When the Copiague Eagles found themselves in a jam and needed a point guard, they turned to Wade Richardson. Richardson, a natural shooting guard, came to the rescue and consented to the position switch this season. It wasn’t the last time he came through for the Eagles, either.
Part of the agreement, Copiague Coach Steve Rebholz said, was that the Eagles would still try to free up Richardson for some shots. The arrangement has worked out just fine.
“He stepped up to be a tremendous court leader for us,” Rebholz said. “He shoots the ball very, very well and he’s playing with more and more confidence. His footwork has improved defensively, so he’s staying out of foul trouble a little bit more. It’s a blessing.”
When Richardson was asked what his reaction was to the point-guard proposal, a funny look crossed his face. “I looked at [Rebholz] a little funny, but I said I’ll do anything to get the job done,” he said.
And Richardson not only hasn’t lost his smooth shooting touch, but he has refined it through hours of practice. The senior put his shooting stroke to good use on Thursday night, knocking down six three-point shots for 18 of his 20 points in a 68-53 defeat of the Riverhead Blue Waves in a Suffolk County League III boys basketball game. Aided by a 34-10 run, visiting Copiague overcame a four-point halftime deficit.
Both teams entered the game with 2-0 league records, but Copiague proved to be too much for Riverhead in the second half and won for the fifth time in seven games. Riverhead took its fourth loss in seven games, overshadowing a career-high 28-point effort by senior Ben Edmund. Another Riverheader, Tim Clement, accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds.
Asked how much of a talent Richardson is, Rebholz replied, “Well, you saw it.”
So did Riverhead Coach John Rossetti. When a reporter told Rossetti after the game that Richardson had six three-pointers, the coach remarked, “Thanks for the reminder.”
Copiague appears to be more of a balanced team than it was last season. If the Eagles weren’t a one-man show with Nasha Smith, they were close to it. This season’s team has a variety of weapons at its disposal.
“We’re hitting [shots] from different directions, which is nicer,” Rebholz said. “When we’re looking at our box scores, they’re usually a little more well-rounded now, and I think that’s a tribute to how hard they’re working, sharing the ball a little bit.”
Richardson said, “This year everybody on the floor can do something, our big men, our shooting guards, our regular guards.”
In addition to Richardson’s big night, Copiague received 16 points from Michael Mathis. Jeremiah Aponte added 10 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Copiague’s high-flying, 6-foot-6 P. J. Page had eight points, six rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals. Four of his points came from a pair of dunks.
Copiague hit a sizzling 10 of 14 from three-point territory and controlled the boards with a 33-22 lead in rebounds. Riverhead did not get many second chances at the basket. It was outrebounded, 14-5, on the offensive glass.
“I think it definitely was one of the biggest games of the season because they’re ranked one of the top teams, and it’s really a test of how good you really are,” Edmund said. “Losing is a learning experience. I think that it shows that we can keep up with one of the best teams in the league, which is a good confidence-builder, but it also shows that we need to work harder.”
Elwood Lamb III, who had eight assists (seven of which came on Edmund baskets) to go with six points, said: “Yeah, it was a big test because both of us were undefeated [in league play]. We just wanted to see how we measured up against a good Copiague team and we came up short tonight. We just got to do a better job next time.”
Rossetti saw the game slip from Riverhead’s grasp when the Blue Waves started the third quarter with five straight turnovers. “I think that was the key,” he said. “It took us out of our rhythm a little bit and helped create momentum for them.”
While Rebholz could feel good walking out of the Riverhead High School gym with a victory in hand, he couldn’t help but look ahead to the rematch in Copiague on Feb. 1 with some trepidation. “I think every time Riverhead’s on the court, they’re going to get better and better and better,” he said. “I’m a little afraid of seeing them in Copiague.”
A moment of silence was observed before the game in honor of Chuck Adams, the sports reporter for Times/Review Newspapers who died on Tuesday.