GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ryan Bitzer, shown floating a shot beyond the reach of Bellport's Tom Bell, is one of Riverhead's seven varsity veterans.
The Riverhead Blue Waves have no shortage of varsity experience. At the same time, there are plenty of positions to be won, and that leaves no shortage of incentive.
Some of the Riverhead basketball players have started some games for the school team, too, but that team’s coach, John Rossetti, suggested it might be unwise to read too much into the 2010-11 season. “The better way to say it is we have five open [starting] positions,” he said. “You can’t live in the past.”
That brings us to the present Blue Waves, who are honing their skills in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. Among those in the starting lineup in Riverhead’s 45-38 loss to the Bellport Clippers on Tuesday night at Riverhead High School were four players who were on the school’s varsity team last season — Ryan Bitzer, Tim Clement, Quinn Funn and Brandon Tolliver (Jaron Greenidge was the other starter). The three others with a varsity background are Jake Maccagli, Reggie Moore and Stevie Johnson.
The Blue Waves say they have chemistry. Their summer league coach, Elwood Lamb, said he wants his players to work at limiting turnovers, bringing the ball upcourt under pressure, and rebounding.
They received mixed reviews in those areas Tuesday, when Bellport (2-1) closed out the game with a paralyzing 17-2 run during which they took the lead for the third and final time. Armond Correa registered 13 points during that spurt.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Tim Clement was in foul trouble almost the entire game, finishing with seven points and one rebound before fouling out with 8.2 seconds left.
Riverhead (1-2) led by as many as eight points right before that decisive final phase of the game.
With a significant disparity in fouls (Riverhead was charged with 22 to nine for Bellport), the Clippers would have won by a larger margin had they hit more of their free throws. Correa sank 12 of 17 free throws, but his teammates went 3 for 16 from the foul line.
One of Riverhead’s big rebounders, the 6-foot-4 Clement, was in foul trouble virtually from the start. He ended up fouling out with 8.2 seconds to go and seven points and one rebound listed next to his name.
Bellport limited Riverhead to only four offensive rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Clippers’ offense relied almost exclusively on Correa and William Edwards to handle their scoring. They accounted for 40 of their side’s 45 points, scoring 20 apiece. Edwards played a tremendous game. The senior also grabbed 11 rebounds.
Another Bellport player, Frank D’Amadeo, didn’t score, but he did have five assists, four steals and two rebounds.
Funn led Riverhead with nine points and four assists. Ryan Schroeher, a 6-4 junior who played for the junior varsity team last season, provided energy, as well as six points and six rebounds, off the bench.
“He’s a hard worker,” Lamb said of Schroeher. “When he gets in the game, he gives it his all, no matter what time he gets, he goes in there, he rebounds, he scraps, he’s on the floor. He’s a tough-nosed kid that plays good basketball. He’s not polished on offense, but he does all the dirty work on defense.”
Funn said the team is a little faster than it was last season, and determined to reach the playoffs in the coming school season.
“The summer league is just for chemistry and to get all of the kinks out before the regular [school] season,” he said. “Since last year we hustle more. We’re down and gritty with defense.”
The team’s commitment to defense is one of the things that has encouraged Lamb.
“They really get after it on defense,” he said. “We rely on defense. When you have kids who work hard and they’re scrappy, their defense turns into offense.”
Yes, the summer league is a help, providing players with games in which to fine-tune their skills two nights a week. However, Lamb said, “the true work is the other five days when they’re not here. What are they doing the other five days? Are they lifting weights? Are they dribbling? Are they shooting?”
As Schroeher sees it, they’re getting better. “Look out for us this year,” he said. “We’re coming.”