Led by junior guards Shaundell Fishburne (23 points) and Taylor Sanders (21 points), the second-ranked Southampton Mariners hung on to a narrow lead late in the game to defeat the third-ranked Wyandanch Warriors, 71-65, on their home court in the Suffolk County Class B boys basketball semifinal game last Thursday, February 14.
With Wyandanch riding a five-game winning streak and Southampton trying to get back on track after suffering a disappointing loss to Mattituck to end the regular season, Fishburne and Sanders provided the Mariners with the offensive surge needed to get by the stingy Warrior defense. Fishburne not only scored field goals, but more important, he and several other Mariners consistently drew fouls from the Wyandanch defenders allowing Southampton to get into the bonus early on in the second half. Southampton scored 10 points from the line in the fourth quarter, with Fishburne contributing eight of those points from the stripe. Sanders had the hot hand from the field as well, draining five three-pointers, three of which came in the first quarter to help the Mariners keep pace with the Warriors.
Despite the loss, Wyandanch played a strong game. They out-rebounded the Mariners, forced turnovers, and battled back time and time again to keep the game within reach. The Southampton players had their work cut out for them, but fortunately the Mariners displayed resiliency of their own. Head coach Herm Lamison remarked that the team’s staying power was one of the keys to the win.
“I just thought our persistence was really what helped us out a lot because we went up twice with six, seven-point leads toward the end of the second and third quarter and we squandered both those leads coming down the stretch within a minute,” said Lamison. “So for us to kind of stay persistent and on our point that’s really what gave us our additional energy to pull the game out.”
Southampton forward Scott Ricca (nine points) offered a similar assessment.
“Our team played together and we didn’t give up,” said Ricca. “We moved the ball and shot the ball great. We were thinking, ‘Keep stepping on the gas, don’t let up’ the whole game, and we knew if kept up with playing our game, playing it smart, we’d win.”
Indeed perseverance paid off for the Mariners. Wyandanch was not going away easily and demonstrated this with dramatic rallies in each quarter. Lamison attributed Southampton’s inability to keep leads with “sloppy play.”
“We just got careless with the ball,” said Lamison. “I know we rushed a couple of shots at the end when we should have ran the clock out. So we missed a shot, gave them an opportunity to go down and score and those were big plays that we really need to be more heads-up about.”
Southampton held a slim lead on Wyandanch, 33-32, going into half-time largely from the scoring efforts of Fishburne and Sanders, and by Wyandanch taking advantage of Mariner turnovers. Whatever the reason, Southampton did not do a good job of maintaining possession of the ball. During the half, Lamison strategized with his team to keep it simple, emphasizing ball control. “We really just needed to do two things,” he said. “We needed to take care of the ball and rebound. If we did those two things I told the kids we would have a good chance of pulling this game out.”
Lamison’s advice resonated to some extent as the Mariners seemed to have better ball control. Wyandanch continued its dominance on the boards mainly because Mariner forward Lyle Smith was forced to sit out with foul trouble.
Lamison’s bench, however, provided some key plays in the second half. As time was running down in the third quarter, Wyandanch had possession of the ball and was on the verge of taking the lead to start the fourth quarter after battling back from a seven-point deficit. With under 10 seconds left, Ricca stepped into the lane and drew a charge on a layup attempt keeping Southampton’s lead intact, 50-49.
Later, with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and Southampton leading, 67-62, John Kraus (nine points) forced a key turnover and parlayed it into a three-point score. After stealing the ball near center court, Kraus drove the lane and was fouled on the shot. When his shot attempt slipped through the netting it sent the Mariner crowd into a roar of excitement. Kraus then proceeded to sink the free throw putting the Mariners up, 70-62.
Kraus added an important assist earlier in the fourth quarter. With Wyandanch trailing by two points it applied a full-court press to the Mariners. Kraus received the ball on an inbounds pass and demonstrated some nifty dribbling to avoid several Wyandanch defenders. He then found teammate Ricca and dished it off to him who was near the foul line. Ricca sank the jumper to put them ahead, 60-56.