SWR clinches playoffs, but loses chance at league title

With a playoff spot already guaranteed, the Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball squad set their sights on a potential league title with a matchup against first-place, undefeated Mt. Sinai Tuesday afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

The team that handed Shoreham-Wading River their only league loss of the season came out on top again, emerging with a 48-41 victory and essentially eliminating any shot for the Wildcats to win the league. 

“I think in both games we beat ourselves,” said SWR head coach Adam Lievre. “I would say this game was a carbon copy of our first game. Bad start. Unforced turnovers. Sloppy play. Got going for a few minutes. And then got back to our ways again.”

Mt. Sinai (8-0 League VI, 11-4 overall) jetted out to a scorching start, taking a 12-1 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Wildcats had trouble getting a full offensive attack together, committing turnovers and allowing the Mustangs to pull away slightly. 

The second quarter featured a whole new Shoreham-Wading River team, with senior captain Juliana Mahan leading the way. Mahan scored the first four points of the quarter in less than a minute and ended the quarter with nine points to bring the game into half, tied at 22-22.

“Jules is the biggest advantage we have over the other teams we play, so we need to get her the ball,” Lievre said. “When she’s open we want to feed her. Sometimes I think we don’t give it to her when she’s open and sometimes we force it to her when she’s not open. At the end of the day, we just need to make better decisions with the ball.”

The Wildcats tried to feature more of Mahan in the second half but many of the passes inside got deflected and turned into fastbreak points the other way. Mt. Sinai got ahead by as much as nine points before Shoreham-Wading River (6-2, 10-6) started to chip away again. 

With big buckets by Mahan, Ashley Bell and Kady Keegan, the Wildcats tied it up again at 38-38 with just five minutes left to play. The momentum looked like it had finally shifted back in favor of the home team. But in the end, the turnovers left little chance to come away with the victory. Mahan finished with 15 points, Bell added 13 and Keegan came away with eight. Mahan also had four blocks on the day and corralled 16 rebounds.

“We’ve got to have better composure especially at the end of the game,” Lievre said. “We need to make better decisions with the ball. I think we put ourselves in the right spots but just didn’t make the right decisions. Hasn’t happened a lot when we’ve been winning the last six weeks but for whatever reason, against Mt. Sinai it reared its head.”

Mahan has been on an absolute tear during the Wildcats’ five game winning streak between the two Mt. Sinai games. Against Bayport-Blue Point (4-3, 8-5) last Thursday, the senior put up a season-high 35 points in the 69-63 overtime victory. She’s averaged 16.2 points over the course of the season.

Shoreham-Wading River’s final game of the season will be Feb. 15, then playoffs will start. That’s when Lievre wants the best version of his team to show up.

 “Tonight would have given us a chance at a league title or at least given us a higher seed come playoff time,” Lievre said. “But it is what it is at this point. We’re going to do our best the next four games and try to get as high of a seed as possible and then, once the playoffs start, anything goes. You only have the opponent in front of you.”