As Bishop McGann-Mercy’s first-year coach, Brian Babst, saw it, it was a win-win situation for his girls basketball team. (more…)
As Bishop McGann-Mercy’s first-year coach, Brian Babst, saw it, it was a win-win situation for his girls basketball team. (more…)
The Riverhead girls basketball team dropped its third straight game Tuesday night, falling 46-31 at home against Smithtown East. The Blue Waves, who are out of playoff contention, are now 2-9 in League III. The Bulls improved to 9-2 in league. (more…)
LIONS 52, BLUE WAVES 47
Growing pains were to be expected. But they still hurt. And none more than Tuesday night.
For 28 minutes, the Riverhead girls basketball team showed glimpses of why the future looks so bright. A team that resembles more a junior high team with three eighth graders in the starting lineup, the Blue Waves used their speed and size to gradually build an 11-point lead when sophomore Dezarae Brown sank a pair of free throws with 6:32 left against West Islip.
It was the first double-digit lead for Riverhead all game. And just as it looked as if the Blue Waves were about to put away the Lions, it all came crumbling apart.
The Lions, behind a full-court press that the Blue Waves couldn’t shake, rattled off a 17-1 run over the final 5 minutes for a stunning come-from-behind victory, 52-47, at Riverhead High School. It was the fourth straight loss for the Blue Waves, who dropped to 1-6 in League III and 3-7 overall.
Afterward, a dejected Riverhead coach, Dave Spinella, shouldered the blame.
“That’s on me,” he said. “I got to get these kids to finish the game.”
It was the third straight game the Blue Waves lost after holding a fourth-quarter lead, Spinella said. The Blue Waves lost yesterday to Smithtown East by five points. On Saturday, they lost to Smithtown West by three points.
“I’d rather get blown out by 20 every game,” Spinella said. “Because it just means we’re that close. When we’re that close, regardless of our age, when you’re in a game that close, it’s on me as their coach to get them through the rest of it.”
The Blue Waves have been a perennial playoff team under Spinella the past decade. But barring a huge turnaround the second half of the league season, the Blue Waves’ streak of recent playoff appearances will come to an end. Riverhead will need to go 6-1 over its final seven league games to finish with a record that qualifies for the postseason.
For now, the Blue Waves are simply trying to find a way to pull out one of these close games.
“These kids are playing excellent basketball,” Spinella said. “They’re doing everything we ask.”
West Islip senior guard Lindsay Darrell ignited the turnaround for the Lions. She scored nine of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. An all-league player last season, Darrell drained a 3-pointer with 5 minutes left that started the run.
West Islip (7-4, 4-3 League III) forced seven Riverhead turnovers in the quarter, which allowed the Lions to get some easy hoops. Sarah Feminella, Vanessa Constantino and Darrell each scored baskets over a 27-second stretch that got the Lions back within two points at 46-44 with 3:33 left.
Darrell tied the game with a driving layup with 2:40 left. Riverhead briefly regained the lead on a free throw from eighth-grader Faith Johnson-DeSilvia, but Darrell answered right back with another strong drive to the hoop, eluding Riverhead defenders all the way to the basket for a layup.
Riverhead went the final 6:55 without a field goal and shot 1-for-12 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s all about effort,” West Islip coach Chris Scharf said. “The effort wasn’t there in the beginning and it was there in the end, fortunately.”
A longtime coach at West Islip, Scharf said he has faced plenty of young teams over the years. But he noted one difference.
“It’s something to be young, but to be young and talented, which they are, it’s a good thing,” he said.
As if the loss didn’t hurt enough for Riverhead, with 1:45 left in the game, senior Kyra Miller went down hard on a drive to the basket. She remained on the court for several minutes and had to be helped off the court and into the trainer’s room. She didn’t put any pressure on her left leg with an apparent knee injury. The extent of the injury was unclear.
Spinella said he was hoping it was just a twist. Miller is a standout track and field athlete in the spring season.
Miller was the only player to come off the bench for Riverhead until the final minute. She first came into the game midway through the third quarter.
Spinella said the rotations haven’t always been as short and he’s typically looked to sub more in the first half.
“I thought our first group was playing really well,” he said. “Maybe that’s part of it. Just trying to find the right mix. No one does enough wrong to warrant being taken out of the game.”
Sophomore Sam Dunn led the Blue Waves in scoring with 19 points. She was the only player in double figures. Brown added nine and eighth grader Kate McCarney scored eight. She hit two 3-pointers.
Riverhead returns to action Thursday at home against Smithtown West.
MONARCHS 52, ROYALS 49
The Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs have suffered through some bleak high school girls basketball seasons in recent years. Really bleak.
Last season they went 0-18. The season before that they were 0-18. And the season before that they were 1-17. Just one win over three seasons.
If those were the dark ages of McGann-Mercy girls basketball, some light is finally shining through. Brian Babst, the team’s new coach, said it will take time to rebuild the program, but better days — and wins — are ahead for the young Monarchs.
A note of encouragement came on Thursday when the Monarchs earned a league win on the road. They used a 20-5 run that started near the end of the second quarter and ended early in the fourth, giving them the lead for good against Port Jefferson. Six Monarchs scored during that spell. The Royals mounted a late charge, but Mia Behrens, a freshman point guard, made 3 of 4 free throws and blocked a shot in the final 28.2 seconds to help the Monarchs preserve a 52-49 victory in the Suffolk County League VIII game.
Fiona Nunez, a senior who recently came off a two-week bout with strep throat and the flu, returned to form, producing a double-double for the Monarchs (3-4, 2-2), who snapped a three-game-losing streak. Nunez, who shot 6 of 14 from the field, scored 14 points and came down with 13 rebounds, both team-high figures. Behrens, who scored 8 points as did teammate Kayla Schroeher, also had 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 1 block.
Port Jefferson (2-7, 2-2), which trailed by as many as 13 points, was held to 1-for-15 shooting from the field in the third quarter. But the Royals didn’t fold. Courtney Lewis (21 points, 11 rebounds, 5 treys) and Jackie Brown both hit a pair of 3-point shots in the fourth quarter to tighten the gap. (For the game, Port Jefferson attempted 29 treys, making eight of them).
Consecutive 3-pointers by Brown and Lewis cut McGann-Mercy’s lead to 49-46 with 31.1 seconds left. A free throw by Behrens made it a 4-point game before Brown struck again from beyond the arc, swishing a shot from the left wing with 10 seconds to go, making the score 50-49.
Behrens sank a pair of free throws with 7.0 seconds remaining for the game’s final points.
Following a timeout, Port Jefferson’s Olivia Love tried to make an inbounds pass from under own basket, but a scrambling Schroeher hit the floor in an attempted steal, knocking the ball out of bounds. Love had another inbounds attempt, this time with 5.8 seconds to go. She heaved a long pass down to Brown, whose layup attempt was blocked by Behrens.
The Royals then fouled Delaney Macchirole, sending her to the foul line. She missed both foul shots, but the final 1.1 seconds ticked off before the ball bounced out of bounds.
Just like that, the Monarchs tripled their win total from the previous three seasons combined.
Port Jefferson, which suffered its sixth loss in seven games, received 13 points from Corrine Scannell and 10 rebounds from Gillian Kenah.
WHALERS 46, MONARCHS 30
It had been nearly three weeks since the last time the McGann-Mercy girls basketball team took the court for a regular season game. The long break, which did include a scrimmage against Riverhead, hardly seemed to slow down the Monarchs early in Monday’s League VIII game against Pierson/Bridgehampton.
The Monarchs raced out to an 8-0 lead and held the Whalers scoreless for the first 4 1/2 minutes.
But as the turnovers mounted, the league-leading Whalers quickly chipped away and took control of the game, eventually running away with a 46-30 victory at McGann-Mercy High School.
Thanks to a quirk in the schedule, it was the second meeting between the two schools already; the Whalers won the first meeting Dec. 30, 48-40.
A young team that starts three freshmen and a sophomore, the Monarchs (2-4, 1-2 League VIII) never got into any rhythm Monday as turnovers plagued them throughout. The Monarchs turned the ball over three times for every field goal made in the game. They had more turnovers than points in the game.
Pierson (5-6, 4-1 League VIII) went on a 17-3 run from the first quarter into the second to take control of the game. The Whalers led by as many as 18 after three quarters.
The Monarchs were held scoreless in the third quarter as the Whalers scored all nine points.
Senior Kayla Schroeher led the Monarchs with eight points. Kasey Gilbride led all scorers for Pierson with 16.
BLUE WAVES 47, BULLDOGS 41
As a spectator two years ago, eighth-grader Sam Dunn cheered on the Riverhead High School girls basketball team during its march to the Suffolk County Class AA championship and the state semifinals.
“I went to every game,” she said. “I used to sit in the stands and I wanted to do that one day. I wanted to be them.”
Well, Dunn is one of them today. The sophomore forward had an opportunity to perform some heroics of her own in the Blue Waves’ 47-41 girls non-league win at Lindenhurst on Monday.
Dunn scored a season-high 23 points, including 7 during a critical 36-second stretch late in the fourth quarter, to boost a young Riverhead team (3-2). She added 5 rebounds and 1 steal against Lindenhurst (1-6).
Not only has Dunn been thrust into a starting role but a leadership one as well on a team that has two eighth-graders starting at guard.
“It was a big adjustment from being a freshman last year and having all the older girls, Shanice Allen and Naysha Trent, as our role models and me just looking up to them,” she said. “Then, all of sudden I’m one of the oldest players and I have to start stepping up and leading, not relying on them anymore.”
Dunn acquitted herself quite well Monday. First, she helped Riverhead to a 13-9 first-quarter advantage with 9 points.
After eighth-grade guard Kate McCarney’s jumper from the right side broke a 31-31 tie with 4:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, Dunn boosted Riverhead’s lead to 40-33 by hitting a driving basket and a subsequent foul shot with 2:49 left and layups off some nice feeds with 2:33 and 2:13 to go.
“With a tight score like that, we’ve got to start driving to the basket,” she said.
The learning curve sometimes has been steep. But Dunn has been up to the task. She has learned “a lot about leadership, knowing that you have to step up to the plate. You don’t have to rely on anyone any more. That’s the biggest thing for me, that I can’t rely on anyone any more.”
If there was any pressure, Dunn did not show it during crunch time. She also sank 11 of 13 foul shots.
“She’s lethal from the free-throw line,” coach David Spinella said.
Spinella knows that he has some talent to nurture and realizes that he can’t expect giant steps overnight. But he has seen progress.
“They’re going great,” he said. “Every day we’re getting better. We’re working on things. We’re learning to play in game situations. I just have to be patient and understand that it doesn’t matter what our record is at the end of the season, as long as we are getting better every day because pretty much everybody comes back.”
Dunn understands what eighth-grade guards Kim Ligon, Faith Johnson-DeSilvia and McCarney are going through because she was in a similar spot last year.
“I was very nervous all the time and the younger players are experiencing the same thing,” she said. “I have to just suck it all up when they’re down and start playing more.”
These youngsters have gotten better.
“There’s been a big improvement, especially with the younger guards having to step up,” Dunn said. “Even one of the younger girls said, ‘Every day I’m getting more confident, every time I step [onto the court], every practice, every game.’ ”
As well as Dunn played, the Blue Waves were far from a one-young-woman show. Another sophomore forward, 6-foot Dezarae Brown, enjoyed an outstanding game under the basket at both ends, snaring a game-high 15 rebounds and adding 8 points. Senior guard Carolyn Carrera, better known for her heroics as a lacrosse goal-scorer and soccer goalkeeper, came off the bench to help limit sharp-shooter Alexis Perdue to 9 points in the second half after scoring 14 in the first half.
Johnson-DeSilvia also a reserve, hit a trey and sank three free throws in the final 63 seconds.
“I just love it. Basketball is my whole entire life,” Dunn said. “I love being out there with the girls. Whether we win or lose, it’s how hard you work at the end of the day and that’s what matters.”
But winning isn’t too shabby, either.
Perhaps this new generation can emulate the 2012 Blue Waves.
“Maybe in a couple of years,” Dunn said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
WILDCATS 50, TUCKERS 45
The Shoreham-Wading River High School girls basketball team suffered a blow recently when one of its best players, senior forward Taylor Whiffen, transferred; she now plays for Sachem East.
The Wildcats undoubtedly felt the loss, but they can be thankful they still have Courtney Clasen. A powerful reminder of Clasen’s value was given Friday when the forward seemed to be everywhere at once, making big plays down the stretch to hold off Mattituck in a non-league game in Shoreham.
What did Clasen do in her team’s 50-45 victory?
Just about everything.
The 5-foot-9 junior scored 21 points, just 1 shy of her career-high, shooting 8 of 16 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. She also was a force under the boards, coming down with 19 rebounds in addition to blocking 9 shots. And, for the record, her statistical line also included 4 steals and 2 assists.
Perhaps even more impressive afterward was the postgame reaction of her coach, Adam Lievre, when asked about Clasen’s performance. “Typical” was the word he used.
A typical showing for an atypical player.
Katie Hoeg, who guarded Clasen for most of the game, called her the best all-around player she ever played against.
Clasen’s contributions were the undoubted difference. The Wildcats (4-3) twice built leads as large as 10 points, only to see Mattituck (5-4) close the gap after 5 straight points by Shannon Dwyer and back-to-back baskets by Tiana Baker (the first a 3-pointer). They were part of a 14-2 run that gave the Tuckers a 41-39 edge in the fourth quarter. But moments later, Dwyer picked up her fourth personal foul. She then was charged with a blocking foul to foul out with 3 minutes 5 seconds left in the game.
That was a gut punch for the Tuckers, who held a 1-point lead at the time of Dwyer’s exit to the bench. Meanwhile, Clasen, athletic and fast, continued to do her thing as the contest saw six lead changes in the final 3:57.
Mattituck’s last lead came when Liz Dwyer, Shannon’s younger sister, hit a foul-line jumper for a 45-44 score with less than two minutes to go. Those were Mattituck’s last points.
A free throw by Shoreham’s Jessica McCormack evened the score at 45-45.
Perhaps fittingly, Clasen’s hustle brought about the go-ahead point for her team. After McCormack missed her second free throw, Mattituck’s Courtney Murphy came down with the rebound, but Clasen stole the ball away from her and drew a foul. Clasen made one of the foul shots with 1:19 to go, putting her side ahead for good. Later, she converted a layup off a slicing drive through the middle of the lane and hit a pair of free throws after Baker fouled out with 8.3 seconds left.
Shoreham’s next leading scorer after Clasen was Shannon Rosati with 8 points.
Shannon Dwyer, who shot 5 of 15 from the field and sank 6 of 8 foul shots, finished with 16 points. Liz Dwyer produced 10 points. Hoeg collected 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals to go with 6 points.
It was the fourth game the Wildcats played since they lost Whiffen, but it was also the first game back for Kerri Clark, the senior guard who suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener. Clark supplied 7 points coming off the bench.
Mattituck, which had won three of its previous four games, is no stranger to injury, either. The Tuckers are without Colby Prokop for the rest of the season. The junior guard suffered tears to her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood.
During the Riverhead girls basketball team’s spirited run to the state semifinals in 2012, Shanice Allen eclipsed the 1,000-point career milestone during a county championship win. She reached the mark while still just a junior. It made it evident that early the next season, Allen would become the school’s all-time scoring leader.
And Allen earned that honor on Jan. 3, scoring a career-high 36 points in a win over Centereach to pass Felicia Hobson. In the game, Allen brought her career total to 1,208 points. She finished the season as the Blue Waves’ top scorer and was an all-state and all-Long Island selection. Allen now plays for Pace University.
Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.