Ryan Bitzer knows he won’t finish every game as Riverhead’s leading scorer. But for as long as he’s got the hot hand, the junior point guard will enjoy the ride.
After scoring a team-high 19 in the Blue Waves’ season-opening loss at Eastport-South Manor, Bitzer poured in 22 Friday night to help lift Riverhead to a 71-60 non-league victory over Sachem North on the road.
“I’m not going to be like that all the time,” Bitzer said. “I have great teammates, a lot of good shooters and I know they’ll step up when they have to.”
Bitzer was the catalyst in a 9-0 run in the third quarter that helped Riverhead begin to pull away from the Flaming Arrows after a sluggish start left them trailing by nine in the first quarter.
Bitzer started the run by scoring off an offensive rebound, in which he was also fouled and converted the free throw. He then scored on a fastbreak off a nice feed from senior Jalen Shelby.
“Even if he scores, there’s got to be guys passing him the ball,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. “It’s a team game, so as much as it’s nice to see him score, on any night someone else can put 22 on the board.”
The Blue Waves’ defense was the driving force behind their comeback. By forcing turnovers the Blue Waves got out in transition and were able to convert some easy buckets. Scoring on the break got their offense rolling after the Waves opened the game connecting on two of their first 12 shots.
Bitzer said it was important for the Blue Waves to get off to a good start. And while they didn’t, they still made up for it.
“In that second quarter we really stepped it up, got a lot of turnovers and created some points and kept it up for the rest of the game,” he said.
The Blue Waves got better and better on offense as the game wore on. By the fourth quarter they were nearly lights out from the field. After missing their first shot of the quarter, the Blue Waves connected on their next six straight, including three from beyond the arc. They finished with 26 points in the quarter on 50 percent shooting.
“It was ugly in the beginning,” Rossetti said. “In the first half we had probably 14 turnovers, but we wore them down. In the second half they were missing more shots. We run like that all the time, so we’re used to it.”
The Flaming Arrows settled for the long ball in the second half rather than attacking the rim. Nine of their 11 field goal attempts in the third quarter were 3-pointers. They shot 10 more in the fourth quarter, hitting only two.
Sachem did a good job on the boards early in the game before the Blue Waves began asserting themselves. The Blue Waves didn’t need a turnover to get out on the break. They looked to run after a defensive rebound whenever the opportunity was there.
“We can score quick,” Rossetti said. “Especially when we secure rebounds. If we get a rebound, we’re out quick and any guy can fill a lane. Any guy can shoot the three.”
Riverhead senior Tim Clement was faced with guarding Sachem center Alex Galdamez, who is 6-foot-6. Rossetti said he liked what he saw from Clement, who had a strong game on the boards. They key for Clement, Rossetti said, is to avoid the silly fouls that force him to the bench.
“He was more aggressive offensively to the basket and not settling on jump shots,” Rossetti said. “That’s what we need out of him.”
Clement finished with nine points, as did junior Markin Austin. Senior Reggie Moore added eight.
Shelby was the only other Blue Wave in double figures with 10. He drained two 3-pointers, including a clutch shot from the left corner with 6:05 left in the fourth. The Flaming Arrows climbed within three points early in the fourth quarter when Austin hit a 3-pointer to double the lead. On the next possession Shelby swished his long ball to push the lead back to nine.
Riverhead led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter.
“We did a better job in the second half of working their man offense,” Rossetti said. “We saw a little tendency they had and we were switching the guy at the high post, which turned out to be successful.”
The Blue Waves shot 47 percent in the second half compared to 38 percent in the first half.
Junior Lou Ferrari led Sachem with 18 points. Junior Brendan Chetuck added 12.
The Blue Waves will face Sachem East Tuesday for their home opener.
“Hopefully we get a crowd there and we can put on a show,” Rossetti said.