Riverhead takes unbeaten North Babylon to double OT, but falls short

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Naysha Trent of Riverhead, shown being defended by North Babylon's Casey Filippone, brought her side 10 points.

It’s going to take a lot to beat the North Babylon High School girls basketball team this season. Some might be tempted to say it will take a complete performance for four quarters, but then again, the Bulldogs were extended beyond that by the Riverhead Blue Waves on Saturday, and yet that still wasn’t enough.

North Babylon survived a furious challenge by Riverhead to maintain its unbeaten record and give a major boost to its bid for an eighth straight league championship. With six players (three from each side) fouling out, North Babylon prevailed in a double-overtime thriller, 78-68, at Riverhead High School, bumping up its record to 12-0, 9-0 in Suffolk County League III. The Bulldogs made 7 of 8 free throws in the second overtime period, when they outscored Riverhead, 13-3, with six of those points coming from Charise Wilson. Wilson, a freshman guard, finished with a game-high 27 points.

Earlier in the game, both teams came within seconds of winning. A last-second layup by Brianna Jones tied the score at 55-55 for North Babylon as the fourth quarter ended, forcing overtime. Then, after Riverhead fell behind by as many as six points in the first overtime, it forced a second additional four-minute period thanks to a clutch three-point shot by Jalyn Brown that made it 65-65 with eight seconds left in the period. Before the first overtime ended, Wilson chucked a desperate attempt that ricochetted off the top of the backboard.

“Wow, incredible, unbelievable,” were the words North Babylon Coach Debbie Brajevich used to describe what transpired.

“It was the most exciting game of my life, I got to say,” Brown said after the 40-minute game was over. “I have to give it to North Bab. They pulled it out in the end.”

North Babylon got superb production from young players like Wilson and another freshman, Tamara Simpson, who collected 12 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals, six assists and one block. Mary Chisholm and Casey Fillippone added 11 points apiece. Chisholm, a force under the boards, was also good for 14 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal.

Riverhead, which saw a five-game winning streak come to an end, dropped to 9-4, 7-2. The Blue Waves were led by Brown’s 24 points. Kayla Nazario registered 20 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, one assist and a block. Shaniece Allen chipped in 11 points and Naysha Trent had 10.

The game developed into a battle of attrition as players started fouling out late in the fourth quarter. North Babylon lost the services of Chisholm, Brittany Hicks and Jones; Riverhead said goodbye to Trent, Nazario and Allen after they all picked up their fifth personal foul.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown's 24 points led Riverhead in a double-overtime loss to undefeated North Babylon.

Riverhead came out firing, scoring the game’s first 12 points. North Babylon didn’t get on the scoreboard until Sydney Zambrotta hit a 10-footer 5:34 into the game.

But North Babylon whittled away at Riverhead’s lead and went in front for the first time when a putback by Chisholm made it 43-42 with 5:23 to go in the fourth quarter. Second chances helped North Babylon, which had a 27-12 advantage in offensive rebounds. It didn’t hurt North Babylon’s cause, either, that Riverhead shot 1 of 6 from the foul line and 1 of 9 from the field in the second overtime.

“Double overtime is always incredible, and with eighth- and ninth-graders leading the way, it’s amazing,” Brajevich said. “They’re not supposed to win games like that, but they do. These guys are unique.”

Wilson said: “Anybody could have won that game. It was a great experience.”

It was not necessarily a great experience for the Blue Waves, though.

“This is probably the most disappointing loss of my career,” said Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella.

Spinella then referred to the five-point loss in North Babylon on Jan. 4 that slipped through his team’s grasp and the impact this latest loss has on the league title race. “After you’ve played so well and you’ve played so hard, it’s disappointing, it’s gut-wrenching,” he said. “We could have been split and had a chance for the league title and we don’t have that chance now. North Babylon is not going to lose again.”

The Blue Waves can tell you, it will take a supreme effort to beat North Babylon.

“You got to almost be perfect,” Spinella said. “Tonight we were just short.”

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