The gym inside Eastport-South Manor High School suddenly began to erupt with chants of “De-fense!” from the fans on both sides. The Riverhead Blue Waves, after trailing by 12 in the third quarter, had surged back to closed the gap to one.
For an early season non-league game, the intensity started to feel more like February in what was a frenetic, up-and-down contest between the Sharks and Blue Waves Tuesday night.
For as hard as the Blue Waves fought to get back into the game, a basket to tie the score proved elusive as the Sharks hung on to win, 46-43, dropping Riverhead to 1-2.
“Our intensity level turned up,” said Riverhead coach Kenny Coard. “If we had the intensity level in the first half that we had in the second half then it’s a different ballgame.”
Riverhead guard Faith Johnson-DeSilvia led the short-handed Blue Waves with 19 points. Riverhead was without senior Kim Ligon, who has been dealing with an illness. And in total, the Blue Waves had just nine players available.
“When it comes all together, it’ll be all right,” said Coard, Riverhead’s first-year coach.
The Blue Waves had their chances to either tie the game or take the lead after Johnson-DeSilvia banked a short runner off glass with 3:20 to play. The basket cut the Sharks lead to 41-40, the closest Riverhead had gotten since the opening minutes.
Eastport pushed the lead back to three after scoring down low on an inbounds play with 2:10 left. Riverhead’s Angie Graziano connected on a drive to the basket to bring the Blue Waves back within two at 44-42 with 1:37 left. The teams traded turnovers before guard Kate McCarney got fouled with 26 seconds left. She went 1-1 from the free-throw line and the Sharks added two free throws on the next possession to go back ahead by three.
The Blue Waves had one last chance to tie the game and Johnson-DeSilvia drove the lane, put up a shot that missed and got the ball back on the rebound. She raced toward the corner to try to throw up a three-pointer but couldn’t get a good look at it.
“On the last play I wanted her to pull up for a three,” Coard said. “Initially what I wanted her to do was get something going to the basket and as they collapsed on her, kick to somebody wide open.”
The Blue Waves got 13 points from Graziano, who delivered several key baskets late in the game. She was the only other player in double figures.
Coard said Graziano is the team’s “glue player.”
“She defends, she rebounds, she passes, she shoots,” he said. “She’s our intangible player. She does a little bit of everything.”
It took most of the first quarter for the Blue Waves to get on track offensively. Nearly seven minutes into the game, the Blue Waves were sitting on only three points as Eastport raced out to the early advantage. Turnovers hurt in the second quarter as the Sharks consistently got out in transition for easy buckets.
The Blue Waves trailed by as many as 14 in the first half, but closed the second quarter on a 6-0 run to keep within striking distance.
Casey Travers led all scorers with 20 points for Eastport. The Sharks improved to 5-0 and have wins over a pair of League I schools (Sachem North and Patchogue-Medford).
Top photo caption: Riverhead guard Faith Johnson-DeSilvia passes out of a double team. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)