The grittiest team in Suffolk?
Chances are Shelter Island wouldn’t garner many votes, but the Indians are turning heads with some eye-catching basketball.
Check the preseason predictions. The team was projected to finish where it usually does, down at or near the bottom of the League VII standings.
Conversely, the Long Island Class D title was virtually handed to Bridgehampton before the Killer Bees had even played a game.
Well, Shelter Island isn’t buying into the script. The Bees, much to their chagrin, reluctantly noticed — after the Indians pulled the upset of the year, a 65-62 win at home on January 10.
Consider: In the history of local high school basketball, no one can recall Shelter Island beating Bridgehampton, one of the winningest teams in New York State, with nine state titles. Furthermore, it wasn’t just the upset but the manner in which it was accomplished: effortlessly. The home team led by six after one stanza, by nine at halftime and then blew out the visitors — that’s right blew out — with a blistering third quarter run fueled by Lucas Quigley-Dunning (28 points) that found the Indians up by 19 points.
Walter Richards had 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists for the winners. True, the Bees played shorthanded, but the guts of the staring five were present and accounted for: JP Harding (21 points), Elijah White (19) and Nae’jon Ward (17) got it done on offense but couldn’t handle the hot shooting Indians on the other side of the court.
What could Shelter Island do for an encore? Just win, baby, and that’s what the Indians did, 59-34, against hapless Ross School (0-9) at home four days later.
Quigley-Dunning led all scorers with 23 and Erik Thilberg added nine. Ross couldn’t handle Greenport Friday, but it is doubtful many Class D schools around can — the Porters, undefeated in league play, are looking to return to the state Class C Final Four tournament.
The fact is, if Shelter Island wins a rematch at Ross on January 28, the Indians will be looking at a rematch with Bridgehampton for the County Class D title, an automatic designation as Long Island Class D champion, and a shot at a New York State Class D title. Pretty heady stuff indeed.
Bridgehampton (5-2, 9-5) will likely take things out on Smithtown Christian (1-9) January 27 at the Hive, a win will just about clinch a playoff berth. That was also a given. That an opponent might be lurking that could wrestle the title from the Bees is another matter entirely.
Just as the Bees in Class D and Greenport in Class C, Center Moriches, the defending New York State Class B champ, is itching to get back upstate. Moriches is 7-0 in league VI but has peppered its non-league schedule with powerhouses while the Red Devils prepare for a title run. On Saturday, the locals won their sixth in row, traveling to Jericho in a cakewalk, 88-53. Southampton, one game behind Center Moriches, has its sight on the Class A title.