BLUE WAVES 58, COUGARS 33
Senior Night is different. Senior Night is special. It’s not a typical game night, especially not if you’re one of the seniors being recognized.
As much as one may prepare for it, the emotions of the event can get the better of people. So when the Riverhead High School girls basketball coach, Dave Spinella, delivered heartfelt remarks about the three seniors on his team, tears flowed, with the notable exception being Amanda Baron, who has a reputation for being calm, cool and collected.
Starting with the team manager, senior Mieko Vail, Riverhead’s seniors were introduced by Spinella to the crowd during a pregame ceremony on Thursday night. Cassidy Brown, Baron and Joanna Messina took their turns listening to Spinella say some nice words about them. Then they hugged their coaches, were handed flowers and met their parents at center court for pictures.
Moments later, the Blue Waves went about another tradition: winning on Senior Night.
For the 10th year in a row, the Blue Waves triumphed in their Senior Night game. Baron produced a career-high 14 points as all three seniors scored in a 58-33 defeat of Centereach. Brown and Messina had 7 points each as the Blue Waves closed out their regular season with an 11-7 record, 10-4 in Suffolk County League III. They clinched second place behind Copiague, which started the day with a 13-2 record, 12-0 in the league.
It was the Blue Waves’ final game in their home gym. Now they await the release of the playoff brackets, expected to come out on Monday, to see who they will face in the Suffolk Class AA Tournament. The Blue Waves had reached the playoffs nine straight years before missing out on them last season.
Riverhead’s three seniors aren’t regular starters (Baron and Messina are usually the first two players to come off the bench), but they all started in the regular-season finale.
During the pregame ceremony, Spinella said of Baron, “No matter what, you can always count on her.”
His words proved prophetic. With the spotlight on the seniors, Baron shined the brightest. The 5-foot-9 forward knocked down two 3-point shots, grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
Sam Dunn scored 7 of her 13 points during a 16-2 run that left the Blue Waves with a 22-8 lead early in the second quarter. Centereach (5-12, 4-9) was never closer than within 12 points of the Blue Waves after that. The Blue Waves led by as many as 27 points twice in the fourth quarter.
The three Riverhead seniors made their exits late in the game. Baron came out of the game with 2 minutes 45 seconds left. She was followed to the bench 17 seconds later by Messina, before Baron left the floor with 1:22 to go. Each time, the departing senior received a healthy round of applause as she hugged Spinella and headed to the bench.
A freshman, Faith Johnson-DeSilvia, did her part in helping to make a nice memory for her older teammates. She scored 9 points and had 8 assists.
Lauren Meigel totaled 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks for Centereach, which lost by 16 points to Riverhead on Jan. 30.
Baron, Brown and Messina each left the gym with nice mementos. They were given framed action photos of themselves, something to remember their final high school season.