01/06/14 10:30pm
01/06/2014 10:30 PM

BULLS 74, BLUE WAVES 54

Senior forward Ryan Ingarozza scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter to lift Smithtown East to a 74-54 win over host Riverhead in a Suffolk County League III boys basketball game on Monday night.

Ingarozza, who finished with 7 rebounds, helped the visitors outscore the Blue Waves, 30-10, in that period to turn a 30-19 halftime lead into a 60-29 advantage. Smithtown East improved to 6-3 over all and 4-0 in the league. The Blue Waves (1-7, 0-4) dropped their seventh consecutive game after defeating Bayport-Blue Point, 72-66, in their season opener on Dec. 9.

Senior guard Dylan Marquez connected on three treys in the third quarter and finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

Sophomore Charles Manning led Riverhead with 17 points.

12/30/13 7:51pm
12/30/2013 7:51 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead senior Deon Shorter scored 17 points in the Blue Waves’ loss to Sachem East Monday.

FLAMING ARROWS 62, BLUE WAVES 57

With each successive stop on defense, the crowd grew louder and louder, waiting for the inevitable big basket from Riverhead that would turn the game in the home team’s favor.

For more than five minutes into the fourth quarter of a non-league game against Sachem East Monday night, the Blue Waves held the Flaming Arrows to two points in the quarter. Riverhead trimmed what had been a 10-point deficit earlier in the half down to four. But with each stop on defense came a missed opportunity on the other end of the court.

And despite hitting just three field goals in the final quarter, Sachem East cruised from the free-throw line during the final two minutes to escape Riverhead with a 62-57 victory.

“We had a sense on the bench that the big shot was coming,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. “It was like the ball was slipping out. The ball wasn’t going our way tonight.”

The Blue Waves dropped their sixth straight game after a season-opening win over Bellport. As the league season gets into full swing beginning at the end of this week, the Blue Waves will have little time left to right the ship before postseason aspirations begin to fade.

Riverhead is 0-3 in League III going into Friday’s game against Smithtown East.

“We’re a young team with very few kids that have playing time varsity experience,” Rossetti said. “The scoreboard isn’t showing it, but these kids are getting significantly better. We’re right there. We’re going to be OK.”

Senior point guard Deon Shorter led Riverhead with 17 points, matching his season high set twice before. Sachem East had four players in double figures, led by Ryan Cole’s 17.

The Blue Waves trailed throughout the game, briefly taking a one-point lead at 23-22 in the second quarter. The Flaming Arrows opened the second half on a 11-3 run to open up their biggest lead of the game at 40-30. The Blue Waves got caught twice giving up open looks on 3-pointers and the Arrows — who didn’t shoot particularly well from deep — burnt them on both possessions. They were 2-12 from 3-point range until the back-to-back long balls. Sachem finished the game 4-for-21 from beyond the arc.

Riverhead switched between a zone and man defense during the game. In both sets at times, the Blue Waves lost track of defenders and gave up easy hoops.

“We have some lapses out there and when we go into lapses we get into this rut,” Rossetti said. “Our weak side defense in man-to-man needs help and our on-ball pressure, we need to do a better job of pushing guys to a side. We’re letting them dictate where to go.”

It hasn’t helped in recent games that senior Brandon Tolliver has been slowed by a deep bone bruise on his knee that he suffered in a collision earlier this month. Tolliver had offseason surgery following a torn ACL.

The latest bone bruise has limited his explosiveness.

“He’s hobbling out there and he’s giving it his all,” Rossetti said. “But he’s not the Brandon we’re used to seeing. I give the kid credit. He’s trying to be a trooper.”

Tolliver finished with seven points. Sophomores Tyrese Kerr and Charles Manning both scored nine.

Finding the right rotations has been the challenge early on in the season for Rossetti. He’s already used multiple starting lineups. Center Ethan Greenidge started in Monday’s game, but didn’t see much action in the second half as the Blue Waves tried to better match up against the smaller Arrows.

“They were bringing him out way up high, so it kind of took his size and negated it,” Rossetti said. “So we had to go with a smaller lineup.”

Jeremiah Cheatom came off the bench to kick in 10 points, mostly on second chance buckets, which has been his speciality going back to last season.

Cheatom missed an easy one under the basket about halfway through the fourth quarter that would have cut Sachem’s lead to two. It was just one example of missed opportunities for Riverhead.

Where the Blue Waves really hurt themselves was at the free-throw line. They finished 7 of 16 for 44 percent. Sachem was 12 of 20 for 60 percent.

joew@timesreview.com

12/28/13 7:00am
12/28/2013 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Markim Austin rises for one-handed dunk Tuesday that put the Blue Waves ahead by seven in the fourth quarter against Smithtown West.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Markim Austin rises for one-handed dunk that put the Blue Waves ahead by seven in the fourth quarter against Smithtown West.

The Riverhead boys basketball team entered the 2012-13 season with lofty expectations as an experienced core of players returned. And the Blue Waves didn’t disappoint, posting a 12-2 record in League III and clinching the program’s first league title since 1997.

It was a thrilling season throughout, highlighted by a 72-71 victory over Smithtown West early in February that guaranteed the Blue Waves at least a share of the league title.

Riverhead got 20 points from Markim Austin in the win in front of a near-capacity crowd at Riverhead High School. The Blue Waves’ season ended on a bitter note with a loss to Longwood in the first round of the playoffs, but the season nevertheless was one to remember.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/27/13 8:08pm
12/27/2013 8:08 PM

FLAMING ARROWS 69, BLUE WAVES 63

Riverhead battled back from an early 14-point deficit to grab a 4-point advantage in the fourth quarter, but could not hold on en route to a 69-63 home loss to Sachem North in a non-league boys basketball game on Friday night.

Senior Deon Shorter came off the bench to lead the Blue Waves (1-4) with 17 points, followed by sophomore Charles Manning’s 14 points. Manning scored 13 of his points in the third quarter.

The Blue Waves grabbed a 53-49 lead 1 minute 50 seconds into the final period, but Sachem North (2-4) went on a 20-17 spurt to pull away.

Sachem North had four players in double figures. Senior guard James Bassford, who sank all five of his 3-point attempts in the first half, canned four foul shots over the final 43.3 seconds to keep the hosts at arm’s length. Bassford led the visitors with 22 points. Nakhari Nelson and Blake Thompson contributed 14 points apiece and Anthony Service added 11.

Riverhead next hosts Sachem East in a non-league game on Monday.

12/12/13 2:08am
12/12/2013 2:08 AM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Kurt Ryder, who scored 17 points for Bishop McGann-Mercy against Smithtown Christian, takes off for a layup.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Kurt Ryder, who scored 17 points for Bishop McGann-Mercy against Smithtown Christian, takes off for a layup.

MONARCHS 51, KNIGHTS 47 (OT)

An advertisement for good basketball, it was not. Sloppy play. Breakdowns on defense. Fouls galore. One missed shot after another. Horrendous foul shooting (in the case of one of the teams).

It all added up to one of the worst-played — and oddest — high school boys basketball games at the varsity level that the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School gym had seen.

This was a non-league game that neither Smithtown Christian or McGann-Mercy could feel good about. The only saving grace for the Monarchs was that they won, 51-47, in overtime on Wednesday night.

At times it seemed as if neither team wanted to win, giving the other side another chance to take the game. In the 4-minute overtime, though, it was the Monarchs who prevailed for their first win from three games this season. Kurt Ryder’s layup at the start of overtime put the Monarchs ahead to stay, although the finish couldn’t have been easy on the nerves of McGann-Mercy’s exasperated coach, Mike Clauberg.

A runner by Kevin Santacroce and a free throw by Nykel Reese gave the League VII Monarchs a 49-45 lead with 1:02 to go in overtime.

Corey Collins followed up a missed 3-point attempt for Smithtown Christian, making it a 2-point game.

Later, a steal by Collins set up a missed 3-point shot by Kyle Straker. The Monarchs rebounded and were fouled. Greg Gehring and Santacroce each sank a free throw in the final 6.8 seconds to help seal the ugly win and hand Smithtown Christian, a League VIII team, its second loss in three games.

Smithtown Christian coach Dan Skaritka bemoaned before the game that he couldn’t wait for the day to end. When he called it the worst day in his life, he might have been doing so tongue in cheek. What didn’t make the day any better for him was the fact that he was missing three regular starters. The Knights could have used them.

It was a strange game, considering the Monarchs won despite shooting a poor 23.8 percent (15 of 63) from the field and 1 of 13 from beyond the 3-point line.

But Smithtown Christian had its issues, too. The Knights shot miserably at the foul line: 6 for 20.

Perhaps even more than that, though, they were hurt tremendously by foul trouble. Twenty-nine of the game’s 51 fouls were whistled against Smithtown Christian. The Knights were losing a battle of attrition. Four of their players — Zack DiBlanda, Cody Collins, Ron Linsalato and Connor McCabe — fouled out.

And how’s this for a strange fact? The Monarchs made only 1 of 15 field-goal attempts in the second quarter, yet still took a 15-14 lead into halftime.

For all of the uninspired play, the game was close,

It looked as if Smithtown Christian would leave Riverhead with a win when it took its biggest lead of the night at 42-35 on a free throw by Linsalato with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter.

Somehow, some way, McGann-Mercy whittled away at that lead as the Knights left the door open just enough for the Monarchs to squeeze back in. Two free throws by Reese and two baskets by Ryder, including a layup off his own steal with 26.2 seconds to go in the quarter, pulled the Monarchs to within a basket of the visitors. Both teams then missed a pair of free throws before Santacroce grabbed an offensive rebound and banked in a right-handed hook shot, tying the score at 43-43 with 8.2 seconds to go in regulation time.

The Monarchs survived the final hectic seconds of the fourth quarter as they watched Smithtown Christian miss a close-range shot. Ryder collected the rebound and chucked a mid-court shot that fell short before the buzzer sounded.

Ryder ended up with 17 points. Reese collected 19 rebounds (8 offensive) to go with 11 points, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. Santacroce had 10 points and 9 rebounds.

Cody Collins led Smithtown Christian with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Straker added 11 points and Linsalato had 9.

For a while there, considering the way the Monarchs were playing, a win seemed highly unlikely for them. Then again, ’tis the season of miracles.

bliepa@timesreview.com

11/27/13 8:00pm
11/27/2013 8:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Brandon Tolliver is fully recovered after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason.

The start of basketball season can always be a little tricky in Riverhead. This year is no different.

As the football team marches into the Long Island championship Friday to face Nassau champion Carey, the basketball team stands by waiting for the cavalry to return.

Practices started last week in Riverhead and the Blue Waves, during an extended try-out period, have been practicing with seven varsity players.

“We’re a little thin,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti.

The Blue Waves went through this last year as well and it hardly slowed them down. Riverhead won the League III championship, its first since 1997, in a thrilling season that ended with a playoff loss to Longwood.

“We still have some good pieces on the team, so we’re going to be OK,” Rossetti said. “It’s just a matter of taking those pieces and merging them with the other kids from football once they come back and making it a cohesive unit.”

Rossetti admitted the team is probably about five days behind most teams. And that might lead to a slow start to the season.

“The good thing about these kids, they play with each other all the time,” Rossetti said. “They’re familiar with each other that way. It’s a matter of them getting on the same page in terms of defensive schemes and offensive schemes.”

The Blue Waves lost two of their “big three” from last year to graduation. But they do return senior Brandon Tolliver, who had a superb season last year and was a key part of the league championship team.

Tolliver is coming off the most challenging offseason of his young career. In March, while practicing with his AAU team, Tolliver tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

After the practice, Tolliver approached Rossetti and told him his leg hurt. Rossetti told him to ice it, but Tolliver’s instincts told him it was worse.

He underwent an MRI, which revealed he needed surgery.

The silver lining was the injury happened just after basketball season ended, giving Tolliver eight months to rehab for the start of this season.

“I give his parents a lot of credit,” Rossetti said. “They did their research. They got a good doctor. They gave him his workout plan, they brought him to his physical therapist. And he’s going to be a success story.”

The way Tolliver has been playing during the preseason, no one would ever know he underwent surgery, Rossetti said.

“He looks just like his old self,” he said. “He came back in better shape than he’s ever been. He added some muscle mass to his frame. His jump shot is dramatically improved.”

Rossetti said Tolliver will transition this year from a post player to more of a wing. His improved jumper will make him more of a threat from the perimeter.

The Blue Waves get right into their scrimmages Saturday with a game at Mattituck. They’ll also scrimmage East Islip before opening the non-league season on the road at Bellport Dec. 9.

joew@timesreview.com

02/15/13 9:13pm
02/15/2013 9:13 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Markim Austin drives to the basket against two Longwood defenders Thursday in the Class AA first round playoff game.

CLASS AA FIRST ROUND  |  LIONS 61, BLUE WAVES 51

The loss itself stung.

The missed opportunity hurt even worse.

A pile of jerseys lay on the floor inside the locker room Friday night for the final time this season as coach John Rossetti reflected on the Blue Waves’ 61-51 first-round playoff loss to Longwood in front of a capacity crowd at Riverhead High School.

“I feel like I let the community down today,” Rossetti said.

A few minutes later, when Rossetti learned No. 4 Central Islip had been upset by No. 20 Huntington, he slammed his right hand onto the bench, the frustration boiling over. If the Blue Waves had pulled out a win against the Lions, another home game would have awaited Tuesday against the lowest-ranked team in the Class AA bracket.

Instead, it’ll be the Lions (12-6) advancing with an unexpected home game in the quarterfinals.

For the Blue Waves, the quick exit out of the playoffs marked the end of a remarkable season that saw them win their first league championship since 1997.

“I told [the players] after the game, it’s going to sting for a little bit,” Rossetti said. “But when these kids look back on their careers when they’re 10 years out of high school, no one can take away from them that they’re league champs. That’s going to last with them forever.”

Even as a No. 5 seed, the Blue Waves (15-4) faced an arduous task in the first round against a battle-tested Longwood team that went 8-5 in arguably the most competitive league in the county. Brentwood and William Floyd also advanced into the quarterfinals.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Deon Shorter chipped in six points off the bench for Riverhead Friday.

And the Lions know a thing or two about winning in the postseason. Friday’s win marked the eighth straight year they’ve advanced into the quarterfinals. In that time they’ve played in two county finals (’09, ’10). The Lions knocked off the Blue Waves in the first round in 2011 as well before advancing to the semifinals.

“A lot of pride,” said Longwood coach Pierce Hayes, whose team had opened the playoffs at home in each of the past seven seasons. “Coming out of League I, which was awesome this year, I mean everybody was good.”

The Lions jumped out on Riverhead with a 10-0 run to open the game and the Blue Waves could never close the gap all the way.

All season the Blue Waves have played their best in the third quarter, and they needed another big one Friday. In what was a wildly entertaining quarter, the Blue Waves trimmed the deficit down to three going into the fourth at 45-42 when junior Brandon Tolliver sank a pair of free throws with :36.9 left.

“Usually that third quarter surge we carry over into the fourth,” Rossetti said. “But I think we hit a wall.”

Longwood opened up the fourth on a 9-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Latrell Washington, who had a huge day with 21 points. He drilled another corner three to seal the victory with 2:03 left that extended the Lions’ lead to 15, the largest of the night.

“They’re a very good team,” Hayes said. “We kind of wore them down a bit. But they never quit.”

The Lions looked to push the pace against Riverhead, and Washington ignited the offense.

“That was our game plan,” Hayes said. “Our guards are our strength. We like to get the ball down the court and get it off quick.”

Longwood shot 6-for-17 (35 percent) from beyond the arc. Washington, who hit seven in a 32-point game to end the regular season, connected on four treys. Emmanuel Ferreira hit the other two as part of his 21-point game. Riverhead shot 1-for-10 from three.

The Lions have averaged 5.2 threes per game.

“We take a lot of threes, but we don’t always make them like today,” Hayes said. “Today we were on. The kids were focused.”

The Blue Waves got a team-high 14 points from senior Markim Austin and 11 from senior Ryan Bitzer. Tolliver added eight and Jeremiah Cheatom had seven. The loss snapped a six-game win streak for Riverhead.

The teams combined for 40 points in the third quarter. The Blue Waves were able to get out in transition some and beat Longwood’s press to get a few easy hoops. In one flurry, Washington converted a three-point play before Austin answered on the other end with a three-point play of his own five seconds later to get the Blue Waves back within four.

“You got to give them credit,” Rossetti said. “They hit open shots. In games like this it’s the team that hits the open shots that’s going to win.”

Longwood handed Riverhead its worst loss of the regular season Dec. 8, 60-41. But the Lions knew that game wasn’t a fair representation of what the Blue Waves look like now. Three of Riverhead’s starters were only a week off of football season for that game.

Hayes said maintaing the lead during each of Riverhead’s runs Friday came down to toughness.

“That’s always been our quest this year — to be a tough team,” he said. “We haven’t always lived up to that expectation, but tonight we did.”

joew@timesreview.com

02/14/13 7:00pm
02/14/2013 7:00 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  McGann-Mercy junior Nykel Reese scored a team-high 16 points Friday night.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | McGann-Mercy junior Nykel Reese drives to the basket against Mattituck.

The 2012-13 high school boys basketball season began with cautioned optimism around Bishop McGann-Mercy. The Monarchs knew they had a deep team led by two strong all-around players in Nykel Reese and Asaiah Wilson. And they also knew playing in League VII put them at a decided disadvantage.

“Mercy looks like the [Class] C team to beat,” Newsday wrote in its season preview in December.

The Monarchs may very well be the team to beat. But they won’t get a chance to prove it in the playoffs.

The Monarchs finished 5-9 in League VII, leaving them two games short of the minimum .500 league record to qualify for the postseason. But given their more difficult schedule — which forced them to play 12 games against Class B schools — the Monarchs petitioned Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk County athletics, to allow them into the postseason.

The petition was denied.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we could win a county championship this year,” said McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg.

The Monarchs are the largest of the six Suffolk County schools that fall into Class C. Classification numbers are determined by the state and can vary year to year. The eight smallest schools in the county form League VIII. Four of those schools are Class C and four are Class D.

The Monarchs and Port Jefferson were the only Class C schools in League VII. The Monarchs won both games against the Royals this season.

But the Monarchs were just 3-9 against Class B teams, leaving them with a league record of 5-9.

The Stony Brook School, which went 14-3 in the lower league, received the No. 1 seed for the Class C playoffs. Pierson (11-7) was the No. 2 and Greenport (10-7) the No. 3.

On Tuesday night, Pierson defeated Greenport, 63-41, to advance to the county final.

Stony Brook played only one Class B team and lost by 26 to League VII champion Babylon.

Clauberg said Section XI denied the petition because McGann-Mercy didn’t play enough games against Class C schools. Clauberg said he tried to schedule a few more non-league games against Class C teams but they didn’t pan out.

Instead, the Monarchs played Shelter Island and Smithtown Christian, two Class D schools. They won both games. Their other non-league games included a loss to Lindenhurst (Class AA) and a win over Sayville (Class A).

Coaches for Greenport and Pierson agreed that McGann-Mercy should have been allowed in the tournament.

“My heart goes out to the Mercy kids because that’s really who gets affected,” said Pierson coach Dan White. “I don’t know what the issue would be, money or whatever, but those kids should have gotten a chance.”

Stony Brook received a bye into the county final, so McGann-Mercy could have conceivably played a semifinal Tuesday night against the Bears.

“If they had been a No. 4, they probably could beat a No. 1 team,” said Greenport coach Al Edwards. “You never know what’s going on one particular night. I think there was probably some injustice done there.”

The maddening part for McGann-Mercy lies in the fact that there was a precedent to allow a Class C team from League VII into the tournament. It happened just last year with Port Jefferson. The Royals went 5-9 in league play last season and were granted the No. 3 seed in the playoffs as the final team to make it into the postseason.

Last season McGann-Mercy was a Class B school.

“Teams should have to win more than one game to win a championship,” Clauberg said. “Port Jeff deserves to be in, too.”

Clauberg said they received no explanation from Section XI as to why Port Jefferson was allowed in last year while McGann-Mercy was denied this year. The Royals also tried to get in this year and were denied as well, Clauberg said.

“No one understands it,” he said. “[Section XI] said we don’t use past precedent.”

At least two parents wrote letters to the Section XI executive director, Ed Cinelli, seeking an explanation. Those inquiries went unanswered as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We were shocked,” Clauberg said after finding out his team’s season was over. “How hard is it to let us play Stony Brook?”

joew@timesreview.com

With Bob Liepa