Harassing defense leads to steals, which lead to layups, which lead to wins. That formula has worked well for the Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team for years. And this season, all of the above has led to a league championship the Wildcats can call their own.
With its previous win — a 47-37 home defeat of Mount Sinai last Thursday — SWR clinched at least a share of its 10th league title. But the Wildcats were trying to be selfish Tuesday evening. They weren’t in a sharing mood when it came to the Suffolk County League VI crown.
“I kind of told them, ‘You know, when you were kids you were told to share, but tonight maybe be a little selfish,’ ” said coach Adam Lievre.
His players listened. SWR’s 49-39 road victory over Elwood/John Glenn in the regular-season finale for both teams left the Wildcats in sole possession of first place. Just where they wanted to be.
In this case, not sharing was caring.
“I mean, honestly, it means a lot to us,” said SWR junior Sophie Costello, who led the way with 23 points, not to mention eight steals and five rebounds. “We are super excited.”
SWR will enter the playoffs with a sparkling 18-1 record, having gone 11-1 in league play. The Wildcats won their seventh straight game, snapping Glenn’s five-game win streak in the process.
The key? What else? Suffocating, turnover-producing, pressure defense is SWR’s calling card.
“Defense is our thing,” Lievre said. “We’re never going to be a great shooting team, you know, but when we get stops, we get layups, and that’s got to be our thing.
“That’s definitely the thing, the pressure, the intensity, the engine that just kind of goes and goes and goes. A couple of them just never seem to get tired. I never have to sub them out. They play the same speed from the tip to the final buzzer.”
Things didn’t start SWR’s way. The Wildcats opened the game on 1-for-12 shooting and fell behind, 16-4.
“They hit a couple of open threes, we missed some layups, you know, the next thing you know, it’s 16 to 4,” said Lievre.
Lievre told his players during a timeout that they didn’t look like themselves. They knew it, too.
“We get so frustrated because we know the ability we can play to,” senior Mia Rosati said. “So, that’s just why we’re getting frustrated, but we knew we could pull it together.”
That’s what championship teams do.
And SWR pulled it together. Colleen Ohrtman, in her first game back from a concussion, kick-started the comeback, coming off the bench to score eight points of a 10-0 run to cut Glenn’s lead to 16-14 late in the second quarter. She finished with 10 points, as did teammate GraceAnn Leonard. Carlie Cutinella had six assists.
“She made an impact,” Lievre said of Ohrtman. “That was definitely big.”
Leonard and Costello combined for all the scoring during an 11-0 burst that put SWR ahead for good, 32-25, in the third quarter.
After Glenn (11-9, 9-3) inched closer at 32-29, SWR blew it open, scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter for a 45-29 advantage. Game over.
“Everything usually comes off the defense,” Lievre said. “You know, when they hit threes, it’s a big momentum-builder for them; it’s a little deflating to you because we know that’s what we’re trying to defend against. I think, you know, once we were able to get some stops, you know, it kind of takes off from there.”
SWR’s defense held Glenn to 8-for-34 shooting (23.5%) over the final three quarters and forced 28 turnovers.
Lindsey Adomaites led Glenn with 15 points and Gabby Andreacchi added 14 to go with 10 rebounds. Abby Miller grabbed 10 boards.
What makes SWR so strong?
“I think we have like a really good bond,” Rosati said. “Like, we have fun at practice and we work hard, so we know how to do both things at once, and that makes a really good team and we’re all very determined to win.”
Next up for SWR: the Suffolk Class A Tournament. The playoff brackets are expected to be released later this week.
Said Costello, “We’ve been looking at the teams, and I think we’re ready.”
It would be hard to argue otherwise.