On Saturday January 30, the Shelter Island boys varsity basketball team had their home gym rocking before, during and after a 54-53 barn-burner win over the previously undefeated Stony Brook Bears.
This was the second home game in a row the varsity boys came away with a thrilling, 1- point victory. The win clinched a playoff berth for the Islanders.
The last time the Blue and Gray tipped off against the Bears ended in a 13-point loss on Stony Brook’s home court.
It was a significant win for the Island boys, bouncing back from a 92-46 shellacking by the Bridgehampton Killer Bees on the road Thursday, January 28.
More disheartening than that loss, however, was the news that sophomore Luke Gilpin had been diagnosed with a medical issue that has ended his season. The good news is that Luke — an important part of the success of this year’s varsity team — will be fine after treatment.
The Stony Brook Bears are League VIII’s first place team and came into Saturday’s contest sporting a perfect 8-0 record in league games. But the Blue and Gray played with skill and emotion the entire game, handing the Bears their first loss. The win boosts the Islander’s record to 6-4 in league play and ensures a playoff bid.
The Bears came out smoking, netting six 3-point shots points in the first quarter. But the Islanders kept themselves in the game with clutch shooting of their own paired with an aggressive defense.
After the Bears jumped to a 4-0 lead, Tristan Wissemann make a sharp pass to Billy Boeklen for 2 points to get Shelter Island on the board. Later, Jack Kimmelmann added a nice layup to tie the score at six. On the next play, Kimmelmann pulled off a steal, which resulted in another assist by Wissemann to Boeklen for 2. Semaj Lawrence added a block, but the Bears kept the lead with their hot 3-point shooting, putting them in the lead at the end of the first quarter 23-16.
Both teams made adjustments in the second quarter, but Stony Brook built a 25-16 lead. Coach Jay Card Jr. called a time out to rest and refocus his squad. At the half the Islanders had cut the lead to 9 points.
Shelter Island came out in the third quarter with a defensive change; Wissemann was tasked with slowing down Stony Brook’s number 12, who had a big first half on the boards and athletic moves under the basket. Lawrence provided a scoring spark for the team with a 2-pointer and then a big 3 to cut the Bears lead to 5 points, but the Bears responded, opening a 10-point gap. The quarter ended with the score 46-36.
In the final quarter, the Bears hit a 3, looking ready to pour it on, create a comfortable lead and seal a win. But that was not to be. The game changed as the Islander’s tenacious defense forced the Bears to give up the ball as the 35-second horn sounded. Boeklen hit a timely 3 and the momentum flowed to the home team. The Blue and Gray were mopping up the boards, denying Stony Brook second scoring chances. It was the Islander’s turn to get hot from downtown with Wissemann hitting a 3 to cut the score to 47-49. Boeklen tied the score at 49 at the 2:28 mark as the gym erupted in cheers.
At the end of the game, using fouls and free throws became critical. Peter Kropf got a big offensive rebound and was fouled, sinking the free throw to make the score 50-50. Lawrence made his presence known with a strong move under the basket to give the Islanders their first lead of the game at 52-50 with 1:02 to play.
Stony Brook couldn’t score and was forced to foul Wissemann on an inbounds pass. The star senior calmly hit the two shots for a 54-50 lead with 4.3 seconds left. Stony Brook hit their final 3 as the clock wound down but the last ditch effort was not enough.
The crowd was on its feet, roaring their approval at the final 54-53 victory.
“A great win and a total team effort,” Coach Card said after the game. “We were behind most the game and the boys just never quit.”
Assistant Coach Jim Colligan complimented the hometown crowd and cheerleaders for their vocal and energetic support of the team, “It really makes a difference,” Coach Colligan said.
Wissemann finished the game with 26 points; Boeklen had 16 and was the team’s top rebounder while Lawrence added 9 points.
With exciting wins over Pierson and Stony Brook, and only the league games left, the team is building momentum for the playoffs.
The next game is away at Southold on Friday, February 6. It will be an emotional game with the recent passing of Southold’s coach, Phil Reed, as well as being their “senior night.” The junior varsity game tips off at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity at 6:15 p.m.
Shelter Island’s last home game and senior night will be Monday, February 8 against Port Jefferson.
The Class D county finals against Bridgehampton is scheduled for noon, Saturday, February 13 at the Selden campus of Suffolk Community College.