BLUE WAVES 56, LIONS 49
Sam Dunn swung a pass to her right to Faith Johnson-DeSilvia as the final seconds of the third quarter wound down. As Johnson-DeSilvia clasped the ball, only one option remained.
“Just chucked it up,” Riverhead’s freshman guard said.
Johnson-DeSilvia drained the right-side 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer, giving the Blue Waves some much needed momentum going into the final quarter against West Islip Saturday afternoon at Riverhead High School.
“I didn’t think it was going to go in,” Johnson-DeSilvia said.
Her long trey put an end to a 12-2 West Islip run that saw the Lions climb back and tie the game at 29 after Riverhead had led the entire way. But after a rough third quarter, the Blue Waves turned it on in the fourth to earn a 56-49 League III win.
The victory improved Riverhead’s record to 5-1 in league and the Blue Waves are now two wins away from clinching a playoff spot.
For a young team that starts three freshmen, Saturday’s win exemplified the kind of strides the team has made. When the Lions made a run, the Blue Waves didn’t back down.
“These are games that we lose last year,” said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella. “We’ve grown so much and they’re finding ways to win.”
Junior Sam Dunn led the Blue Waves with 21 points and Johnson-DeSilvia added 11. They were the only two Riverhead players in double figures.
Riverhead (6-4 overall) led by as many as 12 in the first half. West Islip (3-4 League III, 4-7 overall) came back to tie it twice, but never got the lead. Two free throws from Dunn early in the fourth gave the Blue Waves the lead for good. A 3-pointer from freshman Kate McCarney capped a 10-2 run for Riverhead to open the fourth quarter and extended the Blue Waves’ lead to 42-34.
“When it comes to a game like this, when they’re scoring on us we just have to settle down and run our offense and not force anything when we have a decent lead,” Johnson-DeSilvia said.
The fourth quarter became mostly a free throw shooting contest. The teams combined for 27 shots from the foul line in the fourth quarter alone. Riverhead shot 16 of 26 (62 percent) for the game from the free-throw line. Dunn got to the line 13 times and connected on nine.
When the Blue Waves were struggling in the third quarter, Spinella reminded his team to get back to the free-throw line.
“We had a couple open shots that we were missing and I think the ball was just in and out,” Spinella said. “I figured eventually they’d start dropping. And I just told the girls, let’s get back to the foul line, get a couple points that way and we should be all right.”
The Blue Waves have now played every team in the league at least once except for Centereach. Because of a change in schedule, the Blue Waves won’t face Centereach for the first time until Jan. 26.
The Blue Waves’ only league loss so far came Tuesday against Copiague, the undefeated league leader.
Rachel Hunter led West Islip Saturday with 17 points. Most of her damage came in the fourth quarter. She scored 11 of her 17 in the final quarter, six of which came from the line.
“Our defense did a good job,” Spinella said. “We grinded down. Hunter’s a great player, an all-county kid.”
Saturday’s game was a rare weekend matinee. Teams usually don’t play league games on a weekend. Spinella said his teams have traditionally struggled in afternoon games.
“It’s very different from a weeknight game,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard waking up on a Saturday morning,” Johnson-DeSilvia added.
After getting the win, the Blue Waves will sleep well tonight.