Boys Basketball: Riverhead’s late rally falls short against Bulldogs

Riverhead's William Mitchell goes up for a shot against North Babylon's Tim Forbes. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Riverhead’s William Mitchell goes up for a shot against North Babylon’s Tim Forbes. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Perhaps no play in high school sports generates the kind of buzz and euphoria as a slam dunk in basketball. Sure, everyone’s likely seen it happen countless times in person. But it still can send a crowd into a frenzy. 

Early in the second quarter of Riverhead’s league game against North Babylon Tuesday, Bulldogs center Tim Forbes caught the ball in the post, spun around a defender and threw down a viscous one-handed slam. The North Babylon fans inside Riverhead High School erupted and even the Riverhead faithful had to admire.

“Any time you get a dunk, especially in high school, it gives you a nice little surge,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. “That brought their team to life. And we got deflated a little bit.”

Forbes’ dunk broke a 14-14 tie and started a 15-0 run that stretched over five minutes of the quarter. The Blue Waves didn’t connect on another field goal until 39 seconds remained in the half when Tyrese Kerr drained a 3-pointer.

North Babylon’s huge second quarter was enough to take down Riverhead, 65-56, and hand the Blue Waves their fifth straight loss.

“We’re battling,” Rossetti said. “They’re giving a great effort, not giving up and I’m proud of the way they played.”

Riverhead drops to 1-2 in League III before getting right back at it Thursday with another challenging game against Smithtown West on the road.

The Blue Waves trailed by 15 with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter after a Brandon Sobotker converted on a fastbreak, seemingly icing the game. But the Blue Waves came surging back, sparked by two quick baskets from Kerr, who scored a team-high 16 points.

“He’s been our rock,” Rossetti said.

Malik Washington drained a 3-pointer, followed by a nifty baseline spin and bucket from Steven Reid that brought the Blue Waves to within six at 1:32 left. Reid (7 points) was fouled on his basket, but missed the free throw, which was a common occurrence for all Riverhead’s players.

William Mitchell sent the the Riverhead fans into a frenzy of their own when he drove down the middle, right at Forbes, and knocked down a shot plus a foul. It was the fifth foul on Forbes, a double bonus for Riverhead as he was sent to the bench, and Mitchell (10 points) sank the free throw to make it 60-56.

“I think we increased our defensive intensity a little bit,” Rossetti said of his team’s comeback. “I told the guys, they didn’t give up and I’m proud of them for not giving up. The thing is, we can’t wait that long to turn it up.”

Four points was as close as Riverhead would get. North Babylon guard Zach Moore, who wreaked havoc all game, was fouled a few seconds after Mitchell’s three-point play. He hit the first and missed the second, but the Bulldogs controlled the rebound, which proved to be a critical turning point.

Moore scored a game-high 21 points and hit four 3-pointers, including an impressive step-back jumper from the corner in the second quarter that made it 28-14.

“Moore is a tough ballplayer,” Rossetti said. “He can knock down a shot and he can get to the rim. He’s a tough cover.”

The Bulldogs hit seven 3-pointers in the game.

Free throws were a killer for Riverhead, as has been the theme so far this season. The Blue Waves shot 9 of 24 from the line for 38 percent. Rossetti said that’s been about the average this season. The Bulldogs were 18 of 31 for 58 percent, not exactly stellar either.

Making more free throws and turning the ball over less are the two areas of improvement Rossetti hopes to see from his club when they get back to the court Thursday.

“If we can make that adjustment, I think we’re going to be successful,” he said.

The Blue Waves hope to get center Ethan Greenidge back for Thursday’s game. He sat out against North Babylon because he was recovering from bronchitis, Rossetti said.

Greenidge would have been helpful down low against Forbes.

“That hurts us,” Rossetti said.

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