03/04/14 10:00am
03/04/2014 10:00 AM

Riverhead grads Marta Czaplak (left) and Naysha Trent led Suffolk to a 17-7 record this season. (file photos)

Two Riverhead High School graduates helped lead the Suffolk Community College women’s basketball team to a 17-7 record this season, capped by a trip to the Region XV Championship Game Sunday.  (more…)

02/14/13 9:34pm
02/14/2013 9:34 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Naysha Trent scored 20 points against Half Hollow Hills East Thursday in the Class AA playoff opener.

CLASS AA FIRST ROUND  |  BLUE WAVES 61, THUNDERBIRDS 36

Shanice Allen drew the loudest roar of the night inside Riverhead High School with a ferocious block along the baseline against Half Hollow Hills East freshman Mesha Rivers late in the third quarter Thursday.

That is, until Naysha Trent got the ball a few minutes later.

Trent, a Riverhead senior, dribbled along the left sideline when she whipped two consecutive ankle-breaking crossovers, juking multiple defenders as she drove baseline and converted a difficult shot off the glass plus a foul. The crowd erupted, as did her teammates.

“I screamed and chanted as if I scored,” Allen said. “It was nice to watch.”

“It just happens,” Trent said in breaking down the play.

Trent’s three-point play was the highlight of the game — if not the year so far — in a 61-36 victory over the 10th seeded Thunderbirds in the first round of the Class AA playoffs. The win sends the seventh-seeded Blue Waves into the quarterfinals Wednesday against No. 2 Sachem East, 61-31 winners Thursday over No. 18 Brentwood.

The defending county champions never left Thursday’s game in doubt as the Blue Waves (12-7) raced out to a 20-2 lead, fueled nearly entirely by the dynamic duo of Allen and Trent, who combined for 42 points.

The two seniors carried the offensive load, scoring the first 17 points of the game for Riverhead. Allen finished with 22 and Trent added 20.

“For some of these seniors it was the last time they’ll ever play on this court, so they went out and gave it everything they had,” said Riverhead coach David Spinella. “I’m really proud of our team.”

It was the third time this season, and second straight game, that both players hit for 20 or more points.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Kyra Braunskill was tenacious fighting for loose balls.

For Trent, it was her first signature moment in a playoff win. She missed all of last season with an injury and had to watch from the bench during Riverhead’s wild ride to Troy and the state semifinals.

“It means a lot,” she said. “It’s my last year. I just feel like I should go all out and do my best.”

Trent’s overcome a myriad of injuries in her career and even Thursday was briefly hobbled after falling on her knee awkwardly in the first quarter. She came out of the game for a quick rest before heading back onto the court.

“I kind of ignored it,” she said. “It’s always something.”

Spinella said he’s proud of the way Trent has persevered.

“She’s just such a hard-working kid,” he said. “And she fought through a lot of stuff. To see her out there doing what she’s doing, I’m so proud of her.”

Trent and Allen were nearly unstoppable early in the game. Trent hit a pair of early 3-pointers and Allen was electric in transition getting to the hoop for buckets. Trent outscored the Thunderbirds by herself, 15-14, in the first half.

The Blue Waves’ defense was superb throughout closing out on the Thunderbird’s shooters. Hills East came into the game averaging 5.3 three’s per game. In their last eight games the Thundbirds had connected on at least six per game.

The Blue Waves limited them to four three’s, two of which came in the fourth quarter with the game already in hand for Riverhead.

“We played fantastic defense,” Spinella said. “We were blocking out, we were rebounding. Every time they caught the ball we were right on them. We were forcing extra passes.”

When the Thunderbirds (11-7) did get a shot, they couldn’t buy a bucket. They misfired on 11 straight shots to start the game and shot 3-for-30 (10 percent) in the first half.

The Blue Waves played man-to-man defense and were aggressive in switching on picks to not allow a shooter to get free.

The Thunderbirds were without leading scorer Ashley Walker, who’s normally the only senior in the starting lineup. She was out with the flu, Spinella said. Walker averaged 12.1 points per game for Hills East this season.

Junior Julia Gneiser, who averages 11.5 points per game, scored 13 to lead the Thunderbirds.

While Allen and Trent carried the offensive load, the Blue Waves got some key contributions from a number of other players. Juniors Kyra Braunskill and Destiny McElroy provided a spark off the bench. Senior Jocelin Zaneski hit a pair of 3-pointers and freshman Sam Dunn was big on the boards.

“Kyra was after every loose ball,” Spinella said. “Any ball on the floor she went and got it. And Destiny’s doing a nice job now. She’s rebounding and playing defense.”

While the Blue Waves have continued to get better this season as a young core gels with the seniors, they entered the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. Spinella said they hadn’t lost three in a row since 2004.

“We knew that at home we wanted to get out here and hold court,” he said.

And now they’ll take to the road, where an old nemesis awaits. Sachem East knocked the Blue Waves out of the playoffs most recently in 2011.

“We’ll try to pull the sword from the stone and get after them,” Spinella said. “There just always out there, looming.”

joew@timesreview.com

01/24/13 10:24pm
01/24/2013 10:24 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO  |  Riverhead senior Naysha Trent scored 16 points against East Islip Thursday night.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Naysha Trent scored 16 points against East Islip Thursday night.

BLUE WAVES 49, REDMEN 38

A main focus for the Riverhead girls basketball team heading into Thursday night’s game against East Islip centered on limiting their fouls. When the teams met earlier in the season — one of only two Riverhead league losses — multiple players fouled out for the Blue Waves.

That included leading scorer Shanice Allen, who was sent to the bench with her fifth foul early in the fourth quarter.

So on Thursday night at Riverhead High School, Allen had her mind set on staying out foul trouble. It didn’t quite start off as she planned, when only 1 minute, 24 seconds into the game, she picked up her second foul on a reach-in.

“Here we go again,” said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella. “We’re a different team than we were then, though. I felt a little better knowing we can put people on the floor that’ll handle what we need to handle.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO  |  Riverhead freshman Dezare Brown goes up for a shot.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead freshman Dezarae Brown goes up for a shot.

The Blue Waves weathered Allen’s early foul trouble, and she bounced back to score 14 points and help lead the Blue Waves to a big 49-38 League III victory.

It was a special night on several fronts. The Blue Waves furthered their case for a top-eight seed and home playoff game. And they also raised $730 as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser, which included a halftime half-court shot contest for fans (only one person sank a shot).

On the court, it was a “revenge” game for the Blue Waves.

“We had to come take care of business on our home court,” Allen said.

Allen did her part by scoring six of the final eight points for Riverhead as the Blue Waves closed the game on an 8-0 run after East Islip got within three points with 5:15 left.

The Blue Waves (9-5, 8-2 League III) held the Redmen scoreless over that final 5:15 and gave up only four points in the fourth quarter.

“We had to lock up their shooters,” Allen said. “We know that was their key to try to come back.”

Spinella said picking up East Islip man-to-man in the full court helped fuel the defense in the fourth.

“For a team like East Islip, they love to run their offense,” he said. “They want to run their sets and get their shots. But if you force them to pick their offense up in the 3/4 court, now they’re trying to run their offense out here.”

The Blue Waves got a game-high 16 points from senior Naysha Trent. She got the Blue Waves going in the third quarter after East Islip started on an 8-0 run to take a 29-27 lead. The quick start for the Redmen (9-5, 6-4 League III) came after Riverhead had closed out the the second quarter on a 10-0 run.

Trent banked in a runner in the lane with 4:10 left in the third to tie the game at 29. It sparked a 12-2 run to swing the momentum back in Riverhead’s favor. The Blue Waves never relinquished the lead once they got it back in the third.

“Everything with us is running the floor,” Spinella said. “Once we’re able to transition into offense, that’s when we get it and make our spurts and runs.”

Freshman forwards Dezarae Brown and Sam Dunn were both key down low for Riverhead. Brown scored eight points and Dunn added six. Life in the paint was a little easier for the Blue Waves in this game as the Redmen were without center Katie Walsh, who suffered an ACL injury earlier this season.

Spinella said Brown has been a key player for Riverhead in multiple areas.

“She’s now pointing up our zone press and she does a good job with that,” he said. “She’s been running the floor like a gazelle. She rebounds the ball.”

Brown converted a steal into fastbreak layup midway through the third to give the Blue Waves a 31-29 lead. Allen followed with a steal and fastbreak hoop of her own.

Before the game the Blue Waves honored assistant coach Katelynn DeLuca, who is head coach of the middle school team. A 2006 Riverhead graduate, DeLuca discovered she had cancer after her senior season ended at Riverhead, Spinella told the crowd before the game. DeLuca fought through the adversity, attended Suffolk Community College before transferring to Stony Brook., where she completed her undergraduate and master’s degree. DeLuca now works as a substitute teacher and recovered from her illness.

joew@timesreview.com

01/10/13 8:15pm
01/10/2013 8:15 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Naysha Trent scored a season-high 22 points against Smithtown West Thursday.

BLUE WAVES 60, BULLS 54

The postgame comments from Riverhead coach Dave Spinella Thursday night were the kind of thoughts usually reserved for losses.

“It was a perfect storm tonight,” Spinella said. “We did not box out, we gave them too many second shots, we turned the ball over, made mental mistakes and we didn’t close out at the foul line.”

And yet, the scoreboard after 32 minutes read Riverhead 60, Smithtown West 54.

“We still got out of here with a win, so we’ll take it,” Spinella said.

The Blue Waves could take it as an encouraging sign that on a night where so many things went wrong, they still found a way to get the all-important victory. The ebbs and flows are to be expected for a team that features a practically brand-new lineup from last year and includes a pair of a freshmen. But when the game’s on the line, the Blue Waves know there are always two familiar names to turn to: Shanice Allen and Naysha Trent.

The senior duo carried the Blue Waves with a combined 39 points along with several key plays to set up teammates for buckets.

The Bulls (3-3 League III, 3-7 overall) fought back from an 11-point hole beginning late in the third quarter. Allen (17 points) dished off to freshman Dezrae Brown (10 points) for a lay-in after a steal to put Riverhead ahead 43-32 with under two minutes left in the third.

Just as it appeared the Blue Waves were about to pull away, the Bulls came roaring back to eventually tie the game at 49 just past the midway point of the fourth quarter.

Trent said the team had to focus on limiting turnovers down the stretch, playing tight defense and moving the ball around.

The Blue Waves got right to work on the latter part as the senior Jocelin Zaneski drained a huge 3-pointer with 3:20 left to regain the lead for Riverhead.

Brown followed with an offensive rebound that she put in plus a foul after Allen and junior Kyra Braunskill both missed under the hoop. While Brown missed the free throw, the ball bounced back out to her and she controlled the rebound. Allen got the ball at the top of the arc and swung a pass into the corner for Trent and she buried the long ball to make it a 57-49 game.

It took all of 42 seconds for the Blue Waves to run off eight straight points after Smithtown tied the game.

“I give credit, especially the young kids, they didn’t rattle when [Smithtown] came back and tied the game,” Spinella said. “Our seniors stepped up and hit three’s.”

Trent scored a season-high 22 and helped ice the game with a steal and layup with :49.8 left to make it an eight-point game. After missing all of last season as she recovered from an injury, she’s gradually gotten more and more comfortable on the court this season.

“I didn’t trust my body because of all my injuries,” she said. “But it’s my last year, so I don’t really care. Whatever breaks, breaks.”

The key for Spinella has been to find the right combination of players in games to go with Allen and Trent. Freshman Sam Dunn has a big role providing support down low.

“Tonight Dez and Kyra really helped us with the defensive side of the ball,” Spinella said. “[Kyra] causes havoc out there. She can get on a point guard and really make them work.”

Spinella recently called up sophomore Joanna Messina to the varsity and she saw minutes off the bench Thursday. In her second varsity game Tuesday against Smithtown East she scored 12 points.

“She’s such a hard worker and she picks things up quick,” Spinella said. “She’s a huge help. We’ll find more minutes for her.”

Seventh-grader Kim Ligon, who began the season as the starting point guard, didn’t see any action Thursday. Spinella’s eased back on some of her minutes to try not to put too much on her plate.

This season is a learning process for Ligon and Spinella said she’s been great at absorbing all the information.

“It’s just a little too fast for her right now,” he said. “She’s kind of like the backup quarterback with the headphones on. That’s her right now.”

At 5-1 in League III, the Blue Waves (6-4 overall) are in position to make another run at a league title after going undefeated last season. How they fare in their next game Tuesday against league-leading North Babylon will be crucial.

“That’s the big game,” Trent said. “I don’t care about anyone else.”

joew@timesreview.com

12/18/12 8:05pm
12/18/2012 8:05 PM

BLUE WAVES 57, LIONS 37

Riverhead senior Naysha Trent came charging up court on a fastbreak midway through the second quarter Tuesday against West Islip as teammate Shanice Allen trailed to her left. As Trent neared the basket and with a defender closing in, she whipped a behind-the-back pass to Allen, the recipient of an easy lay-in that brought the crowd to its feet.

After the game Riverhead coach Dave Spinella yelled over to Trent as she was heading out the gym: “I saw that pass coming a mile away. A mile away!”

Trent smiled back at her coach as did all the Blue Waves after a 57-37 victory at Riverhead High School. The Blue Waves improved to 2-0 in the early part of the league season, having already beaten Newfield in the opener.

The chemistry between Allen and Trent can be fun to watch and for the Blue Waves to succeed this season, they’ll need both players performing at a high level.

As the only returning player among Riverhead’s ‘Big Three’ from a year ago, Allen carries a heavy burden on the court. That often includes guarding the opposing team’s best player. And more often than not, having to be guarded by the opposing team’s best player.

Allen has proven she can score in her varsity career, reaching the 1,000-career point mark during the playoffs last season. Against West Islip Tuesday she led all scorers with 24, even on a rare off-night shooting from the outside.

To help ease the burden on Allen, Spinella said he prefers to have someone else run the point and orchestrate the offense. Much of that responsibility falls to Trent.

It’s a role Trent has rarely taken in the past, especially with Jalyn Brown running the show for so many years.

“It’s a different view from the top of the key than it is from the wing,” Spinella said. “She’s learning that.”

While Trent will undoubtedly be a key scorer for the Blue Waves, she showed how she can set up teammates as well. In the first quarter alone against the Lions (0-2 League III) she dished out four assists. The first two came in the opening minute. The Blue Waves scored seconds after the opening tip as Trent threw it ahead to Allen for a layin. Trent then forced a steal and tossed a long a pass ahead to Allen again for an easy two.

“I told [Trent] tonight I don’t care how many points you score,” Spinella said. “You’re running the show tonight. And we ran almost everything through Naysha. She did a fantastic job of embracing a role that she’s never had to play.”

Riverhead began the season with seventh-grader Kim Ligon at the point. But Spinella decided to scale back her role a bit and he brought her off the bench for the first time against the Lions to make it a little less overwhelming.

Ligon made her presence felt right away when she checked in with 1:21 left in the first quarter. On the Blue Waves’ first possession she set up senior Jocelin Zaneski for a 3-pointer. Zaneski finished with six points.

Early in the second quarter Ligon ran a textbook fastbreak, setting up Allen for a layup. As Ligon drove to the basket, she drew the defender, stopped and threw a bounce pass to Allen at the precise time.

“That was fundamentals, fundamentals,” Spinella said. “We preach it, because that’s ultimately what wins games.”

Spinella said they teach Ligon that whenever she’s on a fastbreak and panics, just look for No. 23. More often than not, Allen will be there.

With Ligon coming off the bench, Spinella went with a big lineup that featured freshman Dezrae Brown in the middle. Brown, who had plenty of fan support in the bleachers, gives the Blue Waves a big target down low. While her game is still raw as a freshman, Brown showed glimpses of how she can be a big part of the Blue Waves over the next several years.

She finished with 10 points and was big on the boards.

“She had two really good practices,” Spinella said. “We decide, let’s try to utilize her height.”

Brown started alongside freshman forward Sam Dunn (six points). The Blue Waves will rely heavily on their youth around the senior trio of Allen, Trent and Zaneski.

Spinella knows there will be ups and downs from the young group, but he expects they’ll be a lot of room to improve from now to the end of the season.

“I think our advantage is we’re going to grow up so much more than some of these other teams,” Spinella said.

Riverhead led by only four at the half against the Lions, but turned it on at the start of the third. A 12-2 run to begin the second half gave the Blue Waves a 36-22 lead. West Islip never got within single digits the rest of the way.

“Our goal is to be better tomorrow than we were today,” Spinella said.

joew@timesreview.com