Tears were bound to fall when the end came.
For an especially close team like the Riverhead High School girls basketball squad, saying goodbye to the season and to their two seniors, Sam Dunn and Dezarae Brown, was even tougher than playing a high-quality team like Commack.
Following Riverhead’s 73-51 loss at Commack in a Suffolk County Class AA Tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday, Dunn, choking with emotion, said: “These girls are literally my sisters, and regardless of basketball or not, they’ll always be my sisters, and for the rest of my life I’ll never forget the years we spent together. It’s hard but I know we’ll always have each other.”
A memorable season for the League III champion Blue Waves came to a crashing halt at the hands of a talented Commack team that last year won county and Long Island championships for the first time before reaching the state final four.
“It’s emotional,” Riverhead coach Dave Spinella said after a postgame team meeting. He added, “Like I told them, I said, ‘You can’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it happened.’ ”
Among the things that happened on Wednesday was Dunn becoming the fifth Riverhead player to score 1,000 career points. With her 21 points, the LIU Post-bound forward brought her four-season total to 1,016 points.
The game was halted briefly and the announcement was made after Dunn dropped in a first-quarter layup to put her on the 1,000-point mark. Riverhead’s coaches had not alerted Dunn beforehand that she was so close to the milestone, so it came as news to her.
Asked what 1,000 points means to her, Dunn answered: “I don’t know. I guess it just means I’ve been doing this for so long, forever, four seasons, and it was always my dream to get to a thousand and I didn’t know if I was going to make it and I did.”
Dunn turned in a typical performance, going all out, as is her style. She hit 7 of 9 field-goal attempts, including a three-pointer, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Hardest-working kid in show business,” said Spinella.
Dunn’s work ethic may be what she will be best remembered for during her time playing for Riverhead.
“God, I gave it everything I had for four years,” she said, “so I’m content knowing that I gave it my all.”
No. 2 seed Commack (18-1), with tremendous production from Jaclyn DelliSanti, took the lead at 6-4 and added to it from there. DelliSanti, a senior, put up 27 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and one assist. Another senior, Leanne Corso, hit four three-point shots and contributed 16 points to the cause.
Commack, the League I champion, will play No. 3 Kings Park (18-2) in a county semifinal on Sunday at Stony Brook University.
“The hardest thing in sports is to repeat, so we’re trying to do that again,” Commack coach Denis Conroy said. “It’s a hard thing to do, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Commack is the whole package. The Cougars can do it all, and that includes rebounding. They beat No. 7 Riverhead (16-4), a good rebounding team in its own right, on the boards, 33-22.
Known for its defense, Commack “actually gave up way more points than usual tonight,” Conroy said. “Part of that was because Sam had such a strong game.”
Faith Johnson-DeSilvia had 13 points for Riverhead.
The first signs of emotion on the Riverhead bench came when Brown made her exit with 2 minutes 4 seconds left to play.
“For me it was really difficult because I love these girls and I don’t know what I’m going to do without these girls,” said Brown.
Less than a minute later, Dunn hit a short shot for the final points of the game and her career. Then she was called to the bench and hugged by Spinella.
“Sam and Dez have been dreading this day,” Riverhead’s Kim Ligon said. “I’m pretty sure we all have been dreading this day.”
The Blue Waves have come far since a five-win season in 2013-14. Spinella declared this season “a complete success.” He said, “We did what we set out to do a couple of years ago and I could not be prouder.”
Photo caption: Sam Dunn, who became the fifth Riverhead player to score 1,000 career points, looks for shooting room against Commack’s Leanne Corso. (Credit: Garret Meade)