Editorial: What a ride it’s been for Riverhead hoops team

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | The Riverhead girls basketball team celebrates its county title Tuesday.

The road to a high school championship doesn’t necessarily start during tryouts and those grueling early season practices.

For these student athletes, it starts as soon as the previous season ends and continues throughout the year with every mile logged and with every candy bar avoided. Varsity sports — boys’ or girls’, basketball, soccer or volleyball — take dedication, perseverance and the ability to trust in one another, in your teammates. All these qualities have been publicly displayed throughout this season by the young women of the recently crowned Suffolk County Class AA basketball champions.

Congratulations to the members of the 2012 Riverhead Blue Waves girls’ basketball team, as well as to head coach Dave Spinella and his staff for their 60-52 win over the previously unbeaten Hauppauge Eagles Tuesday night in Farmingdale. And for an amazing season thus far, though it’s far from over. The team will compete for a Long Island and possibly a state title if it can keep its now 21-game winning streak alive.

No matter what happens against the Nassau County champs or upstate, the players on this special and historic team — only the second to win a Suffolk County title, and the first since 1984 — will walk away from this experience being better people, people who understand what it means to sacrifice for a common good. And what the glorious results can be.

You see, varsity athletes must rely on one another much like colleagues at a company. If one or two people aren’t doing their jobs correctly, the whole system falls apart. In the business world, someone’s career or earning power might be jeopardized. On the basketball court, big slip-ups can mean the season or, worse, serious injury.

Being part of a team doesn’t just mean always making the game-winning basket or being in the headlines. The players spend countless hours running drills in practice long into cold winter nights, while others of their age group could be getting into trouble or doing just about nothing. From the starting forward to those at the end of the bench, each member of this championship team has made her own invaluable contribution, on the court and in practice.

Years from now, they’ll remember 2012 as the first time they truly began to understand the value in being part of something special, something bigger than themselves as individuals. And we all appreciate having been along for the ride.