Riverhead played well, just not well enough to win.
Victory seemed to be in Riverhead’s grasp, only to be tantalizingly plucked away in the final minutes.
Despite leading for a good deal of the way, things eventually fell apart for host Riverhead in its non-league high school boys basketball game against Copiague Tuesday. Five Riverhead turnovers in the final three minutes contributed to a 64-60 Copiague win in the season opener for both teams.
“I thought we had it,” said Riverhead point guard Cristian Pace.
Copiague took the lead for the third and final time when a Terrance Tyson basket kick-started a game-ending 9-4 punch by the Eagles. The run also featured a Keenon White layup, two free throws apiece by Darius Bond and Nasheen Nero and another by Michael Snowden.
“A the end of the game, that was ours,” Riverhead forward Quashiem Miller said. “We just had a couple of turnovers. First-game jitters.”
But it was Snowden, a 6-4 senior guard, who caused the bulk of the damage. He knocked down three of his four three-pointers in the final 2 minutes, 37 seconds of the second quarter to bring Copiague its first lead en route to a 25-22 halftime edge. Then he canned a shot at the buzzer ending the third quarter, trimming Riverhead’s lead to 44-41. Snowden finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds.
“He is spectacular,” Miller said. “With a shot like that, I hope he goes far in his basketball career.”
If that wasn’t enough, White had 14 points and 14 rebounds while Nero tacked on 11 points.
Riverhead’s largest lead was eight points when a Pace bucket capped a 9-0 spurt, making it 20-12 in the second quarter.
Riverhead had to take the bad with the good, and there was plenty of good the Blue Waves could take from what coach John Rossetti called a “quality loss.” He said: “There is such a thing as a quality loss, especially early in the season. You know, to play that well early in the season, out the gate, you know, against a competitive team and be intense like that, that’s a quality loss. You’re only going to get better from that.”
Riverhead had a number of things to feel good about, including the play of Pace. The 5-11 junior had some magical moments with flashy passes and acrobatic drives to the basket for layups against taller opponents. Pace ended up with 20 points, five assists, four steals, two rebounds and a block.
“Christian is a talented point guard,” Miller said. “I’ve been playing with him since the seventh grade and he’s been doing that stuff. He’s been improving and improving ever since. He’s going to be great.”
Miller himself had an impressive game, registering 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“Quashiem, he showed a side that we haven’t seen before,” Rossetti said. “He was so fiery tonight and I loved it.”
Cir’rus Davender added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The 6-3 Robert Tyre, 6-3 Miller and 6-1 Davender — all starters — picked up two personal fouls each in the first quarter and headed to the bench, tying Rossetti’s hands a bit.
“Coach told us that whoever was going to execute the best at the end is going to win,” Pace said. “They executed a little better.”
Rossetti sounded upbeat by what he saw from his players in a game that brought playoff-like intensity.
“It was a good way to open the season,” he said. “As much as you don’t want to open the season with a loss, I’m very proud of the way the kids competed. I’m proud of the way they hustled and they shared the ball very well today. They played hard and that’s all I can ask for.”
Miller believes this game will help make Riverhead a better team.
“We had turnovers in that game, but we showed a lot of confidence,” he said. “We showed a lot of defensive intensity, heart. We never gave up. We never put our heads down the whole game. That was our game right there. We let it slip at the end, but in future games we’re going to be ready for this.”
Photo caption: Riverhead had some things to like and some things not to like in its season-opening game. (Credit: Bob Liepa)