Welcome to Suffolk County League II.
Riverhead’s introduction to the league wasn’t a kind one. The Blue Waves, who played in League III last season, had their work cut out for them Tuesday in their league opener with powerful Half Hollow Hills East in town. Hills East is seen as one of the top teams in the county along with fellow League II teams Central Islip and Bay Shore.
It was easy to see why.
Riverhead was scrappy, played hard and not badly. The Blue Waves hung with the Thunderbirds for the better part of the first half. Still, Hills East’s Kendall Nero-Clark made the last two baskets of the second quarter and the Blue Waves, for all their efforts, found themselves trailing by nine points at halftime.
Then Hill East stepped its game up a level, scoring the first 17 points of the third quarter to complete a 21-0 run and pull away to a 79-65 win. Hills East led by as many as 30 points when a basket by Kioni Nedd made the score 63-33 in the third quarter.
Riverhead made 13 of its final 14 shots from the field to bite into Hills East’s lead.
Riverhead (1-5, 0-1) suffered its fourth straight loss, but coach John Rossetti liked the effort his players turned in and called it the most consistent game the Blue Waves have played so far.
Hills East (3-2, 1-0) just had too many weapons, from Nero-Clark (28 points) to Savion Lewis (25 points, nine steals) to Kenny Mathurin (15 points, eight rebounds) to Nedd (10 points, six assists). It was a lot to try to contain. Too much.
Both teams shot well (Hills East made 57.6 percent of its field-goal attempts and Riverhead 60 percent). But the Thunderbirds had the advantage on the boards with a 30-18 superiority (16-6 on the offensive end).
Quashiem Miller led Riverhead with 13 points and Will Sanders Jr. added 12. Christian Pace, a sophomore who took a 17-point average into the game, was held to 10 points. He didn’t attempt a shot in the first quarter and finished shooting 4-for-7. Pace has scored in double figures every game this season.
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Christian Pace finds a way around Half Hollow Hills East’s Kendall Nero-Clark. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)