When a high school boys basketball team is in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, hasn’t won a league game, and is coming off a bruising 50-point loss from the night before, it needs inspiration from wherever it can find it. Fortunately for the Shelter Island Indians, at least one of their players, John McEnroe, didn’t have to look far for motivation.
Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Southold First Settlers, Rebecca Mundy, the mother of McEnroe’s friend, Zach Mundy, asked him to win the game for her son, who is in the United States Marine Corps and will soon be stationed in Hawaii.
So, McEnroe dedicated the game to Zach Mundy, the son of Shelter Island Coach Michael Mundy, and honored his friend with an exceptional performance.
The First Settlers took the ferry to Shelter Island on Tuesday, looking for an upset, but what they found instead was a stubborn Shelter Island team that put their postseason plans on hold. McEnroe played like a player possessed as Shelter Island stunned Southold, 51-45, to snap a 12-game losing streak and bring the Indians their first league win of the season.
“That was wild,” Michael Mundy said afterward. “You don’t even know what to say.”
The Indians (2-12, 1-10 Suffolk County League VIII) apparently caught more people by surprise with their performance than just the First Settlers (8-7, 6-5).
Shelter Island outscored the visitors by 10-2 down the stretch to win it. After James Read’s jump shot from the top of the key — with his foot touching the three-point line — tied it at 43-43 for the Indians, they added a layup by McEnroe and a clutch three-point shot by Kyle Johnson to make it 48-43 with 48 seconds to go.
The only Southold points after that came on a putback by Alex Conway with 33 seconds left.
Then Chris Napolitano, Read and Matt Belt-Cappellino each made a free throw in the final 27.2 seconds to seal the result.
“Crazy,” McEnroe, a senior forward, said. “We haven’t won a [league] game this season, and then to win this, it’s ridiculous.”
The First Settlers might have another word for it. They need to win one of their final three regular-season games in order to clinch a second straight playoff berth. That win could come Friday night when they host The Ross School Ravens.
“Our heads were not in the game today,” Southold center Alex Sinclair said. “We had the mentality to come in and win the game. We all thought we were going to blow them out, but it didn’t turn out too well.”
The defending league champion First Settlers, with a roster that bears little resemblance to the one that helped the team go undefeated in the 2009-10 regular season, have by and large done well for themselves. Until Tuesday night. Playing a team they had beaten by 34 points on Jan. 11, the First Settlers had their difficulties.
“I don’t know what was on our minds tonight, to be honest with you,” Southold Coach Jeff Ellis said. “We just don’t want to work hard for 32 minutes, and when you don’t work hard for 32 minutes, you don’t have a chance to beat anybody.”
In last month’s game, Southold’s sharpshooter, Winston Wilcenski, dropped in 39 points. On Tuesday, Shelter Island focused on Wilcenski and made him work hard for all 20 of his points. Twelve of them came on three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Shelter Island’s scoring was balanced. Seven Indians scored by halftime. Good ball movement gave the Indians high-percentage shots. They hit on 20 of 36 (55.6 percent) field-goal attempts.
“They played great,” Ellis said. “They deserved it.”
Read scored 13 points, Johnson had 12 and McEnroe 11 to go with 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Aside from Wilcenski, the only other Southolder to score in double figures was Conway, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Sinclair added nine points and eight rebounds.
Shelter Island led the entire second quarter. Wilcenski nailed three treys and completed a three-point play the old-fashioned way to power a 17-2 run that gave Southold a seven-point lead, 31-24, with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.
No matter. The Indians fought back.
Michael Mundy, whose team suffered a 50-point loss to The Stony Brook School Bears the night before, called it the sweetest win in his four seasons as Shelter Island’s coach.
“This was a big positive for us,” he said. “We needed this. We needed something to pick us up. They played with heart and drive. Our theme for the year has been, we’re playing for pride. By beating them tonight, we showed that we can be competitive.”
The Indians have waited a long time for another win, ever since their season-opening, non-league victory over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs.
“It’s been tough,” McEnroe said. “It doesn’t feel good losing every game. It feels great to win this one.”