Boys Basketball: Sharpshooting Hauppauge takes down SWR in playoff opener

Bricks were laid when the building that houses Hauppauge High School’s neat, second-floor gym was built. However, bricks weren’t a part of the foundation for the Hauppauge boys basketball team’s playoff victory Saturday. The Eagles nailed down one shot after another as they buried Shoreham-Wading River.

Hot-shooting Hauppauge dropped in 20 of 34 field-goal attempts (58.8%) in the first three quarters to blow away SWR, 67-44, in a Suffolk County Class A outbracket game.

“They played an excellent game,” SWR coach Kevin Culhane said of the Eagles. “I tip my hat to them. My kids gave a great effort, but we could never get into it and they just didn’t miss shots. It was incredible.”

No one had to tell 11th-seeded SWR (10-11), making its first playoff appearance in four years, how difficult it is to gain entry into the playoffs. Saturday’s game, though, was a reminder that winning a playoff game is even harder.

“Some people understand and some people don’t,” Culhane said. “There’s a big difference between the regular season and the playoffs.”

And that goes beyond crowd volume and intensity. The sheer talent levels of the opponents are higher.

The Wildcats had heard that No. 8 seed Hauppauge (12-9) was a good shooting team. Then they saw that for themselves.

Hauppauge came out firing from the start, with a pair of three-pointers by Kevin Zembrzycki igniting a 10-0 start. SWR never led, but twice tied the score at 13-13 and 15-15, the first time on the strength of a 13-3 burst.

“They were hitting all their shots today,” SWR junior Joe Dwyer said. “We just didn’t hit a lot of ours.”

Hauppauge opened the second quarter with a 16-0 run — seven of those points coming from Macai John — for a 39-19 lead. It was a lead the Eagles were never in danger of losing as they kept drilling in shots.

SWR was outscored, 17-7, in the third quarter when Hauppauge’s 6-4 forward, Kevin Barrett, dropped in nine of his 19 points.

Meanwhile, shots weren’t falling as readily for SWR, which shot a 4-for-28 from the field in the second and third quarters combined. For the game, the SWR shot 27.6% (16 of 58).

Hauppauge’s 17-point halftime lead expanded to 27 after three quarters.

“They controlled the tempo the whole game,” Dwyer said. “They had a lot of energy. We came out sleepwalking. They just wanted it more today.”

A major source of SWR’s problems could be attributed to the omnipresent John. It almost came as a surprise to see that the 6-2 sophomore forward had only 18 points to his credit when all was said done. That was because of the impact he had on the game. He also collected 14 rebounds, had five assists and swatted aside four shots.

“He was a problem for us,” said Dwyer.

Hauppauge coach Brad Hughes said John “took the game over. He was the best player on the court. We tell him that before the game. I tell him, ‘Macai, you’re the best player on the court.’ He’s that good, but it’s mental. When he comes ready to play, he does what he [did] tonight.”

Two others scored in double figures for Hauppauge — Griffin Adams (12 points) and Zembrzycki (11).

Tom Bell was SWR’s top scorer with 12 points. Cameron Loschiavo had 10 and Tristan Costello added nine.

Was there anything SWR could have done differently to get a different result?

“No, I don’t think [so],” said Culhane, who hugged and consoled his players afterward. “We changed defenses, we did different things. Give them credit, they shot the ball really well.”

Hauppauge’s reward will be a quarterfinal at League V champion Half Hollow Hills West (17-3) Wednesday. Hills West beat the Eagles twice during the regular season.

Meanwhile, SWR can take solace in the strides it made after going 4-16 last season.

“It was definitely very exciting,” Dwyer said of the playoff experience, adding: “It’s been a long time since we made the playoffs, so it was good to be here. It was a lot of fun, just not the outcome we wanted.”

Said Culhane, “I thought we had us prepared, but you can’t be prepared the way they shot.”

No bricks were involved.