Center Moriches seniors Jaden Kealey and Dayrien Franklin discuss their victory over Shoreham-Wading River in the Suffolk Conference IV championship on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. Credit: Jake Falk

Center Moriches knew it needed a defensive spark in order for the offense to catch fire.

That jolt came from junior Jack O’Brien. He came off the bench to help slow down the Shoreham-Wading River offense and help Center Moriches' offense get untracked.

O’Brien’s entrance ignited a big second quarter and enabled Center Moriches to pull away for a 76-61 win over Shoreham-Wading River Sunday afternoon in the Suffolk Conference IV boys basketball final.

"[O’Brien] is the next man up," Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas said. "He has a knack for the ball . . . he gave us a big boost just when we needed it."

Dayrien Franklin, Jaden Kealey and Jordan Falco benefited from the defensive stops.

"When Jack came in, it gave [Franklin] a chance to play off the ball and [focus on scoring more]," Thomas said.

Franklin had 20 points, Kealey had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Falco contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds. All three players had four assists apiece.

Shoreham-Wading River (7-2) jumped out to an early five-point lead, but Center Moriches forced a few turnovers and took a 21-18 lead into the second quarter.

Center Moriches (9-1) extended the lead as it shared the ball and moved it around the perimeter waiting for an open man. The Red Devils got away from the rushed shot selection that hampered the offense earlier in the first quarter.

"I feel like we are the most unselfish team on Long Island," Franklin said. "Everybody wants to see everyone else do better."

Taking care of the ball and getting better looks at the basket helped Center Moriches forge a 41-27 halftime lead.

"We want to play fast, but play smart, slow our minds down" Falco said. "We want to speed up the game for the other team."

The faster pace proved beneficial as Center Moriches built a 61-43 lead after three quarters.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Joey Dwyer scored 25 points and Thomas Bell added 24. SWR was done in by missing some "makeable shots" from the paint, coach Kevin Culhane said.

"We got a little overanxious. We didn’t slow the game down." Culhane said. "Normally most of the shots we make, today we didn’t make them and that’s the bottom line."

For Thomas, the title was consolation for not being able to continue games last year because of the pandemic. He said it was a proper ending for his senior class.

"When you have communication and leadership and you have physical talent and you have a will to win," Thomas said, "once you put that together that’s a recipe for a championship."