As do many other high school girls basketball coaches, Dennis Haughney uses non-league games as preparation for the league season. To him, wins and losses in non-league games take a back seat to the quest for improvement.
With that view in mind, Haughney scheduled some challenging non-league contests for his Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats. They played teams like the Commack Cougars, the Comsewogue Warriors and the Wyandanch Warriors.
Although Shoreham-Wading River didn’t get many wins, it became a better team because of the experience, said Haughney. Proof of that was seen on Thursday night when the Wildcats, in their final non-league game of the season and final game of 2010, posted what had to feel like a refreshing win. After falling behind by 3-0, the Wildcats went on a 15-0 run and never looked back as they rolled, 51-32, over the Mattituck Tuckers. The result snapped Shoreham-Wading River’s four-game losing streak.
The game was played at Cutchogue East Elementary School because of work being done to the floor in the Mattituck High School gym.
“It’s nice to win a game like this after so many losses,” Wildcats small forward Meghan King said. “It feels good.”
King had a big hand in how the Wildcats performed. The sophomore accounted for 13 points and 14 rebounds — both game-high figures. She hit 7 of 8 free throws. King scored six of her points during that early run. Corinne Wiederkehr registered nine points for Shoreham-Wading River (2-5, 0-1 in Suffolk County League VI).
Afterward, Haughney was happy, and he had good reason to be. He saw his team execute a lot of the things it has been working on, and tough non-league opposition has helped.
“Without a doubt,” Haughney said. “It doesn’t matter if we go 6 and 0 or 0 and 6 [in non-league play]. When it comes down to the league, that’s when we’re going to have to start doing well.”
King understands the value of the experience her team gained from good non-league competition. “The non-league games, the losses, they hurt, but we know we are getting better,” she said. “Even though we did lose, we know we’re getting better and it is going to help us in the long run.”
Another help is Shoreham-Wading River’s height. The Wildcats can have a formidable presence under the boards with the 6-foot-2 Chelsea Hughes, the 6-0 Wiederkehr and the 5-11 King. Hughes played her first game since missing a handful of them because of injury. “It definitely gives them a scare when Chelsea goes out there,” said King.
That sort of height can give teams trouble. The Wildcats won the battle of the boards on Thursday, 32-24, and enjoyed a 17-8 superiority in offensive rebounds.
It wasn’t a good night for Mattituck (2-6, 0-1 League VII). The Tuckers, playing their first game in 13 days, looked rusty. They shot a miserable 5 of 17 from the free-throw line. Their shortcomings on defense and boxing out did not please Coach Steve Van Dood, who complained about lazy play and silly fouls.
Not all of that could be blamed on the absence of Lauren Guja, a regular starter who missed the game with bronchitis. Van Dood said the Tuckers are still searching for the right rotation.
“It’s almost like you put one group out there, you gain a defensive edge, but you lose scoring,” he said. “Then you put your scorers out there, and you lose the defense. It’s like we can’t get that all-around five players who do everything. Again, it’s going to be a search, but I tell you, if girls aren’t producing, we’ll go to the young kids. That’s what’s going to happen. We’ll go to the bench.”
Van Dood said he saw a glimmer of hope in the play of freshmen Alexa Orlando and Shannon Dwyer. The top scorers for Mattituck were Liz Lasota with 10 points and Orlando with seven.
Mattituck pulled to within nine points of Shoreham by halftime, but the Wildcats then opened the third quarter with an 11-2 spurt.
“Something just wasn’t clicking,” Mattituck senior forward/center Katherine Wilcenski said. “We have a lot more potential than we’re showing in games.”
Van Dood can’t blame the loss on the venue. Last season the Tuckers went 2-0 in the games they played at Cutchogue East Elementary School against the Center Moriches Red Devils and the Babylon Panthers. “I like the gym,” he said. “It’s not a bad place to play. … It’s been a good place for us up until tonight.”