The Riverhead Blue Waves walked silently from the locker room to their bus outside of Centereach High School on Thursday night.
Who could have blamed them?
They were emotionally spent after losing a dramatic Suffolk County League III boys basketball game to the Cougars in overtime, 63-58. It had the intensity of a tournament game.
Well, there was a lot at stake — a playoff berth.
The win propelled Centereach (10-7, 7-6) into a Class A tournament berth. The Blue Waves, (7-10, 6-7) who have lost four consecutive games, will have to wait until Monday to have one last opportunity to clinch one in their regular-season finale when they will host West Islip (0-15, 0-12).
Senior Kevin Callahan, who finished with a game-high 25 points. was the lone Cougar in double figures. He sank a layup six seconds into overtime to give Centereach a 55-53 lead it never relinquished. Justin Eck hit another layup a minute later and Riverhead was forced to play catch-up the rest of the quarter.
Lintell Brown (11 points) connected on a trey to pull the Blue Waves to within 60-57 with 44.7 seconds remaining. Malik Washington (10 points), who sank two three-pointers in the final 2:04 of regulation, attempted another trey with 7.4 seconds left with Riverhead down by three, but put up an air ball.
Just getting to the four-minute overtime seemed like a miracle given what the Blue Waves had to overcome.
Things looked grim for the visitors after Callahan sank a three-point shot to give the Cougars a 46-39 advantage with 3:41 remaining in regulation.
The Blue Waves then put it into another gear down the stretch, outscoring the hosts, 14-7, as coach John Rossetti pulled out all the stops, from calling several timeouts, moving players in and out of the lineup and having his players foul Centereach players in strategic situations to get the ball back.
The ploy worked as Jake Marzacca and Eck each missed two foul shots in the final 56.2 seconds of regulation before Brown and Washington worked their magic.
Brown hit a basket and a foul shot to pull Riverhead to within 53-50 with 46.7 seconds to go.
Washington climaxed the comeback, canning a trey with 24.2 seconds remaining to force a 53-53 deadlock and overtime. Riverhead’s Tyrese Kerr (10 points) missed a basket and a chance to win with 2.8 seconds remaining. Callahan tried a long shot at the buzzer that fell short.
Five Riverhead players finished in double figures, including Troy Goode, Jr. (11 points) and Steve Asconia (10).