Boys Basketball Preview: Up-tempo style key to Riverhead’s success

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead guard Ryan Bitzer can knock down the outside shots for the Blue Waves.

During one brief segment of a scrimmage against Mattituck Tuesday night, the Riverhead Blue Waves showed just what they’re capable of when the defense ignites the offense. Trailing by six points, the Blue Waves erupted for 14 unanswered, a run fueled by forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.

It’s that style of play the Blue Waves hope to employ all season. Without a lot of size to work with, the Blue Waves will rely on their quickness and speed. That means working hard on defense to create easy scoring chances.

“The way small teams make up for their lack of size is we try to put teams in position where they feel uncomfortable,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. “You have to press and trap and you’re going to get burned for a layup or two and you take the good with the bad.”

The Blue Waves (10-9 last year after falling in the Class AA first round) have a mostly new team compared to last year. And they’ll be without one player they were counting on for big minutes after sophomore Brandon Tolliver broke his wrist during a scrimmage Saturday. Rossetti said Tolliver will likely miss four to five weeks.

“Now we’re looking for guys to fill that void,” Rossetti said.

Jake Maccagli will be one player who will see an increased role in the absence of Tolliver. Maccagli is a returning varsity player.
The Blue Waves will rely on forward Tim Clement for a post presence. Rossetti said while Clement will be counted on for rebounding and defense down low, he knows the rest of the team will have to contribute around him.

“You can’t rely on one kid to get all the rebounds,” he said. “As a team we really have to make sure we secure the rebound before we get in transition. That’s going to be a key to our team.”

The Blue Waves have plenty of athletic guards. Ryan Bitzer, a quarterback in the fall, will be a key contributor who can bring the ball up court and knock down outside jumpers. Reggie Moore will be a key defensive player at guard. Quinn Funn is similar to Moore as a hustle player who excels in the up-tempo style.

Junior Markim Austin is in his first year on varsity and has shot well from the perimeter so far in the preseason.

The Blue Waves also got a boost from transfer student Jalen Shelby, who previously played at Greenport.

“We have another handful of kids whose roles are still yet to be determined,” Rossetti said. “It’s still early in the year so we’re still trying to figure that out. But the cloud is starting to lift.”

The Blue Waves have had a busy schedule in the preseason. They scrimmaged Saturday, Monday and Tuesday before getting back to practice Wednesday and Thursday. They scrimmage again Friday and Saturday before their non-league opener Tuesday at Eastport-South Manor.

Riverhead will play a challenging non-league schedule in preparation for league play. The Blue Waves play both Sachem North and East as well as Deer Park. As part of an annual tradition, they’ll play in the holiday tournament at St. Joseph’s College at the end of the month along with Bellport, Longwood and Center Moriches.

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