Girls Basketball Preview: Riverhead’s first goal — get healthy

Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella goes over instructions with the Blue Waves at practice. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella goes over instructions with the Blue Waves at practice. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

From ankle to hamstring to foot injuries, the Riverhead girls basketball team has one mission at the start of the 2014-15 season: get healthy.

The Blue Waves, a team flush with young, talented players, has been struck with the injury bug to start the season. 

“When we get somebody back, someone else gets hurt,” said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella. “Right now we have yet to play with a full squad.”

If the injuries don’t prove to be problematic for much longer, the Blue Waves are hopeful the youth movement that started two years ago will pay dividends this season with a return to the Section XI playoffs. And if everything lines up, perhaps contend for the league title.

The good news for Riverhead is the team’s core is now all at least in high school. Kim Ligon, Faith Johnson-DeSilvia and Kate McCarney are all freshman. The three all played substantial minutes on the team last year as eighth-graders.

Johnson-DeSilvia and McCarney will handle the bulk of the ball-handling duties. And McCarney gives the team a scoring threat from the outside with her jumper.

Spinella said both players have continued to get better.

“Faith is committed on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “She’s our playmaker and Kate’s shot is even better than last year.”

The most experienced player among the returnees is junior Sam Dunn, who was an all-county forward last season. Dunn is one of the players dealing with injuries to start the season.

When Dunn is healthy, she gives the Blue Waves a huge presence on both ends of the court. She can score down low and has also improved her jump shot, Spinella said. The Blue Waves will look to Dunn to provide offense on a nightly basis.

Dezarae Brown, the Blue Waves’ tallest returning player, should provide a big boost down low when she’s healthy. Her volleyball season in the fall was shortened by injury and Spinella said she was limited at the start of basketball practices.

Seniors Joanna Messina and Amanda Baron will both provide depth for the Blue Waves. Messina is a guard/forward and Baron is a forward.

The Blue Waves will face a strong non-league schedule, starting Friday at home against Walt Whitman. They open the league season at Newfield Dec. 15. Spinella said Copiague and North Babylon figure to be the preseason favorites in the league.

“I think healthy and playing the way we’re capable playing, I don’t see why we won’t be there in the end,” he said.