Boys Basketball: Emotional night on final day of season

Daniel De Mato photo | Michael Hubbard, joined by his mother Nancy Reyer, was given a team jersey and autographed basketball by the Riverhead boys basketball team at halftime of Thursday’s game against West Islip.


As the crowd inside Riverhead High School rose to its feet, the smile on Michael Hubbard’s face couldn’t have been any wider.

In an emotional halftime ceremony Thursday night, Michael was recognized as an honorary member of the boys basketball team and presented with an autographed basketball and jersey. Three years ago Michael was fighting for his life, the victim of an unfortunate accident when a gel candle exploded. His long, arduous recovery continues to inspire the community, which once again rallied around him with a special night.

“Michael’s not only a story of courage and strength, he’s also a story of passion and commitment,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. “Look at the love his mom shows him on a daily basis.”

A newly formed basketball booster club organized the ceremony along with the team.

Michael’s mom, Nancy Reyer, fought back tears as she took the microphone to thank everyone’s support and also announce Michael’s latest accomplishment.

“Michael stood with someone just holding his arms,” she said.

Daniel De Mato photo | Riverhead’s Charles Manning attempts a dunk over West Islip’s Max McNicholas.

Michael sat with the Blue Waves during the first half of the game, a 55-46 Riverhead victory over West Islip.

In a season where not much went right for the Blue Waves, it was a memorable way to finish.

Riverhead honored its three seniors before the game: Brandon Tolliver, Deon Shorter and Jesse Patriss.

“They’re three of probably the most different seniors if you look at them as people,” Rossetti said.

The soft-spoken Tolliver played his final game as a Blue Wave after a four-year varsity career. He finished with 10 points.

“He’s been a great person to have on the team,” Rossetti said. “Besides basketball, in the classroom he’s an honor roll kid. It’s a nice example to set, especially with the younger kids we have on the team.”

Shorter shouldered a much greater responsibility on the court this season and was a consistent playmaker for the Blue Waves all season. He earned the nickname “Neon Deon.”

“He’s got a lot of show in his game,” Rossetti said. “He has the heart of a lion.”

Daniel De Mato photo | Deon Shorter was one of three Riverhead seniors honored before Thursday’s game.

Shorter added 11 points for the Blue Waves, who snapped a four-game losing streak.

Patriss, whose main sport is baseball in the spring, got the start against West Islip. Rossetti called Patriss the “ultimate teammate.”

“He’s a class act,” Rossetti said.

The Blue Waves did most of their damage in the second quarter against the Lions. In an electrifying three-minute stretch, the Blue Waves went on a 12-0 run, which was effectively the difference in the game.

Shorter dazzled the crowd with a nifty drive on a fastbreak with a behind-the back dribble before going up for a layup. Sophomore Charles Manning raced out on the break after a steal for another bucket seconds later to put the Blue Waves ahead 26- 12.

Manning led all scorers with 13 points. Ten different players scored for Riverhead as Rossetti allowed everyone on the team a chance to play in the final game of the season.

Riverhead closes the season 5-13 overall and 4-10 in League III.

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