Girls Basketball: Riverhead stuns North Babylon in playoff opener

The Riverhead girls basketball team just won’t take no for an answer.

Whether its playing a vital playoff game as the underdogs on the road or facing an eight-point deficit in fourth quarter, the Blue Waves have found ways of overcoming adversity this season. 

On Friday night, the 11th-seeded Blue Waves demonstrated just that, pulling off a stunning 57-53 triumph over No. 6 North Babylon in the first round of the Suffolk County Class AA basketball playoffs.

“I think it was funny of how no one expected us to win,” said senior Kim Ligon, whose foul shot gave Riverhead a 54-53 lead with 1:13 remaining that it never relinquished. “No one expected us to pull it out. We knew it was going to be a battle, but we battled a little harder and got the win. We had had a lot of heart. We wanted it more than them and we showed that at the end.”

Riverhead (15-6) combined a tenacious defense and a stellar four-quarter showcase by senior point guard Faith Johnson-DeSilvia, who scored 13 points in the final four minutes and 37 seconds to propel the Blue Waves into the quarterfinals.

“She’s the baddest girl on the planet,” Riverhead coach Kenny Coard said. “She’s man, man unbelievable.”

Johnson-DeSilvia (22 points) was battling against the unthinkable. “It was a very emotional victory,” she said. “Throughout the whole game we were all saying, ‘This can’t be our last game. We don’t want it to be our last game.’ Wo we just worked as hard as we could to get the victory.”

The fourth quarter turned into the Johnson-DeSilvia and Ligon show as they tallied all of the Blue Waves’ points in their 19-10 domination of the period, upending a 46-38 deficit.

Ligon, who scored six of her nine points in the quarter, dropped a three-pointer to pull Riverhead within 46-43 with 5:40 left.

Then Johnson-DeSilvia took over, continually driving to the basket and getting fouled. That was in marked contrast in which she scored six points.

“I knew Faith could do it,” said guard Kate McCarney, who scored 14 points. “I was waiting for her to step up because that’s the type of player she is. She always does that. If she wants to win a game she’ll win it. She knows how to win.”

Asked what changed for her, Johnson-DeSilvia replied: “Nothing. Coach told me to keep attacking. It was going to fall eventually. Just keep going. No matter if I made it or missed, I was going to try to keep going.”

Johnson-DeSilvia converted a steal into a basket and added a foul shot to knot things up at 53-all with 1:38 remaining before Ligon sank one of two free throws to give Riverhead the lead for good.

The Blue Waves, who chased the Lady Bulldogs (17-4) for most of the game, led only twice — for the opening 48 seconds behind McCarney’s trey and that final 1:13.

“That’s when it counts, baby, at the end,” Coard said. “I don’t think anybody really believed what we’ve been able to accomplish this year. I think the only ones who believed in us were the girls in this locker room. They battled, they scratched, they clawed and they grinded it out to get this W.”

The Blue Waves were fortunate to enter the locker room with a 32-29 halftime deficit. North Babylon senior forward Rainna Brown (25 points) ruled the inside game with easy layups and rebounds, scoring 13 of her 25 points. Riverhead didn’t help its cause, failing to sink any of its 10 fouls shots in the second quarter.

In the second half, Riverhead stepped up its defense, forcing 16 turnovers, turning several into baskets.

“It’s all mental,” Ligon said. “I know we’re physically capable of doing things. We’re a defensive team. We might have been playing down to their level. We hadn’t played this team. Once we realized that we were more than capable, we were more than ready to go.”

The Blue Waves will play the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 3 Northport and No. 14 Brentwood Tuesday.

“We’re going to have an even tougher one next round,” Johnson-DeSilvia said.