BLUE WAVES 57, LIONS 37
Riverhead senior Naysha Trent came charging up court on a fastbreak midway through the second quarter Tuesday against West Islip as teammate Shanice Allen trailed to her left. As Trent neared the basket and with a defender closing in, she whipped a behind-the-back pass to Allen, the recipient of an easy lay-in that brought the crowd to its feet.
After the game Riverhead coach Dave Spinella yelled over to Trent as she was heading out the gym: “I saw that pass coming a mile away. A mile away!”
Trent smiled back at her coach as did all the Blue Waves after a 57-37 victory at Riverhead High School. The Blue Waves improved to 2-0 in the early part of the league season, having already beaten Newfield in the opener.
The chemistry between Allen and Trent can be fun to watch and for the Blue Waves to succeed this season, they’ll need both players performing at a high level.
As the only returning player among Riverhead’s ‘Big Three’ from a year ago, Allen carries a heavy burden on the court. That often includes guarding the opposing team’s best player. And more often than not, having to be guarded by the opposing team’s best player.
Allen has proven she can score in her varsity career, reaching the 1,000-career point mark during the playoffs last season. Against West Islip Tuesday she led all scorers with 24, even on a rare off-night shooting from the outside.
To help ease the burden on Allen, Spinella said he prefers to have someone else run the point and orchestrate the offense. Much of that responsibility falls to Trent.
It’s a role Trent has rarely taken in the past, especially with Jalyn Brown running the show for so many years.
“It’s a different view from the top of the key than it is from the wing,” Spinella said. “She’s learning that.”
While Trent will undoubtedly be a key scorer for the Blue Waves, she showed how she can set up teammates as well. In the first quarter alone against the Lions (0-2 League III) she dished out four assists. The first two came in the opening minute. The Blue Waves scored seconds after the opening tip as Trent threw it ahead to Allen for a layin. Trent then forced a steal and tossed a long a pass ahead to Allen again for an easy two.
“I told [Trent] tonight I don’t care how many points you score,” Spinella said. “You’re running the show tonight. And we ran almost everything through Naysha. She did a fantastic job of embracing a role that she’s never had to play.”
Riverhead began the season with seventh-grader Kim Ligon at the point. But Spinella decided to scale back her role a bit and he brought her off the bench for the first time against the Lions to make it a little less overwhelming.
Ligon made her presence felt right away when she checked in with 1:21 left in the first quarter. On the Blue Waves’ first possession she set up senior Jocelin Zaneski for a 3-pointer. Zaneski finished with six points.
Early in the second quarter Ligon ran a textbook fastbreak, setting up Allen for a layup. As Ligon drove to the basket, she drew the defender, stopped and threw a bounce pass to Allen at the precise time.
“That was fundamentals, fundamentals,” Spinella said. “We preach it, because that’s ultimately what wins games.”
Spinella said they teach Ligon that whenever she’s on a fastbreak and panics, just look for No. 23. More often than not, Allen will be there.
With Ligon coming off the bench, Spinella went with a big lineup that featured freshman Dezrae Brown in the middle. Brown, who had plenty of fan support in the bleachers, gives the Blue Waves a big target down low. While her game is still raw as a freshman, Brown showed glimpses of how she can be a big part of the Blue Waves over the next several years.
She finished with 10 points and was big on the boards.
“She had two really good practices,” Spinella said. “We decide, let’s try to utilize her height.”
Brown started alongside freshman forward Sam Dunn (six points). The Blue Waves will rely heavily on their youth around the senior trio of Allen, Trent and Zaneski.
Spinella knows there will be ups and downs from the young group, but he expects they’ll be a lot of room to improve from now to the end of the season.
“I think our advantage is we’re going to grow up so much more than some of these other teams,” Spinella said.
Riverhead led by only four at the half against the Lions, but turned it on at the start of the third. A 12-2 run to begin the second half gave the Blue Waves a 36-22 lead. West Islip never got within single digits the rest of the way.
“Our goal is to be better tomorrow than we were today,” Spinella said.