08/07/14 1:00pm
08/07/2014 1:00 PM
Riverhead guard Kate McCarney drives toward the basket against Deer Park Wednesday night. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead guard Kate McCarney drives toward the basket against Deer Park Wednesday night. (Credit: Garret Meade)

FALCONS 30, BLUE WAVES 26

More often than not, summer league basketball games wind up offensively challenged. Teams run few, if any, set plays. There are limited time-outs to make adjustments. Lineups are constantly shuffled.  (more…)

08/05/14 12:19am
08/05/2014 12:19 AM
Riverhead junior Sam Dunn, pictured in a game against Central Islip. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Riverhead junior Sam Dunn, pictured in a game against Central Islip, recently won a gold medal playing on a Suffolk County team in a tournament. (Credit: Bill Landon)

The members of the Riverhead girls basketball team are a good group, as their record indicates. They all bring their own individual talents and abilities to the table.

What does Sam Dunn offer?

Well, one doesn’t need to watch Dunn play for long to understand that she’s all about hustle and determination, admirable qualities, to be sure. (more…)

12/30/13 7:35pm
12/30/2013 7:35 PM

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.”

07/22/13 10:36pm
07/22/2013 10:36 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kim Ligon is a rarity on the Riverhead roster — a player with varsity experience from last season.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kim Ligon is a rarity on the Riverhead roster — a player with varsity experience from last season.

So, apparently there is life after Shanice Allen. Not only that, but it might not be a bad life.

The Riverhead girls basketball team lost a lot this past spring when its all-time leading scorer, Allen, left high school behind. She is headed to play for Pace University. In her wake, the Blue Waves have been left with only three players with prior varsity experience: Dezarae Brown, Sam Dunn and Kim Ligon. It would only be natural for one to expect a major rebuilding project for Riverhead. The thing is, coach Dave Spinella doesn’t consider this to be a rebuilding phase at all.

“I don’t think we’re rebuilding, I really don’t,” he said. “By the end of the next year we’ll be in the [League III] mix.”

He continued: “We refuse to take steps back. We’re going to keep going forward.”

Call Riverhead a mystery team. Well, at least a mystery for the rest of Suffolk County, which may be anticipating a big drop by the Blue Waves.

To that the Riverheaders might respond, “Not so fast.”

As it turns out, for all of their inexperience, the Blue Waves have not done badly in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. With their 23-21 loss to Smithtown East at Sachem East High School on Monday, their record evened out at 4-4. Riverhead’s only blowout loss was by 19 points to a strong Longwood team. Its other two losses were by 3 points each to Central Islip and Centereach.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Amanda Baron taking aim during Monday's game against Smithtown East.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead’s Amanda Baron taking aim during Monday’s game against Smithtown East.

Despite the fact that Riverhead has only one senior on its summer roster, Carolyn Carrera, the sense is that the team chemistry is coming along fine.

As for coming in under the radar, Dunn seems to like that. “I think everyone’s so used to hearing ‘Riverhead’ and the first thing that comes to their mind is Shanice,” the sophomore forward said. “I like the feeling that people aren’t expecting so much of us. No one really knows that we’re there.”

Riverhead may not have the big names it has had in the past (Tiffany Trent, Jalyn Brown, Melodee Riley, Allen), but it is stocked with young talent that is progressing.

“I think if we play the way that we’re capable of playing that we will surprise some teams,” said Ligon, an eighth-grade shooting guard.

Even in defeat they have shown signs of encouragement. Take Monday’s game, for example. Playing in the same gym in which they lost a Suffolk County Class AA quarterfinal to Sachem East this past winter, the Blue Waves showed tenacity. They twice trailed by as many as 9 points before pulling ahead, 20-18, when Carrera sank a big 3-point shot. Smithtown East (4-4) regained the lead at 23-20 before Dunn dropped a free throw for the final point with 36.1 seconds to go. Riverhead’s only attempt at the basket after that was a shot by Dunn that glanced off the glass and the rim.

Riverhead actually shot a higher percentage from the field, 36.4 to 26.1, and outrebounded Smithtown East by 19-7. But the Bulls went 10 for 18 from the foul line. Riverhead went 2 for 12 on free throws.

Dunn was Riverhead’s leading scorer with 7 points in addition to 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.

Spinella said the biggest adjustment newcomers to varsity basketball must make is the speed of the game. But Dunn mentioned another factor: nerves. “I remember I started last year as a freshman, and every time I got on the court, I was like shaking I was so nervous,” she recalled. “It’s more pressure for everyone.”

The new Riverhead has a decidedly different look, with an emphasis on team.

“It’s a total team effort, man, it really is,” Spinella said. “Any night it can be someone different. It’s great.”

Asked if there are going to be any surprises among the new players once the school season starts, Spinella replied, “Nobody knows these kids, so everybody is going to be a surprise.”

bliepa@timesreview.com