It seemed as if half of Shelter Island was in attendance at the county Class D boys basketball championship game at Longwood High School Saturday.
As a consequence, said one of those spectators, Cliff Clark, who owns the South Ferry Company, “the Island just rose six inches.”
Actually, the Islanders were sky-high after their boys defeated Greenport 73-66 that day to become county champions — for the first time ever in this tiny school’s history.
“I don’t know when they began playing basketball here,” Mike Mundy, Shelter Island’s coach, said during a conversation later in the week. “Back in the ’30s, maybe . . . I don’t know.”
What he did know, however, was that Shelter Island, following the 1968-69 season (the last time until last year that a Shelter Island team had defeated a Bridgehampton one) underwent a drought rivaling California’s.
“I graduated in ’85,” he said. “Chris Tracey [now living near Charleston] was my coach — he phoned to congratulate us after the game, by the way. . . . We did win one game that year, in a Christmas tournament, though I can’t remember who we beat. Newsday gave us a big headline, saying we’d ended a 36-game losing streak.”
Those lean years (some say the losing streak reached as many as 77, though maybe they misremember) were far from everyone’s minds on Saturday, however.
Greenport, the number-one seed (though Shelter Island thought it should have been, said Mundy), came in having defeated Bridgehampton 55-52 at home in a Class D semifinal. Shelter Island, the three seed, had, likewise, advanced by defeating second-seeded Smithtown Christian 53-48 on the road.
During the regular season, the Indians (or Hareleggers, as they used to be known) split with Greenport, losing 58-50 on Dec. 13 and winning 52-44 on Jan. 23. They had also split with Smithtown Christian, winning 80-53 on Jan. 10 and, in “the worst game we played all year,” losing 64-56 on Feb. 6.
The second quarter of Saturday’s clash between the Porters and Indians ended with a flurry of “bombs” as Greenport’s Gavin Dibble and Tim Stevens sandwiched 3-pointers around one by Shelter Island’s Tristan Wissemann, the Indians’ sophomore center and leading scorer.
The teams went into the locker rooms at the break with Greenport leading 33-31.
“We’ve not been a big third-quarter team,” said Mundy during Monday’s conversation. “In our last regular season game with Stony Brook, they outscored us 17-9 in the third, and Smithtown Christian outscored us 13-5 in the last regular-season game we played with them.”
But Saturday was different, and it was largely because of Billy Boeklen, a sophomore swingman whom Mundy and his assistant, Jim Colligan (Carle Place’s former longtime athletic director), had brought up from the junior varsity for the playoffs.
Boeklen was brought in to replace Matt Dunning, who’d got into foul trouble, in the final minute of the first quarter, and again came in for Dunning with about several minutes gone in the second. Immediately he made his presence known as he hit the first shot he took. A few moments later, Boeklen came up with a steal that Matt Belt Cappellino, the senior guard (who was to finish with 25 points), was to cap with a fastbreak layup that brought the Islanders to within 3.
Boeklen and Belt Cappellino continued to impress when the third period began. After the Porters’ Austin Hooks, who played like a man possessed in the second, scoring and rebounding at will, had missed twice underneath, consecutive 3-pointers by Belt Cappellino and Boeklen (following a miss by Stevens from downtown at the other end of the court) treated the Indians to a 37-33 lead.
They were not to trail thereafter, though a follow of his own miss by Hooks with about 5 minutes remaining in the third briefly tied the score at 37-37, after which the Islanders, with Boeklen again providing the spark, went on an 11-0 run that was to prove decisive. The players were greeted by a standing ovation as they walked to the bench after Greenport’s coach, Ev Corwin, called a timeout with 2:52 left in the period and his team trailing 48-37.
The pivotal 20-8 third, to which Belt Cappellino, Boeklen, Riley Willumsen, and Wissemann had all contributed, ended with Shelter Island up 51-41.
The two teams went at it in the fourth, though try as he might, Dibble, the Porters’ senior point guard, who scored 15 points in the finale, and his teammates could not erase the deficit.
Boeklen, who was to finish with 21 points in about 21 or 22 minutes of action, got the fourth going with a 3-pointer, after which Dibble lit the place up with a 3-point play, a 3-pointer, and a coast-to-coast layup that cut the Islanders’ margin to 7.
With 3:24 remaining, and its lead, as the result of a 3-pointer by Hooks, cut to 5, Shelter Island refused to yield, outscoring the feverish Porters 11-9 down the stretch, going 9-for-12 from the foul line.
Nate Mundy, the coach’s son, a senior forward who is the team’s third-leading scorer, had to come out after being fouled by Dibble and falling to the floor midway through the third quarter. He came off holding his head, which was worrisome inasmuch as he’d had a concussion late in the regular season, which forced him to the sidelines for a while. But his father, who reinserted him late in the fourth, said afterward that he was all right.
The elder Mundy was mobbed by players, relatives (including his 80-year-old mother, Shirley Mundy, who had had her nails done in Shelter Island blue), fellow Shelter Islanders, sportswriters, and cameramen when, following Dibble’s 100th career point, which ended the game at 73-66, the final buzzer sounded.
For the Indians, Belt Cappellino had 25 points and Boeklen 21, as aforesaid. Wissemann had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Willumsen, the senior point guard, had 7 assists. Belt Cappellino and Boeklen each had 5 rebounds.
“It’s called a ‘Diaper Dandy,’ ” Shelter Island’s girls basketball coach, Pete Miedema, said with a smile, when this writer mentioned Boeklen’s off-the-bench heroics.
“I’ve been coaching these guys since Little League,” Mundy said in the crush. “They exemplify unity, they’re unselfish . . . sometimes to a fault, to where you’re shouting at them, ‘Shoot! Shoot!’ ”
‘They’re interchangeable, there’s no typecasting on this team,” he said. “It’s a great feeling . . . I take a lot of pride in these guys. If we’d lost today, I would have been just as proud of them. The Bees have been doing this for decades . . . it’s a big thing for our community. We’ve got a ton of experience here and we want to keep it going.”
During Monday’s conversation, Mundy said the Bees’ veteran coach, Carl Johnson, said he thought the Islanders had a good shot to go all the way.
Shelter Island was to have played Stony Brook in the county C-D game yesterday. Playing the powerful Bears would, Mundy agreed, offer his team, a decided underdog, a chance to try some things in anticipation of the state Class D tournament, which, for Shelter Island, is to begin with the Regional semifinal game in Westchester on Tuesday, March 4.