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.”