Wildcats fall in semifinals

Shoreham-Wading River’s quest for back-to-back Wildcats Suffolk County Class A championships abruptly came to an end on Wednesday night in the semifinals as the Wildcats fell to No. 1 Kings Park, 48-34, at Centereach High School.

It was a revenge game for Kings Park after enduring a tough loss in the Suffolk County championship to the Wildcats last year. Ryan Currier, the lone returning starter from that Kings Park’s team made an immediate impact on the defensive end of the court.

The 6-foot-2 senior center dominated the paint and refused to let any Wildcat inside the lane uncontested. Currier set a precedent from the opening tip, notching eight blocked shots, including six in the first half.

“I think overall we played well,” SWR head coach Adam Lievre said. “Currier blocked about a thousand shots in the first half. The fact that we got the shots in that spot is because we did what we were supposed to do. We broke the press, moved the ball, and we just needed to come up with another way to shoot the ball over her.”

The first quarter featured a lot of defense and very little scoring as both teams combined for 18 turnovers.  After ending the first quarter tied 4-4, Kings Park, behind their stellar defense, started to pull away and extended their lead to as many as 12 points before halftime.

“We talked about trying to take different approaches to get around [Currier],” Lievre said. “We started taking some three point shots but they weren’t falling either. She really altered the game plan for us and it made all the difference.”

Though the Wildcats tried to fight back from a 16-point hole in the third quarter, they only got as close as nine points back in the fourth quarter as Kings Park never let off the pressure. Their constant press forced errant passes that turned into easy, fastbreak baskets. The game quickly got lopsided. 

The loss in the Class A semifinals doesn’t diminish what this team was able to accomplish — only a year removed from losing four of their five starters. It’s not easy to put together another contender but they had as good a shot as anyone to win the county crown again.

“It took time for us to get it all together this year,” Lievre said. “I looked at it today. We’re missing 80% of our points from last season. So it’s a lot. I don’t know many teams that lost that many points, two all-county players, three five-year varsity players and to start 0-3 this season and still get to the county semifinals is something to be proud of.”

Juliana Mahan, the one returning starter from last year’s championship team, was mostly double or triple teamed when she got the ball in the paint. The senior was only able to muster six points on the night and was visibly upset afterward.

“Mahan had a great career,” Lievre said. “She was the piece we really needed last year for the championship. With all the guards that we had, we really needed a big [center] to be able to rebound and finish down low and guard the other bigs. We needed someone to be in charge of the middle. And she did that. So although it would’ve been nice to win back-to-back county championships, she was a big part in winning the first one for the school and that banner is up there for good.”

Mahan and Tiana Barone are the only Wildcats who will graduate this year, so next season also looks promising. Sophomores Kady Keegan (11 points) and Leslie Jablonski (10 points) led the team in scoring against Kings Park.