Preparing for an unknown opponent is akin to putting together “a jigsaw puzzle.”
Such has been the task for the Shelter Island coaches as the boys basketball team prepares to face Coleman Catholic Saturday afternoon in the Class D regional finals with a trip the state Final Four in Glens Falls on the line. Through newspaper articles, video clips and any other information they can find, the Island coaches have been busy setting up their game plan for tomorrow’s historic game.
“This is a situation where you know very little about this team,” said assistant coach Jim Colligan. “You go online and you try to pick up different things — what kind of defense they play and of course just looking at scores and seeing how many points they score.”
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What the Indians have learned is Coleman Catholic (16-4) is a fast-tempo team that can score a lot of points. The Statesmen average about 74 points per game, Colligan said, well above the Indians’ average in the mid-50s.
That means the Indians will look to slow the tempo of the game and try to keep the score low.
“They pride themselves on playing pressure defense, which involves a lot of trapping,” Colligan said. “Obviously to average 74 points a game, that’s a lot of points for high school. They probably get a lot of those points off turnovers.”
The 1 p.m. game at SUNY New Paltz will be the first ever for the Indians, who have reached uncharted territory thanks to wins over Greenport in the county finals and Clark Academy Tuesday in a regional semifinal. For Coleman Catholic, it’ll be a familiar scene. The Statesmen played in the state finals in 2011. Last year they lost to Bridgehampton to finish one win shy of the Regional Finals.
Coleman Catholic is ranked sixth in the state for Class D in the latest New York State Sportswriters rankings. Shelter Island is not ranked in the top 15, but listed as an honorable mention.
Colligan said the Indians should match up well size-wise against Coleman Catholic, whose top player is a 6-foot-2 center.
“He’s an outside threat and an inside threat,” Colligan said. “He’s a decent rebounder.”
The Indians are hopeful sophomore center Tristan Wissemann will be at full strength for the game after staying home sick today, Colligan said.
“We’re hoping it’s just a little sniffle and nothing major,” Colligan said. “He’s our leading scorer, leading rebounder.”
The Indians also hope to get more playing time for sophomore Billy Boeklen, who was nursing an ankle injury and played sparingly in Tuesday’s game.
“When you get to this time of year you want to be careful,” Colligan said. “Kids don’t get in shape or out of shape overnight.”
Colligan said all the goal now is to get up to New Paltz healthy and leave it all on the court for 32 minutes.
“Play the best game we can and if the team outplays us, we accept that and come home and break out the golf clubs,” he said.