard was responsible for 11 of those Amityville points.
Amityville built its lead to 36-23 by halftime. A 10-0 burst early in the third made it 46-25.
But the highlight of the game had to wait until the fourth quarter when Augustine finished an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Goddard.
SWR prepared for this game by playing eight defenders against five offensive players in practice to get a feel for what it would be like facing Amityville’s pressure defense. Height and length, however, cannot be simulated.
“All week we’ve been practicing as hard as we can because we know they’re a tough team,” said SWR’s Tristan Costello (nine points), who called Amityville “by far” the best team the Wildcats have played this season.
“I like the challenge,” Costello said of facing Amityville. “It makes me better. It makes my teammates better. It makes us work harder, prepare harder. It makes us mentally stronger.”
Culhane was happy with what he saw from his players, with the odds stacked so heavily against them. “I thought our kids played very well,” he said. “I’m very proud of them. I thought it was a good game. We got good shots … I thought our defense was good, but they just killed us on the boards. They’re relentless.”
He added: “All of them competed. That’s all we asked them to do.”
Now the Wildcats are being asked to come up with one more win to seal a place in the playoffs. What are their chances?
“I feel really good about them,” answered Dwyer, adding: “We just got to play hard. Get one and we’ll be in.”