After every win, Shoreham Wading-River head coach Adam Lievre awards a player a thick gold chain with a medallion that reads: MVP. It’s a tradition. Fortunately for the wildcats, someone on the team has earned the honor every single game.
Tuesday night was no different. In a matchup that should have been close – with both sides sporting unblemished 8-0 league records – Shoreham Wading-River showed Westhampton Beach no mercy, defeating the Hurricanes at home in decisive fashion, 63-21. This time it was junior forward Juliana Mahan who donned the gleaming necklace. But on a team where no one player dominates the ball, it can be anyone.
“It’s something to look forward to every game,” Mahan said of the MVP chain. “Week to week it’s someone else. It’s really a team award. It’s an incentive for us to work hard every time we step on the court.”
Mahan scored 12 points but made her biggest impact was on the boards as she snagged a game-high 11 rebounds and truly dominated the paint.
“This was basically for the league championship,” Mahan said. “Both of us were 8-0 coming into today so we needed to be focused and wanted to take control of the game early.”
Shoreham-Wading River (9-0 Division IV, 16-0 overall) came out of the gates firing. It was 18-4 after the first quarter. Westhampton Beach (8-1 Division IV, 13-3 overall) never really had a chance. Suffocating defense was the Wildcats’ strong point as they never allowed the Hurricanes to get comfortable. Seniors Sophie Costello and GraceAnn Leonard led the way with three steals each in the first quarter alone. Both finished the game with six steals a piece.
“The fact that we dominated that game is really exciting,” Costello said. “It proves that we’re the best team in our league.”
Based on their performance so far, it would be hard to argue that they’re not the best team in the county, perhaps even in all of Long Island. Lievre knew this would be a special season for the Wildcats. After finishing 19-2 last year and falling apart in the playoffs against larger schools, he was determined to organize a very strong non-league schedule this season to give his team a taste of what could come in the playoffs. Lievre scheduled Ward Melville, William Floyd and Sachem East, teams that are currently atop Division II with records of 10-1, 9-2, and 9-2 respectively. The WIldcats beat them all.
“We’re good,” Lievre said. “Sophie, GraceAnn and Annie (Sheehan) have been on varsity for five years. Every year they’ve gotten a little bit better which means the team has gotten better. We’ve added some girls to the rotation that made us better than last year. Game in and game out, we get better.”
Shoreham Wading-River has won plenty of league championships but never a county championship. Could this be the year?
“I’m hoping our strong non-league schedule preps us this time in the playoffs,” Lievre said. “When we finally faced a team that was equal or better than us, like West Babylon last year, we weren’t ready for the adversity. We were rarely behind in a game last year. I keep telling them we have to keep getting better. We don’t want to peak right now.”
No single player dominates which is what makes the Wildcats so good. They play effortlessly and always find the open player. There’s no selfishness on this team. Costello scored 15 points to lead all scorers but close behind were Mahan with 12 and Leonard with 10.
“We have a bond like no other,” Costello said. “Me, Annie and GraceAnn have been playing together on varsity since 8th grade and a lot of these girls we’ve been playing with since 4th or 5th grade. There’s a lot of chemistry between us, especially in our senior class.”
Shoreham Wading-River has four games left before the playoffs start. Hopefully there’s more MVP chains to be handed out.