MASTIC BEACH — Much like the beginning of her Riverhead High School basketball career, Kaila-Riane Nazario’s start against the William Floyd Colonials was not much to talk about.
But once the sophomore forward got going, she was difficult to stop Friday night.
Nazario scored two points in the opening quarter, but found her way the rest of the non-league game, pumping in 13 of her game-high 21 points in the second half of a 60-43 win at Floyd.
Junior forward Melodee Riley added 10 points and junior guard Jalyn Brown eight as the Blue Waves (3-2, 1-0 Suffolk County League III) converted 23 of 29 foul shots for a sizzling 79.3 percentage.
“That’s pretty exceptional,” Riverhead Coach David Spinella said of the free-throw shooting.
But then again so was the Blue Waves’ accomplishment.
“Floyd’s a very good team,” Spinella added. “They’re going to be tops in League I. So this is a big win for us on the road on a Friday night.”
Spinella said his team played “better in the second half. We avoided the second-chance points. We had to keep them off the boards and we stopped turning the ball over. Those were the big things.”
So was Nazario’s performance, although it took the 5-foot-9 transfer from Williamsburg, Va., a while to adapt to a new system and a new team.
“I’m fitting in good,” she said. “It was eh in the beginning, but I worked to get my spot. I had to learn all about them, what they did. I had to learn how they play.”
After scoring only four points in Riverhead’s opening two losses, Nazario broke out with 17 points in a 62-48 victory at Patchogue-Medford on Dec. 14.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” she said. “I enjoy it. It’s a new style of play. The rules are different. The speed is faster.”
Nazario showcased her talent and potential Friday by scoring in a variety of ways, including a layup, a five-foot shot, off a rebound, off a turnover, from the corner and one three-point shot. She also was a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line.
Spinella has liked what he has seen, but realized there is plenty of room for improvement.
“She’s going to be a good player,” he said. “Offensively, she’s got some things she can do. She definitely needs to improve defensively and then she will be complete. We’ve all got a lot of work to do.”
Nazario and Riverhead weren’t fazed by the fact that Floyd started five seniors, including forward Monique Walker (team-high 17 points). The Blue Waves don’t have a senior on their roster and their starting lineup is dominated by juniors and sophomores.
“We just go out and play and try our hardest,” Nazario said. “We don’t get intimidated. We just work for our best. We work to get our spot.”
Riverhead stumbled early on. Brown hit a three-point shot nine seconds into the game, Floyd (0-5, 0-1 League III) went on a 12-2 tear to grab a 12-5 advantage with 3 minutes 34 seconds left in the first quarter.
“We’ve been starting out a little rough,” Riley said. “But once we get into it we get better as we go along.”
Added Nazario, “We just get back on our feet and do what we have to do.”
The Blue Waves pressured defensively and pulled to within 15-13 by the end of the period. Nazario asserted herself with six points in the second quarter as Riverhead took the lead for good, 29-28, on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Shaniece Allen (six points) with 26 seconds remaining.
Riverhead lived on the foul line in the third quarter. The visitors scored only one field goal, but converted 11 of 14 free throws — Nazario put away her six attempts — as they extended their lead to 42-36 by the end of the period.
“It’s not like that in every game,” Nazario said of the team’s foul shooting. “We’ve been working on it, getting it together.”
“If we started missing, those could add up in the end if we lose,” said Riley, who put away 6 of 9 free-throw attempts. “We have to make sure we get those in because they always count.”
After Floyd moved within 45-39 at 2:10 of the fourth quarter, Riverhead pulled away with a 7-0 burst in a 1:58 span behind Brown’s four points for a 52-39 lead.
Riverhead opened its League III season Tuesday with a 69-29 home win over the Newfield Wolverines.
“It’s early,” Spinella said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We just can’t hang our heads on this one game. We’ve got to go back to work on Sunday morning and do what we’ve got to do.”