An attacking defense wins points, games for Riverhead

Tim Clement of Riverhead, shooting over Centereach’s Jesse Leverock, scored 12 points in his team’s 40-point win on Tuesday night.

Various words have been used to describe the Riverhead boys basketball team’s defense. The Blue Waves themselves have offered suggestions: tenacious, menacing, unforgiving, controlled chaos.

Frustrated opponents might have another word for it.

Riverhead’s long-term project of tightening up its defense is showing results. The Blue Waves have put up some impressive displays in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, pressuring opponents, creating turnovers and then scoring points off them.

“It’s like a new look this year,” senior guard Elwood Lamb III said. “We’re working together as a team, and we just want to play defense. That’s how we want to get our points this year.”

This summer Riverhead has defeated Bellport, Eastport/South Manor and Centereach by a combined 84 points. In their other two games, the Blue Waves lost by four points to Sachem East and by two points to Longwood.

The Blue Waves have made such notable strides since last summer that Coach John Rossetti said the difference has been like night and day.

Indeed, it seems, brighter days have arrived for Riverhead, which went 5-13 during the last school season.

“I’m glad they’re growing as a team,” Rossetti said. “From the beginning of the summer until now we’re a different team, and hopefully by the end of the summer we’re even better.”

The most striking aspect of Riverhead’s game is its aggressive defense, which makes good use of the team’s quickness and athleticism. In their most recent game, the Blue Waves tore through the Centereach Cougars, 63-23, on Tuesday night at Riverhead High School. Utilizing man-to-man and 2-3 scramble defenses, Riverhead (3-2) made 19 steals, caused 23 turnovers and held Centereach (2-3) to 30-percent shooting from the field.

Lamb struck for a game-high 29 points, Tim Clement scored 12 points and Rodney Rollins Jr. turned in a well-rounded game with 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals.

Riverhead also received good production from its big men in the paint. The 6-foot-5 Alex Sakhno (nine), the 6-0 Ben Edmund (nine) and the 6-3 Clement combined for 24 rebounds. Sakhno, an imposing presence, blocked five shots, including a pair of shots he swatted away in succession in the second half.

“We’re just using our ability to the best,” Lamb said. “One guy can be quick and penetrating and dishing. Another guy can be shooting and rebounding. We’re just using all of our talents.”

Two of Clements’ points came on the game’s second basket when, after making a steal, he slam dunked the ball with his right hand.

Riverhead asserted control from the start, jumping out to a 31-8 halftime lead with the aid of 15 first-half turnovers by Centereach. Centereach didn’t reach double figures until a basket by Austin Duncan 31 seconds into the second half made the score 31-10.

“We want to hit them hard and just end the game before it starts,” said Rollins.

The leading scorer for Centereach was Jesse Borek with seven points.

“Our defense creates good offense, and that’s how we win games,” said Sakhno, one of six Blue Waves who played for the varsity team this past school season.

“We’re playing good basketball right now,” Rossetti said. “Let’s see what the future holds, but right now things are pretty good.”

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