Riverhead closes regular season, hopes for home playoff game

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown of Riverhead split East Islip's Jackie Nicifiro, left, and Elizabeth Hand to hoist a shot.

So, what is Senior Night like without any seniors?

The Riverhead High School girls basketball team would likely tell you it isn’t bad at all. That is because of what the Blue Waves did on Tuesday night, the final night of the regular season.

Normally, it would have been Senior Night, but not this year. No pregame ceremony was necessary. No speeches had to be given. No flowers needed to be handed out to graduating players because there aren’t any. The Blue Waves do not have a single senior among them.

“It saved me some money,” quipped Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella.

It has been this way for the Blue Waves before. Every other year since 2007, the team has not had any seniors.

That doesn’t seem to have hampered this season’s squad, which is headed to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. Spinella said his team might have earned itself a home playoff game with its 49-30 defeat of the East Islip Redmen on Tuesday at Riverhead High School. Riverhead will have a Suffolk County Class AA Tournament game on Monday. It will learn who its opponent will be when the playoff brackets are released on Thursday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Naysha Trent is a sophomore on a playoff-bound Riverhead team that has no seniors.

“We’ll be ready,” said Spinella, who used crutches to move around after spraining his ankle while playing basketball over the weekend. “It’s like any other game. You just got to prepare. We’ll find out who it is, we’ll get the scoop on them, and then we’ll prepare for them. But we got to do what we do. We can’t worry about preparing for other teams. Other teams have to prepare for us, too.”

And that takes a lot, as the Redmen will attest.

Riverhead will bring a 13-5 record into the playoffs. The Blue Waves were 11-3 in League III, good enough for second place. (“We really thought that we should have won the league, but things happen,” said sophomore guard Shaniece Allen.)

But they will take more than that into the postseason. They also feature athleticism, speed and a hectoring defense that can give a team fits.

It is that defense that Spinella cited, without a second of hesitation, when asked what makes his team special. “When we’re on, we’re very tough to score on,” he said.

On Tuesday night the Blue Waves were on. They shot out to a 10-2 lead and were hardly troubled as they coasted to the win. East Islip (5-11, 5-9) did not reach double figures until a three-point shot from the corner by Paige Meehan 1 minute 9 seconds into the third quarter made the score 25-11.

“It’s our athleticism and our talent put together,” said Allen.

That proved to be too much for East Islip to handle. The Redmen were held to 26.5-percent shooting from the field and were outrebounded by 41-26.

Jalyn Brown recorded 15 points and five assists while Allen added 12 points for Riverhead. Ten of Allen’s points came in the first half. Melodee Riley grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points.

East Islip received seven points apiece from Laura Hill and Meehan.

After the game, East Islip Coach Mike Petre high-fived his players, whose season came to an end. The Redmen will not be in the playoffs, falling two wins short.

“I wish we had a little more time together to iron out some of the kinks,” he said. “We had trouble all year putting the ball in the basket.”

Petre noted that Riverhead is a strong team.

“The main thing is they have multiple ballhandlers,” he said. “So, no matter what kind of defense you run or what pressure [you put on them], their second, third and fourth ballhandlers are good. And they also have some shooters who can space the floor, and they have some live legs to keep some balls alive, and they’re active.”

In addition to standouts like Allen, Brown and Riley, Riverhead also has the welcomed addition of Kayla Nazario, a transfer from Virginia who Spinella said can play inside or outside.

“We’re young, but we learn every day,” said Riley.

While the Blue Waves are looking to advance past the first round for the first time in three years, they have to feel good that their players will be together for a while.

“Every single one of them comes back” next season, Spinella said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

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