Longwood too strong for Riverhead in playoff opener

Paris Parks had already drained one buzzer-beater this season from beyond the arc, a trey at the end of the second quarter against William Floyd Jan. 20 in what was a three-point Longwood win.

Against Riverhead Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Class AA playoffs, Parks added a second buzzer-beater to his resume this season with an added twist. He rattled this one in from half-court.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Riverhead sophomore Ryan Bitzer scored eight points for the Blue Waves Saturday.
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Ryan Bitzer scored eight points for the Blue Waves Saturday.

“I threw it up then I was just watching it,” Parks said.

The ball hit inside the rim, looking as if it was going to bounce out, before rattling around and finally settling in and falling through the net. The 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter was a symbolic end to a dominant period for the Lions as they rolled to an 81-54 victory at Longwood High School.

Parks’ 3-pointer capped a 16-0 run for Longwood to end the third quarter as they turned a 13-point halftime lead into a rout. The Lions put together the kind of complete performance from start to finish that went to show why they entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Longwood (17-2) led by as many as 35 in the fourth quarter and will now advance to the quarterfinals Thursday against the winner of East Islip and Bay Shore.

In the Lions’ regular season finale against William Floyd, a game that determined the league champion, the Lions outscored the Colonials 23-8 in the third quarter. They put together a similar performance against the No. 15 Blue Waves with a 25-7 third quarter.

“The third quarter is the most important quarter of the game,” said Longwood coach Pierce Hayes. “You have halftime, a chance to make adjustments, you got to make sure your kinds understand what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well. The team that wins the third quarter typically goes on to win the game.”

The Lions haven’t allowed a team to score double digits in the third quarter in their last four games.

Riverhead turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter while shooting 3-of-16 from the field. For the game the Blue Waves shot 29 percent while the Lions were at 49 percent. The Blue Waves shot 4-of-28 from beyond the arc and were 2-of-18 in the second half.

“At halftime coach talked to us and he said just keep the intensity up and we should come up away with the W,” said Parks, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and fives assists.

The Lions got a nice boost in the third quarter from Jo Jo Aiken, one of three sophomores on the team. Aiken scored eight of his 13 points in the quarter. He was fouled on the break with 3:52 left in the period and hit both free throws to spark the 16-0 run to close out the quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter Aiken scored a basket that doubled Longwood’s lead over Riverhead at 70-35. The Lions played most of the fourth quarter with their reserves, who didn’t make life any easier for the Blue Waves.

Riverhead came into the game having won its last four games. But after playing a close first quarter, in which they trailed 17-15, the Blue Waves were gradually wore down by the more athletic and deeper Lions.

“These kids have been working with me since the spring,” Hayes said. “We do some crazy stuff, flipping tires. It’s archaic but it builds a real sense of strength.”

The Blue Waves didn’t help themselves from the free-throw line. They finished the game 8-of-21 (38 percent).

Riverhead got a team-high 17 points from senior Ben Edmund. Senior Alex Sakhno added 10 points.

The 81 points was the most Riverhead had allowed in a game all season. Longwood beat the Blue Waves 73-58 Dec. 28.

Hayes said from having played the Blue Waves already this season, they knew they couldn’t sleep on them.

“We couldn’t underestimate their ability,” he said. “They have a good inside game as well as a terrific shooter in [Ryan] Bitzer. He shoots real well.”

Bitzer hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished the game with eight points. Blake Evans led the Lions with 17. Josh Taylor added 13 points off the bench with 11 rebounds. Taylor scored eight points in the second quarter as the Lions began to pull away. He scored in the post with 3:45 left to give Longwood its first double-digit lead at 31-21.

Riverhead ends the season with a 9-10 record.

The Lions are now 55-9 in their last three seasons. They’ve reached the county finals each of the past two seasons, losing in 2009 to North Babylon and to Hills West in 2010. Hills West is the No. 1 seed again this season.

One more win will put the Lions back into the semifinals at Stony Brook University.