SUFFOLK CLASS AA QUARTERFINAL | BLUE WAVES 67, PATRIOTS 42
The familiar figure of Jerry Wiesmann was once again stalking the sideline in front of the Riverhead bench. Blue Waves fans had grown accustomed to seeing that when Wiesmann coached the school’s boys basketball team, guiding it to a New York State final four and two Suffolk County finals. This time, though, Wiesmann was running Riverhead’s girls basketball team in its biggest game of the season to date.
Wiesmann, one of Riverhead’s assistant coaches, filled in for the team’s head coach, Dave Spinella, who was serving a one-game suspension for his ejection from the team’s previous game. Things went so smoothly for third-seeded Riverhead in its Suffolk Class AA Tournament quarterfinal win over No. 6 Ward Melville on Wednesday that it didn’t appear as if the Blue Waves missed a beat.
The Blue Waves did what they have been doing all season. They put their quickness to good use, darting up and down the court, and ran Ward Melville out of the tournament. Jalyn Brown, a senior point guard who played in her final game in the Riverhead High School gym, led four Blue Waves in double figures with 24 points in a 67-42 result, extending Riverhead’s winning streak to 19 games.
“The game plan that Spinella put together worked very well,” said Wiesmann, who had another assistant coach, Spinella’s predecessor Jim Janecek, sitting next to him on the bench. “Tonight’s game is a testimony to this man’s hard work and what he did all year in his work with the kids. … They were on automatic pilot.”
It surely seemed that way at times.
League III champion Riverhead (19-1) hounded Ward Melville (12-6), the League I runner-up, double-teaming the Patriots’ standout senior guard, Caysea Cohen. The Blue Waves went to the free-throw line 40 times, sinking 25 of those foul shots. They pulled in twice as many offensive rebounds as Ward Melville and nearly twice as many rebounds overall.
Their reward is a place in the county semifinals for the first time since 1984, according to Wiesmann. Riverhead will play No. 2 Lindenhurst or No. 10 Northport on Saturday at Farmingdale State College.
“This has been my dream since the eighth grade to go to the final four,” said Brown, who was born 10 years after Riverhead’s last county semifinal appearance. “It’s been a long time. There’s a lot of tough competition out there.”
This season Riverhead has been providing opponents with tough competition in the form of its athleticism and speed. It was a tall order for Ward Melville.
“We couldn’t match up with them,” Ward Melville coach Lawrence Combs said. “Athletically, physically, Riverhead’s hands down the best team that we’ve seen, and we just couldn’t keep up.”
Riverhead held Ward Melville to only 5 points in the first quarter, and the Patriots squeezed the last 2 of those points on a bucket by Meagan Murtagh just before the buzzer ended the period.
The Blue Waves made Ward Melville work to bring the ball across the mid-court line. By the time the Patriots were within shooting range, they often had 15 seconds or less to get a shot off. One time the shot clock expired.
“We’re just very athletic and quick, and speed kills,” Wiesmann told reporters. “I think that might be our biggest edge on our opponents, our quickness. I don’t think too many teams see this type of quickness.”
And then there was the hostile environment Ward Melville encountered. A spirited crowd of Riverhead fans, some shirtless with blue numbers painted on their chests, was loud throughout the game.
Riverhead led, 34-22, at the half, and stretched that lead to as many as 26 points when a 13-2 run made it 64-38 with a little over two minutes left in the game.
“We were prepared,” said Riverhead forward Melodee Riley.
Brown, who Wiesmann considers to be the best guard in the county, finished 4 points shy of her career-high after exiting with 1 minute 15 seconds left.
Riverhead received plenty of production from Riley and Kaila-Riane Nazario, who both posted double-doubles. Riley accounted for 14 points and 13 rebounds. She also made 10 of 11 free throws. Nazario had 11 points and 11 rebounds by the time she fouled out with 3:26 remaining.
Another key figure in Riverhead’s game, Shanice Allen, supplied 10 points and 5 assists.
Riverhead held Cohen to 14 points, 11 of those coming in the second half. Tara O’Hern had 9 for the Patriots.
“We were ready,” Wiesmann said. “We had all day yesterday and this morning to discuss what we were going to do in Dave’s absence, and it worked out well.”