Shoreham-Wading River guard Sophie Costello hits the jump shot for...

Shoreham-Wading River guard Sophie Costello hits the jump shot for two points against Westhampton in a Suffolk Division IV game girls basketball game on Tuesday at Shoreham-Wading River. Credit: George A Faella

The Shoreham-Wading River girls basketball team is often shorthanded at practice. And that’s by design.

The Wildcats purposefully put themselves at a disadvantage at practice, with the starting lineup often playing 5-on-7 on defense during drills — needing to guard two additional offensive players. It can lead to some frustration in the moment but you can’t argue with the results on game day.

“When you can cover seven people, it’s a lot easier to cover five and it’s made us 100 times better on defense in the games,” senior Sophie Costello said. “It can be [tough] but it’s definitely worth it because it makes our jobs easier when it comes down to the real day.”

The Wildcats displayed that again on Tuesday with a 63-21 home victory over Westhampton in Suffolk League IV girls basketball to improve to 16-0 overall, including 9-0 in the league.

“We have a really deep team and we’re one of the only teams where everyone contributes,” senior Annie Sheehan said. “So having drills like that at practice really pushes us to be more aggressive.”

Shoreham-Wading River knew Tuesday would be one of its toughest tests in the league season with Westhampton also entering with an 8-0 league record. But the Wildcats opened the first 6:24 on a 14-2 run and took a 30-6 lead into halftime.

“They were 8-0, we’re 8-0 and we played the same teams,” coach Adam Lievre said. “They hadn’t lost, we hadn’t lost, so I told the girls, ‘I know today isn’t a win or go home type of game but that’s the mentality we want to have.’”

“We knew this was our game to prove we are the No. 1 seed,” said Sheehan, who had four points and four steals. “And as we are heading to the playoffs, we want that No. 1 seed. It just showed we were the best team today.”

And as has been the case throughout the season, the Shoreham-Wading River defense was pivotal to another victory. Costello had 15 points and six steals, Juliana Mahan had 12 points and GraceAnn Leonard added 10 points and six steals as the Wildcats held their opponent to 25 points or fewer for the eighth time this year. Kate Sweet had 10 points for Westhampton (8-1).

“We get very excited when we play competitively and that’s when we play our best,” Costello said. “Turnovers and steals lead to layups for us. It’s really our whole game, we’re very energetic on the defensive end.”

The Wildcats have their eyes set on making history, as they’ve never won a county title in program history.

“I knew we were going to be special, I knew we were going to be a good team,” Lievre said. “We were 19-2 last year but I thought some of the additions to the starting lineup and the bench, it allows us to push each other at practice. It’s really competitive.”

“We all want a county championship,” Sheehan said. “The last two years we’ve been close but we haven’t gotten it yet so that’s honestly all we want.”

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