It would be understandable if the Westhampton Beach girls basketball team went into its home game against powerhouse Elwood/John Glenn last Thursday with a bit of nerves. The Lady Hurricanes have not made the playoffs in the last three years (although they missed out by only one game in each of the last two seasons), and the Lady Knights are a program accustomed to deep playoff runs.
When the team met on January 10, the Lady Canes showed the poise and perseverance of a seasoned playoff team in what was a potential Suffolk County Class A Championship preview, but it was the Lady Knights who squeaked out the 59-56 victory, thanks to some last-second heroics. Madison Mullman, with just 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation and the game tied, 56-56, received an in-bounds pass from teammate Alyssa Adomaites and hurled a three-point shot that she sunk, giving the Lady Knights (9-0 League V, 9-2 overall) the win, and with it, sole possession of first place in League V. After some discussion between the officials and Westhampton Beach head coach Katie Peters as to how much time should have been remaining on the clock after Mullman’s shot, the Lady Hurricanes were given a tenth of a second to get a shot off. Molly McCarthy got a shot off but it was well wide and short of the basket and the Lady Canes (9-1 League V, 10-2 overall) suffered what was their first league loss of the season.
Peters was trying to make a case to the officials that she called timeout directly after Mullman’s basket and that there should have been at least two seconds remaining on the clock. The officials decided to put a tenth of a second on the clock, though, which is technically not enough time to even get a shot off.
Despite the tough ending, Peters thought her team played well given the hype surrounding the game and the pressure situations her players were put in. Westhampton Beach was also without one of its top players in Layla Mendoza, who sprained a ligament in one of her knees in the Lady Canes’ 45-30 victory at Miller Place on January 8.
“I think, for us, this really keeps setting the stage that we’re a county championship team,” Peters said after the game. “They had a player in Layla Mendoza who was out today who is a big, big part of our team. The poise they showed today, and just the ability to play both offensively and defensively, they did a good job facing that adversity and controlling the things that they could have controlled. They couldn’t control how much time the refs gave us after that timeout situation, but we did our best to adjust to it, and that’s something that I’m proud of them for.”
Westhampton Beach led Glenn, 29-26, at halftime but both teams went back and forth throughout the second half. After a cold first half, Glenn’s Sam Groark heated up and wound up being the difference in the game, making five three-pointers all in the second half and finishing with a team-high 19 points. That’s with the county’s leading scorer on her team in Adomaites, who was held to 15 points. Lady Cane Isabelle Smith scored a game-high 23 points and had nine rebounds, six of them coming off the offensive boards. McCarthy finished with 17 points, and Lindsay Rongo had 13 rebounds. Olivia Rongo scored nine points and had three rebounds.
The game’s final two minutes or so had a flurry of big shots. With Westhampton Beach clinging to a 46-45 lead, Groark hit a three to give Glenn a lead, but seconds later Caroline Henke drained a three to give the Lady Canes a lead. With just under 30 seconds remaining, Groark hit another three which was answered by Olivia Rongo, leading up to the game’s final play.
“It’s a loss in the record books but there were a lot of positives in the game that I think we’ll continue to kind of foster and work on,” Peters said.
The victory over Miller Place officially clinched a playoff spot for Westhampton Beach. With an entire second half of the season yet to be played, Peters said there is more than enough to play for still.
“From here on in we know every game is important for where we get seeded,” she said. “One of the girls’ goals would be to have a home playoff game, so that’s something we talk about, wanting to be home and get a good seed coming into the playoffs, so each and every game here on out is for seeding.”
Westhampton Beach hosted Sayville on Tuesday and is slated to play at Shoreham/Wading River on Friday at 4 p.m. The Lady Canes then have a 10-day break in between their next game on January 28 at Mount Sinai.