Falcons can fly. The ones from Deer Park are no different.
Height is often the center of attention in the basketball world while the quality of quickness sometimes goes underappreciated in the shadows. Some see that as an injustice.
“Quickness is always better than height,” said Naysha Trent, a sophomore guard for the Riverhead Blue Waves.
Riverhead, a quick team in its own right, learned firsthand just how quick Deer Park is on Saturday. Deer Park charged out to a fast start, host Riverhead fell into a 15-3 hole it could not emerge from, and the Falcons soared, 64-56, in the Peconic Classic East End-West End Challenge. Deer Park moved to 2-0 while Riverhead dropped to 0-2.
All four of the Peconic Classic’s games went in favor of western Suffolk County teams on Saturday. The Babylon Panthers (43-40 over the Mount Sinai Mustangs), the Walt Whitman Wildcats (44-36 over the William Floyd Colonials) and the Wyandanch Warriors (47-33 over the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats) all posted wins at Riverhead High School.
“The way we came out of the gate today was unbelievable,” said Deer Park Coach Mike Gennaro, whose team hit 9 of its first 12 field-goal attempts. “We came out running. We came out on fire.”
Deer Park had Riverhead on its heels at times. The Blue Waves never led or tied the score, although they did pull to within one point of Deer Park when a pair of free throws by Trent made it 24-23 with 3 minutes 25 seconds left in the first half. But then Deer Park pulled away again.
“It was the first quarter that messed us up,” said Trent.
Gennaro, who is in his 14th year coaching Deer Park, said this is probably the quickest team he has had. Deer Park is quick on the transition. After a rebound, it’s one pass, another pass and a layup. Just like that.
“Their team is fast,” said Riverhead point guard Jalyn Brown.
It’s one of the reasons why Deer Park has its hopes set on reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and winning the Suffolk County League IV championship. The Falcons hadn’t won a league title since 1978. A league crown is seen as a realistic possibility. Four of the team’s starters are in their fourth varsity season.
“We’re good,” said Deer Park guard Drea Desvignes, who struck for 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. “We’re not selfish. We have a lot of good shooters, so I can kick it out to anybody, and they can shoot it. And we crash the boards a lot.”
Plus, Deer Park has Kelsey Dillon back. That’s a big plus.
Dillon, a junior forward, broke her hand in the first game of last season and missed the remaining games.
“It kind of derailed us last year,” Gennaro said. “She makes a big difference. She cleans up the boards.”
Dillon did her part on Saturday, producing a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds while Felicia LaSorsa added nine points for the winners.
Deer Park suffered a blow on Dec. 7 when one of its top rebounders, Nicole Alvarez, a five-year varsity player, tore a meniscus in a game against the William Floyd Colonials. “We’ll find out this week how long she’s going to be out,” said Gennaro.
What helped keep Riverhead as close as it was was its 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range. Four of those threes came from Trent. She was Riverhead’s top scorer with a career-high 23 points. “I’m surprised myself,” said Trent.
But not Brown. Brown, who contributed 17 points and five assists, said of Trent: “She’s a shooter. If I pass her the ball, I know she’s going to shoot it. That’s all I’ve known her to be. I’ve known her since we were little kids, and all she wanted to do was shoot, and that’s all she did tonight.”
Another Riverheader, Shaniece Allen, was held to only two points, uncharacteristically low for her. But Allen also had nine rebounds, six assists, five steals and a blocked shot.
It was the quickness factor, though, that fell in Deer Park’s favor, along with a dash of depth.
“We’re deeper this year,” Gennaro said. “We have a lot of kids who can contribute. I’m using the bench a lot more than I’ve used in the past, and it’s great. It keeps the morale up of the team. Everyone’s contributing.”