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Boys Basketball: Riverhead faces daunting challenge in opener

Only 44 seconds into the Riverhead boys basketball season opener against Bellport Saturday, coach John Rossetti was forced to call a timeout.

The young Blues Waves experienced trouble in-bounding the ball against the Clippers’ press and Rossetti figured it was a good time for the hosts to keep their cool in the non-league game.

“We’re a young team and they pressed us really quickly,” he said. “I wanted to get them organized again. We don’t have that experience to use right now.”

That inexperience definitely was more than apparent in the 85-49 home loss at Riverhead High School.

The game turned out to be a difficult learning curve for the Blues Waves (8-11 last season) as the Clippers (13-5, 9-5 in Suffolk County League IV) dominated from start to finish.

The trio of Jarrel White, Teandre Rountree and Marcus Morning did most of the damage.

White, a bruising 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore forward, dominated the inside game with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Roundtree, a a junior guard, added 16 points and six assists. Morning, a senior guard, connected for all of his 15 points in the opening half, when Bellport cruised to a 46-24 advantage.

Rossetti was forced to start three sophomores, a junior and a senior as two seniors — forward Jake Ratzke and guard William Sanders — did not show up until midway through the second quarter because they had to take SATs Saturday morning.

“That was more important than a basketball game,” he said. “It’s even harder for them after taking an SAT test; 4 1/2 hours in a classroom and you’re mentally drained and you start being physical. But you know, there’s no excuses. they were the better ball club today.”

The game started optimistically for the Blue Waves as guard sophomore Christian Pace (team-high 12 points), making his varsity starting debut, sank two baskets to lift his team to a 4-3 edge with 6:50 remaining in the first quarter.

Then White, Morning and company went into action. The Clippers pulled away to 25-8 lead with 58.3 seconds left in the first period. Morning scored 10 points during that surge, White added six.

The Clippers never looked back.

“We had a bunch of newcomers who got an introduction to what varsity physicality is all about,” Rossetti said. “Let’s face it, the kid White from Bellport, he’s as tough as nail. He’s as strong as an ox. He’s tough to contain.”

Senior guard Keashuan Lamb added seven points for Riverhead and senior forward Richard Lucas had six.

The Blue Waves will host Bishop McGann-Mercy Monday at 4:30 p.m. They will host Half Hollow Hills East in their League II opener on Dec. 20.