BLUE WAVES 60, BULLS 54
The postgame comments from Riverhead coach Dave Spinella Thursday night were the kind of thoughts usually reserved for losses.
“It was a perfect storm tonight,” Spinella said. “We did not box out, we gave them too many second shots, we turned the ball over, made mental mistakes and we didn’t close out at the foul line.”
And yet, the scoreboard after 32 minutes read Riverhead 60, Smithtown West 54.
“We still got out of here with a win, so we’ll take it,” Spinella said.
The Blue Waves could take it as an encouraging sign that on a night where so many things went wrong, they still found a way to get the all-important victory. The ebbs and flows are to be expected for a team that features a practically brand-new lineup from last year and includes a pair of a freshmen. But when the game’s on the line, the Blue Waves know there are always two familiar names to turn to: Shanice Allen and Naysha Trent.
The senior duo carried the Blue Waves with a combined 39 points along with several key plays to set up teammates for buckets.
The Bulls (3-3 League III, 3-7 overall) fought back from an 11-point hole beginning late in the third quarter. Allen (17 points) dished off to freshman Dezrae Brown (10 points) for a lay-in after a steal to put Riverhead ahead 43-32 with under two minutes left in the third.
Just as it appeared the Blue Waves were about to pull away, the Bulls came roaring back to eventually tie the game at 49 just past the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Trent said the team had to focus on limiting turnovers down the stretch, playing tight defense and moving the ball around.
The Blue Waves got right to work on the latter part as the senior Jocelin Zaneski drained a huge 3-pointer with 3:20 left to regain the lead for Riverhead.
Brown followed with an offensive rebound that she put in plus a foul after Allen and junior Kyra Braunskill both missed under the hoop. While Brown missed the free throw, the ball bounced back out to her and she controlled the rebound. Allen got the ball at the top of the arc and swung a pass into the corner for Trent and she buried the long ball to make it a 57-49 game.
It took all of 42 seconds for the Blue Waves to run off eight straight points after Smithtown tied the game.
“I give credit, especially the young kids, they didn’t rattle when [Smithtown] came back and tied the game,” Spinella said. “Our seniors stepped up and hit three’s.”
Trent scored a season-high 22 and helped ice the game with a steal and layup with :49.8 left to make it an eight-point game. After missing all of last season as she recovered from an injury, she’s gradually gotten more and more comfortable on the court this season.
“I didn’t trust my body because of all my injuries,” she said. “But it’s my last year, so I don’t really care. Whatever breaks, breaks.”
The key for Spinella has been to find the right combination of players in games to go with Allen and Trent. Freshman Sam Dunn has a big role providing support down low.
“Tonight Dez and Kyra really helped us with the defensive side of the ball,” Spinella said. “[Kyra] causes havoc out there. She can get on a point guard and really make them work.”
Spinella recently called up sophomore Joanna Messina to the varsity and she saw minutes off the bench Thursday. In her second varsity game Tuesday against Smithtown East she scored 12 points.
“She’s such a hard worker and she picks things up quick,” Spinella said. “She’s a huge help. We’ll find more minutes for her.”
Seventh-grader Kim Ligon, who began the season as the starting point guard, didn’t see any action Thursday. Spinella’s eased back on some of her minutes to try not to put too much on her plate.
This season is a learning process for Ligon and Spinella said she’s been great at absorbing all the information.
“It’s just a little too fast for her right now,” he said. “She’s kind of like the backup quarterback with the headphones on. That’s her right now.”
At 5-1 in League III, the Blue Waves (6-4 overall) are in position to make another run at a league title after going undefeated last season. How they fare in their next game Tuesday against league-leading North Babylon will be crucial.
“That’s the big game,” Trent said. “I don’t care about anyone else.”