It will be a White Christmas, after all.
In Bellport, at least.
White, of course, is Jarell White, the strong forward for the Bellport High School boys basketball team.
Before Saturday’s non-league game, White politely greeted Riverhead coach John Rossetti. Shortly after, White turned in a tremendous performance along with teammate Kyleim Robinson — the two combined for 69 points! — to beat Rossetti’s Blue Waves, 86-74, in a pre-Christmas Eve matinee before a standing-room-only crowd in Bellport.
By the time all the damage had been done, White had 37 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block next to his name.
“He’s a man playing a boys game right now, which is tough,” said Rossetti.
Last season White made the All-State fifth team as a sophomore. It was easy to see why as he powered through the lane for baskets and muscled his way for rebounds.
“You see how he rebounds,” Rossetti said. “He goes out and gets the ball.”
Not that it was a one-player show for Bellport (7-0, 2-0 Suffolk County League IV) because Robinson’s play wasn’t shabby, either. The senior forward drained six three-pointers as part of his 32-point game. He also had eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.
But it was White who kept Bellport in the game in the early going when Riverhead (4-3, 1-0 League II) came out firing, shooting 7-for-9 for an 18-9 lead. White was responsible for 11 of Bellport’s first 13 points.
“Tough to stop,” Riverhead guard Cristian Pace said of White.
White had 22 points by halftime (when Bellport held a 40-39 edge), nine in the third quarter and six in the fourth.
“In the beginning of the game, when Riverhead came out to the big lead, he really kept us in it,” Bellport assistant coach Kai Watkins said. “Bellport-Riverhead is always a good game so I knew he wanted to show up.”
One might say it made for a nice early Christmas present for Bellport, not that it was gift to the Clippers. They had to work for it.
The teams battled back and forth most of the way, with Riverhead receiving 20 points from Quashiem Miller and 18 from Pace, who also had eight assists. Cir’rus Davender netted 14 points.
“I thought we played really good,” Pace said. “We started off really hot. The second half we cooled down a little, but we just got to keep fighting.”
Pace grabbed a defensive rebound, raced up the court and pulled up for one of his three treys to knot the score at 57-57. A pair of White free throws (he shot 15-for-22 from the foul line), however, snapped that tie with 1 minute, 54 seconds left in the third quarter. Bellport led from that point on, twice leading by as many as 12 points, the final margin.
Riverhead shot a handsome 50.8 percent from the field, but committed 21 turnovers (10 more than Bellport). A disparity was seen in free throws, too, with Bellport going 22-for-38 from the line and Riverhead 6-for-11.
“I’m very proud of the way our team played,” Rossetti said. “We played an excellent team tooth and nail the whole game.”
“I think the team played a good game, you know what I mean?” he continued. “You can’t complain about it if the kids are playing like that, you know what I mean? They’re coming together as a team. They’re working hard at practice and they’re reaping the rewards of hard work.”
Photo caption: The Riverhead Blue Waves pump themselves up before taking the court at Bellport High School. (Credit: Bob Liepa)