The Wheatley High School boys varsity basketball on Saturday kept their playing hopes alive with a 67-52 victory over Mineola High School.
“It’s always a pleasure to win on Senior Day” Wheatley Coach Jim Curcio said. “I tried to let the seniors take over the second half. It’s their day and we tried to make it very special for them.”
The Wildcats jumped to a 23-14 lead in the first quarter — a lead that they maintained over the Mustangs 23-14 for a majority of the game and they never looked back.
With defenses tightening in the second quarter, the Mustangs outscored Wheatley 11-6 in the quarter, but still trailed by 29-25 at halftime.
“I told everyone to just go out and play and get that win” Curcio said. “That’s exactly what we did. The boys responded in a positive matter and we took it from there.”
The Wildcats made some adjustments in the second half by shifting from man to man coverage to their usual zone defensive play.
“We’re really a zone team but I wanted us to play man to man in the first half” Curcio said. “So we went back to our zone package.”
In the third quarter, the Wildcats extend their lead, outscoring the Mustangs 22-12, which allowed The Wildcats to head into the final quarter with a 51-37 lead.
In a tight fourth quarter, the Wildcats said, they knew that this game was far from over.
“Even though we had a bit of a lead, we knew that we had to keep pushing the ball and stay aggressive, especially in the offensive end” said senior co-captain Johnny Karikas. “We really played an up tempo game and it really worked out well for us.”
The game, which was held on Senior Day, helps the Wildcats improve to 5-11 overall and increases their playoff chances in the Nassau ABC Conference.
“Senior Day was a huge win for us” saidsSenior co-captain Hunter Pomerantz. “We definitely needed to pick up the momentum from the last game before the playoffs start. It was a confidence booster the entire team needed.”
Senior co-captain Anthony Cutinella, who’s been Curcio’s go-to guy this year, continued to put up some clutch points for the team in the match. He finished the day with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought we would come out and get the win” Cutinella siad. “We had this big lead but they made it interesting. So we rallied, went on a run and did well.”
Pomerantz and Karikas each finished with 15 points.
With three games left to go, they will need to continue to rely on these veterans to help them reach the playoffs and make a run to the county championship.