Girls Basketball: Coming off undefeated regular season, Wildcats gear up for playoffs

For the first time in school history, the Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team finished regular season play at 20-0. The Wildcats have consistently dominated their league IV opponents, including a 63-21 defeat of second place Westhampton that clearly cemented their spot as the top team in the division. A page in the record books has already been updated, but by the looks of it, there’s more left to be written.

For one, SWR has never won the Suffolk County championship. That journey will start Friday, Feb. 17. Because of their dominance, including taking on and defeating several top, non-league opponents, Section XI officials awarded the Wildcats the No. 1 seed in the Class A playoff bracket. SWR will face No. 8 Comsewogue in round one on their home court on Friday at 5 p.m. 

The Wildcats played their final game on Feb. 3, and while the long layoff allowed for some needed rest, it has also posed some challenges.

“We had some minor injuries at the end of the season,” head coach Adam Lievre said. “That’ll give the girls ample time to recover and get ready for the playoffs. That’s one positive, but we have to stay engaged and focus on the task at hand.”

Lievre scheduled some scrimmages to keep his team fresh. 

“They’ll get bored easily if we don’t schedule something,” Lievre said. “To keep our momentum, we have to stay locked in.”

The opponents, however, had to be picked carefully, to avoid facing a team they might play in the Class A playoffs. No need to give those squads a preview of what’s to come.

“We’re doing a lot of scrimmaging in practice,” Lievre said. “Northport or Walt Whitman may be one of those teams we will play in a scrimmage. They’re Class AA teams so we wouldn’t see them until the final game of the Section XI bracket where the small school champion plays the large school champion.”

Lievre has been scouting tirelessly to gain the best advantage and to develop a game plan that will lead to victory. 

“I owe it to these girls to get them as much information as possible,” Lievre said.

Last year’s debacle in the playoffs against West Babylon still looms in the mind of the SWR coach. The Wildcats lost by 30 points.

“We weren’t prepared that game,” Lievre said. “That’s why I scheduled the tough non-league [teams]. That’s why we’ve been working so hard. We have to get over that hump.”

SWR may face West Babylon again in round two of the playoffs this year. They finished 13-2 in Division III. Kings Park, who finished 13-1 in Division III and obtained the No. 2 seed, could be another team to watch in the playoffs.

The Wildcats have another year of experience under their belts and will be a force to be reckoned with. They have top guard play with seniors Sophie Costello, GraceAnn Leonard and Annie Sheehan. The trio guards the passing lanes very well, nabbing steals and pushing down court in transition as much as possible. Costello is hard to stop once she gets a full head of steam going. She currently sits in ninth place in Suffolk County with and average of 18.6 points per game. Don’t count out Leonard or Sheehan to score either. They’ve both been on varsity since freshman year and can get going at any point to put together a string of buckets.

The only junior among the starting five is Juliana Mahan, who provides the size and strength under the basket. She’s also a very capable scorer and can rebound with the best of them. Colleen Ohrtman is the sharpshooter of the bunch so as the guards drive inside, look for Ohrtman to get some clean looks from behind the arc.

Shoreham-Wading River is loaded with talent, in the starting five as well as on the bench. The playoffs is the perfect time to prove that they are the best team around. 

“We’re going to play our game,” Lievre said. “Nobody is going to force us out of that.”