By Frank Rizzo
FARMINGDALE What’s that old sports expression?
“You can’t coach height.”
Well, you can’t coach speed either.
Livingston Manor’s speed overcame Shelter Island’s height as the Lady Wildcats came away with a surprisingly easy 58-31 win in the Class D Southeast Regional Saturday at SUNY Farmingdale.
Next up for Manor is the state Final Four in Troy starting this Saturday.
“We were scared of their height at first,” said soph Ami Calo. “But we used our speed to our advantage.”
“We had to run, run, run,” agreed older sister Maggi, a senior. “We had to run them off the floor.”
“We went to a man defense and wore them out,” said Manor coach Kevin Clifford.
Manor, playing with only two subs (Cindy Zheng was away on an academic trip) also overcame Shelter Island’s liberal substituting.
Displaying various zone combinations, the Lady Indians had the early advantage even as both teams played tentative, turnover-filled ball.
Offensive standout Kelsey McGeyhey, a 1,000-point career scorer, netted eight in the opening frame as her team went up 10-5. The Lady Indians kept Manor scoreless for a 6:35 stretch.
“We were trying to force the ball inside,” Maggi Calo said of this fallow period, in which several passes were intercepted in the paint.
“You can only stop certain things. We tried to deny them everything inside,” said Shelter Island Coach Peter Miedema.
“When we were up 10-5 we got a little gassed and gave them wide open threes,” Miedema noted.
In the final 30 seconds, Maggi Calo stole the ball and sank a 3-pointer to knot the score before the buzzer.
At one point, according to Ami Calo, “Coach Clifford told us that this could be our last game. We didn’t want that.”
It was soon obvious that Shelter Island (12-6) had no ballhandler to deal with Manor’s pressing, harassing full court press.
As one of the few Class D schools in Section XI, the Indians (126) had faced bigger schools all season. So what did the Wildcats bring that the Indians had not experienced before?
“The difference is that every one of [the Manor girls] could pressure the ball,” Miedema said. “They had four or five girls who could stick with you.”
He added, pointing the finger at his team’s fatal weakness, “I thought if we did not turn the ball over we would be okay.”
In the second quarter the Wildcats put the game away with a 14-2 run in the opening four minutes. McGeyhey lost her touch and went scoreless.
Maggi Calo found her shooting eye, netting 14 of her game total 18 in the quarter, including four 3-pointers. Manor took a 30-15 advantage into the locker room.
“No matter what you say at halftime, that lead was a little too much for us to overcome,” said Miedema.
Samantha Scott got hot for Manor in the third, scoring 16 of her game-high 19 as Manor build up its lead to 49-26.
At the final buzzer, this edition of the Lady Wildcats became the school’s first hoop squad to win a regional title.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Clifford, who coached the softball team to back-to-back state titles. “We graduated four seniors and to go to the next level… We proved we belonged here.”
Maggi Calo added, “We thought it was going to be a rebuilding year. We had a lot of young people, and no one expected us to be here.”