When Winston Wilcenski is on, he’s really on, as he has shown several times already during this high school boys basketball season. The most recent example of his marksmanship might have been his most impressive yet.
In one game, the Southold First Settlers junior guard matched his career-high in points, had a career-high in three-pointers, and single-handedly matched the opposing team’s point total.
Talk about impressive, Wilcenski hit nine three-point field goals — eight in the first half — on the way to 39 points in a 73-39 rout of the Shelter Island Indians in Suffolk County League VIII play on Tuesday night in Southold. Wilcenski matched the career-high points total he put up last month in a win over the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes.
“We obviously knew he was a great shooter,” Shelter Island senior guard Andrew Belt-Cappellino said. “I didn’t think we’d see anything like this. … It was off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Southold Coach Jeff Ellis has, though.
“I wouldn’t call it a surprise because I think we always knew that he could shoot, and he’s worked hard in the off-season to better his game,” Ellis said. “It doesn’t matter who’s guarding him. … He’s done a great job scoring.”
Wilcenski, who was also credited with eight rebounds and five steals, made all but one of the nine three-point shots he took in the first half. He also hit five free throws in the opening two quarters, giving him 29 points at the break.
“It was just like a shooting clinic,” said Shelter Island Coach Michael Mundy.
The eighth of Wilcenski’s three points was a bank shot from just beyond the midcourt line as the buzzer ending the first half sounded. “I’m glad they got that one on video,” said Wilcenski, who hit a half-court shot to beat Westhampton Beach.
That gave Southold (4-3, 2-1) a 23-9 lead. At halftime the score was 43-25, and it was 61-33 after three quarters.
“I just got it going early, and then I kept the feeling throughout the whole game,” Wilcenski said. “At the same time, my whole team was feeling it. Kyle [Clausen] came in clutch, hit some threes. Alex [Sinclair] played great defense. [David] O’Day came in off the bench and worked great at the point guard.”
Late in the fourth quarter, with the game well out of reach, Southold fans put a creative twist on a taunting chant, yelling to the Shelter Islanders: “Start the ferry! Start the ferry!”
Clausen, who finished with 10 points and five assists, said he has never seen Wilcenski have a cold-shooting game. “He knows how to get open and he also knows how when he’s guarded how to get the ball to the rim,” Clausen said. “And also, he’s not selfish, either. He passes the ball.”
Shelter Island (1-6, 0-4) was led by Belt-Cappellino’s 10 points. His brother, Matt Belt-Cappellino, and James Read added seven points apiece.
Shelter Island was coming off a 39-38 loss to the Bridgehampton Killer Bees on Friday. That was an odd game that saw the Indians manage all of nine points in the first half (Andrew Belt-Cappellino called it the worst half of basketball he had ever seen), fall behind by as many as 17 points, bounce back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, and then lose by one point. In one game, the Indians saw, perhaps, the best and worst in themselves.
“It was a tragic first half,” Mundy said. “I can’t even explain what was going on, but just the heart, drive, determination and hustle to get back into that game, it just showed me their capabilities. If you don’t have the skills, if you don’t have the height, [then] hustle and heart, it’s not going to win you the league, but it will keep you respectable, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
The loss to Southold, Shelter Island’s sixth straight defeat since its season-opening win over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs, did not have many positives for the Indians, though.
“I wasn’t happy,” Mundy said. “I wasn’t happy at all. … Some guys were just spectators out there.
“I do expect a little better movement, a little better hustle out of some guys. I got a player like Andrew Belt-Cappellino who plays a hundred percent a hundred percent of the time. Thirty seconds left in the game, and he’s still trying to make steals, still hustling hard. I’d like to see that out of everybody.”
Meanwhile, the word may be out that Southold is for real, a team to be taken seriously. Despite the fact that the defending league champions returned only three players from last season, the First Settlers have shown that they can play. They recently lost by only seven points to the Greenport Porters, the top-ranked Class C team by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
“We feel like we’re in every game,” Wilcenski said. “We might not go undefeated like last year, we might not win the league, but we expect to be right up in there with the best teams.”
Wilcenski, who has scored less than 18 points only once in seven games, is averaging 26.3 points per game. He has proven to be one of the best pure shooters in the league, and is aided by teammates who Mundy said create the best screens he has seen. Wilcenski had something else working in his favor.
“He’s just got such a quick release, and he’s got that little bit of cockiness that’s needed to be a good shooter,” Ellis said. “He’s not fazed by missing a couple. He wants to shoot the ball, and that’s what shooters do — shoot.”
Sometimes they score a lot, too.