BLUE WAVES 58, BULLDOGS 45
After a fine performance, the Riverhead girls basketball team turned in quite another performance, a victory dance.
Following their 58-45 victory over visiting North Babylon, and the postgame team meeting after it on Saturday night, the Blue Waves returned to the Riverhead High School court and put on quite a show for lingering fans. The Riverhead players danced to the playing of “Get Your Roll On,” much to the delight of spectators.
“At our team dinners, we just dance the whole time,” senior guard Jalyn Brown said. “We did it pretty well. All the other girls with no rhythm did it.”
Oh, and by the way, their basketball playing isn’t bad, either. The rest of Suffolk County League III can attest to that.
The first-place Blue Waves (13-1, 8-0) could dance for joy after their 13th straight win. With the result against second-place North Babylon (7-5, 6-2), coach Dave Spinella’s 100th career win, they have all but assured themselves of their first league championship since 2008 and seventh overall. Riverhead needs at least two wins from its remaining four league games to clinch a tie for first place, and at least three wins to win the title outright.
“We still have games to go, but we can do it,” Brown said. “This is our year.”
While acknowledging that it was a big win, Spinella sounded a note of caution about the league crown. “We haven’t won anything yet,” he said. “You got to play every game. … We can’t take any games off. You never know what can happen.”
Riverhead beat North Babylon by 32 points on Jan. 3. North Babylon, the defending league champion, is no slouch, either, having won eight straight league titles, some of those in League IV.
On Saturday, Shaniece Allen scored 12 points during a 17-0 run that put Riverhead ahead, 21-12, in the second quarter.
“That was a big turnaround … knowing that we weren’t going to just let them come in and take what was ours,” Allen said. “It’s all about the heart and just wanting to win, just give it all we got for the whole 32 minutes and hope to come up with the W, and that’s what we did.”
A 20-2 spurt that started in the second quarter ended in the fourth with Riverhead ahead, 44-26. North Babylon cut that lead to nine points with a 10-0 run of its own, but the Bulldogs got no closer than that the rest of the way.
Allen, a superb talent who can shoot from the outside or drive to the basket, heard chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the Riverhead fans throughout the game, and for good reason. The junior guard struck for a game-high 23 points (17 in the first half) and hit four 3-point shots. Melodee Riley added 10 points, with Brown and Kaila-Riane Nazario providing 9 each. Brown had 7 assists.
North Babylon received 19 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks and 3 assists from Makeda Nicholas as well as 12 points from Teena Mobley.
Riverhead outrebounded the Bulldogs, 40-26, and 16-8 on the offensive boards.
Aside from league title implications, with every win, Riverhead’s playoff seeding looks to get better and better.
“This can be big,” said Allen.
One hundred wins is a nice milestone, too, but Spinella played it down.
“The 100 wins is just, you coach somewhere long enough and you have the players come through, you’re going to get there eventually,” said Spinella, who is in his ninth season as a varsity coach, all with Riverhead. “That’s secondary to what these kids did tonight. It’s all about them. They played fantastic. They played hard.”
Riverhead players praised Spinella for what he has accomplished.
“He’s really good as a coach,” Allen said. “He’s disciplined. … He’s cool. He’s joking around, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. He knows what he’s doing.”
Like their coach, the Riverhead players seem to know when it’s time to go to work, and when it’s time to have fun.
It was a slightly amused Spinella who stood off to the side and watched his players do their dance, something they have never done before in public.
So, coach, what did you think about the dancing?
“That was the first time I’ve seen them dance,” Spinella said. “It was a little much.”