It was a crowded Shelter Island gym that awaited the Indians’ cross-moat rivals, the Southold Settlers, for the basketball season opener on Saturday, December 6.
After being beaten by Shelter Island twice in two meetings last season, the Settlers came into this game looking for revenge.
Though it was chilly outside, it was heating up inside when the Settlers arrived. Hometown fans got into the spirit as Rebecca Mundy, wife of varsity coach Mike Mundy, handed out blue Mardi Gras-style beads to support the team.
And though the game started slow — fouls and turnovers by both teams kept the game scoreless for 1:10 into the first quarter — those in attendance, many now decked in beads, were in for what shaped up to be a near-historic comeback for the Indians.
After being down midway through the fourth quarter, the Indians took to the comeback trail as both senior guard Matthew BeltCappellino and sophomore forward Tristan Wissemann lit it up the scoreboard with two 3-point shots each.
Wissemann would add two more clutch buckets to give the Indians the lead at 60-58 with 2:45 left in the game.
The Settlers were getting thrown off by the swarming Shelter Island defense and the din of the fans, and they committed several turnovers during the quarter. The last points for the Indians were from senior forward Matthew Dunning, with a put back lay-up to give Shelter Island a 62-59 lead.
That was when the Settlers’ star forward Liam Walker took the game into his own hands.
He drove twice, resulting in a foul and two made free throws, and a dazzling lay-up. The Settlers had a 63-62 lead with :52 left in the game.
Everyone in the building knew that there was a chance for an Indians game-winning shot.
After some timeouts and unsuccessful shot attempts by both teams, there was :14 left and Shelter Island had possession. The Indians just couldn’t set up an open shot with the aggressive Southold defense.
Time ran out and the Settlers bench erupted.
Though it would have been a comeback to talk about for a long time, much of the game was a typical back and forth until the Settlers started to pull away toward the end of the third quarter.
After that scoreless first minute, and after a quick Settler three, Wissemann answered back with a jumper from the top of the key at 6:39. The Indians kept a fast-paced offense for much of the quarter, and drew several fouls from the Southold defense, which couldn’t get into their 2-3 zone. Then Shelter Island got into a bit of foul trouble of their own.
After a minute of being tied at 10, Settlers forward Liam Walker would score 5 straight points and Alex Poliwoda would add 2 more to extend their lead to 7. The Indians would get the last word, though, as Matthew Dunning dished a dime to senior forward Nathan Mundy, who would finish with a lay-up to end the first quarter and make it 17-12 Southold.
After three straight sets of free throws from players on each team in the second quarter, sophomore Billy Boeklen connected from downtown at 5:35 to cut the Southold lead to 21-17. Both teams started to get sloppy with the ball, which kept the game scoreless until Settlers forward Poliwoda got hot for Southold and hit two 3-point shots in a row to give the Settlers their largest lead of the game at 27-17.
After Mundy and Dunning lay-ups, Walker connected on a floater and then flew past all Shelter Island defenders to make it 31-21 at the 2:25 mark. After a Wissemann lay-up at 1:07, the Settlers came back with two buckets, to go into the locker room at halftime with a 35-23 lead.
BeltCappellino and Wissemann hit key free throws to open up the third quarter and creep up on the Settlers. At 4:45 the Indians knew that they were back in the game when senior point guard Riley Willumsen drilled a 3-pointer to make it 39-31 in Southold’s favor. Just to even things out, Settlers point guard Kenji Fujita made a triple at 3:55. Both point guards made their team’s scoring opportunities possible by showcasing good passing, ball-handling and decisiveness. Southold’s motion offense got them open looks from downtown as they hit three more threes in the quarter, two of them from Walker. The Settlers had the game in their hands with a 53-36 lead at the end of the third.
The tide turned in the fourth.
At the 7:20 mark, BeltCappellino scored a three to make it 53-39 and got the crowd and the cheerleaders fired up. Next came the play of the game. Dunning missed a bank shot, then tapped it in, mid-air, above two Southold big men at 6:50 to raise the decibel level in the gym.
They rode that energy into the final minute of the game.
If anything, Shelter Island showed not just Southold, but the league that they are a serious threat.
Scoring: Wissemann, 23; BeltCappellino, 15; Mundy, 9; Dunning, 7; Willumsen, 5; Boeklen, 3. Walker (of Southold) scored 38 points.
For a report on Friday’s and Tuesday’s games, see the Reporter’s print edition Thursday.