It very well may have been the ugliest shot of Sophie Costello’s basketball career, and yet, it was a thing of beauty to Shoreham-Wading River eyes.
Sometimes in the playoffs, good isn’t good enough. A team needs some luck along the way, and the goddess of fortune smiled down upon the Wildcats.
How else does one explain the line-drive shot that Costello flung at the basket Tuesday night? That shot crashed off the backboard and then bounced on the rim a bit before deciding, remarkably, to somehow fall in.
“I can’t say that was skill,” said Costello, wearing the shiny, outsized MVP medal the team presents to the player of the game around her neck. “It was all luck. It was like bouncing for like three seconds.”
That basket with 9.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter of SWR’s Suffolk County Class A quarterfinal against Islip was HUGE. It gave SWR its first lead, 44-42, since the second quarter and was the unquestionable turning point in the Wildcats’ 45-42 home triumph.
“That was just crazy,” SWR guard GraceAnn Leonard said. “It was a total game-changer. Like after that the momentum changed and I knew we were gonna win after that, and I think everyone did, too.”
League VI champion SWR’s prayers were answered in dramatic fashion. The third-seeded Wildcats (20-1), winners of eight straight, will play at No. 2 West Babylon (17-3), the League IV champion, in a semifinal Friday.
“Off her hands, it didn’t look promising,” SWR coach Adam Lievre said of Costello’s decisive shot. “I tell the girls, ‘I don’t care how it goes in.’ ”
Islip (16-5) had two inbounds plays, both following timeouts, after Costello’s game-saving shot. On the second one, SWR’s Carlie Cutinella stole the ball and was fouled. Cutinella then inbounded to Costello, who was fouled with 1.6 seconds left, sending her to the foul line. Costello made one of the two free throws. SWR inbounded again deep in Islip’s half of the court. Islip’s Kaylie Sullivan stole the ball, but time expired before she could do anything with it.
SWR prayers were answered in a game in which Islip led for most of the way. But, to SWR’s credit, it never let Islip pull away by more than seven points. The teams were never separated by more than six points in the final three quarters.
Islip gave SWR all it could handle. Lauren Kolovich supplied Islip with 16 points, hitting four three-pointers in the process.
The 6-1 Brielle Zink was a big source of trouble, bringing Islip 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kaeli McAnally had six assists.
But Costello, a junior guard, came through with 19 points, five rebounds, five steals and one assist for SWR. Leonard added 12 points. SWR’s comeback was aided by its defense, which made 20 steals and caused 30 turnovers.
Costello’s unusual basket wasn’t the only impressive shot SWR made in the fourth quarter. Mia Rosati, who hit the floor hard several times in the game, grabbed an offensive rebound and, while falling, managed to sink a shot, cutting Islip’s lead to 38-37 with 4:04 left in the fourth quarter.
After that, the teams traded buckets: a Zink layup, a short bank shot by Leonard, a close-range shot by Zink and a conventional three-point play by Costello that tied the score at 42-42 with 1:32 to go.
That set the stage for Costello’s incredible basket.
“Honestly, I was just going for the foul,” Costello said. “I was putting my body into the shot and I got lucky and it was a straight line drive into the net. I really chucked it, yeah.”
Asked if she had ever scored on a shot like that at any level, Costello replied: “Not many. Definitely not in school basketball, maybe in travel, but definitely not here, so it’s super-exciting.”
Lievre, who has his team in the playoffs for the ninth time in as many years, said: “We were probably down like 90 percent of the game, and then to pull it out at the end is huge, and I told the girls, ‘Survive and advance.’ Whether it’s a pretty win or ugly win, we live another day.”
Sometimes ugly is a beautiful thing.