The members of the Riverhead girls basketball team are a good group, as their record indicates. They all bring their own individual talents and abilities to the table.
What does Sam Dunn offer?
Well, one doesn’t need to watch Dunn play for long to understand that she’s all about hustle and determination, admirable qualities, to be sure.
Asked to describe herself as a player, Dunn said: “I’m definitely not the best at anything, you know what I mean? I’m not the best rebounder, the best shooter, the best anything, but I do give myself credit. I do work very, very hard.”
No one can question that.
Dunn started for Riverhead High School’s varsity team as a freshman and was an All-County choice as a sophomore last season, averaging about 13 points and 7 rebounds per game.
“She’s unstoppable, and not necessarily just to the basket, just unstoppable,” said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella.
Dunn, a 5-foot-10 forward, worked her way onto the Suffolk County team that took first place in the Basketball Coaches Association of New York Summer Hoops Festival this past weekend in Johnson City.
“She’s a gold medalist now,” said Spinella.
Dunn called it “an awesome experience.”
This hasn’t been a bad summer at all for Dunn or her Riverhead teammates. After going 9-1 to finish in first place in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, they earned a 40-34 victory over Smithtown East in the league’s large schools semifinals on Monday night at Patchogue-Medford High School. Joanna Messina and Dunn scored 9 points each to lead the Blue Waves, who will play Deer Park in the final on Wednesday night.
The semifinal was an intense, hard-fought contest. “I love those kind of games,” said Dunn.
Dunn battled under the boards with Smithtown East’s Jessica Anderson (10 rebounds), and during one memorable moment was thrown to the floor while wrestling with Anderson for possession of a loose ball.
In addition to her scoring, Dunn brought the Blue Waves 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists.
The Blue Waves took the lead for good during the first half, but Smithtown East stayed on their heels despite the fact that Samantha Delaney, an NCAA Division I prospect, watched the game from the bench in street clothes with a rolled ankle. Haley Anderson helped with an impressive showing, bringing the Bulls 12 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Back-to-back baskets by Alex Schultz had pulled Smithtown East to within 1 point at 31-30. Then Messina drained a big 3-point shot to give the Blue Waves some breathing room.
After that, a turnover led to a layup by Riverhead’s Kate McCarney, Smithtown East’s Victoria Redmond made a reverse layup, and Riverhead’s Dezarae Brown (7 points, 10 rebounds) tallied a layup herself, leaving the Blue Waves with a 38-32 lead.
Dunn came up with a big offensive rebound down the stretch, which led to a pair of free throws by her to extend the margin to 8 points with 21.7 seconds left.
Smithtown East had a rough shooting night, making only 25.9 percent of its field-goal attempts.
With five Amateur Athletic Union players on their summer roster and three freshmen guards — Faith Johnson-Desilvia, Kim Ligon and McCarney — who played varsity ball as eighth-graders, the future looks bright for the Blue Waves. They hope to flip around the 5-13 record they finished with at the end of the last school season.
“The future’s coming a lot quicker than we thought,” said Spinella.
The progress the team has made in the past year has been described as “amazing” by Dunn. “Last year we were almost at the bottom of the food chain, if there is a food chain, and now we’re gradually working ourselves up and I think teams are really going to be surprised,” she said.
Asked what she likes best about her team, Johnson-Desilvia answered: “We win. That’s all I can say.”