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Girls Basketball: Riverhead falls after its shots don’t

After its shots stopped falling, Riverhead did.

Riverhead lost its shooting touch in the second half, and with it the Suffolk County Class AA girls basketball quarterfinal to visiting Brentwood Tuesday evening.
A look at the quarter-by-quarter numbers for Riverhead’s field-goal shooting tells the tale: 7-for-15 in the first quarter; 5-for-13 in the second. Then came the great dropoff: 1-for-13 in the third quarter and 1-for-14 in the fourth.

It added up to a 56-37 win by 14th-seeded Brentwood.

“Throughout the whole season the shots fell, just not tonight,” said Faith Johnson-DeSilvia, who played her final game for No. 11 Riverhead (15-7) along with fellow seniors Kim Ligon, Kate McCarney and Nia Johnson.

Ironically, Riverhead’s first-year coach, Kenny Coard, said the Blue Waves are a good shooting team. Having said that, he saw more problems than just that 25.5-percent shooting rate.

“There’s going to be days when the shots don’t fall,” he said. “It happens, but our defense has always got to be there. We needed to step it up defensively. I think the other team did step it up defensively. Defensively, we should have done a better job.”

As it is, Brentwood (13-9) is the team that will move on to face No. 2 Half Hollow Hills East (20-2) in a semifinal Saturday at Suffolk County Community College in Selden.

The disappointment that Riverhead will not be in that game was seen on the reddened, tear-stained faces of some of the Blue Waves exiting the postgame team meeting.

“We wanted to go further, but sometimes things just don’t happen that way,” Johnson-DeSilvia said. “I’m sad that it’s over.”

Both teams pulled off first-round upsets (Brentwood against No. 3 Northport and Riverhead against No. 6 North Babylon) and both teams took four-game win streaks into the game.

But Brentwood’s Ty Zhea Hawkins reached her season average, scoring a game-high 24 points. Ashley Richards contributed 12 points and 10 assists while Talia Drakeford added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Johnson-DeSilvia was held to 12 points, six under her average, to go with five assists. Ligon had 11 points and McCarney 10.

After the teams traded leads during a tightly played first quarter, Riverhead opened the second quarter with Johnson-DeSilvia drilling a three-pointer. That ignited a 12-4 run — eight of those points coming from Johnson-DeSilvia — for a 26-18 Riverhead advantage.

Hawkins and Richards combined for Brentwood’s first 20 points. Tyleah Brown scored five points in the final 4 minutes, 10 seconds of the half to pull Brentwood within 30-26.

But Riverhead was having trouble getting defensive rebounds. Brentwood held a 22-13 advantage in offensive rebounds.

That also played a part in Riverhead’s second-half collapse when momentum shifted suddenly and dramatically in Brentwood’s favor.

“You learn from things like this, and we can look back and say that we gave it our all, that we played with heart all 32 minutes, but our shots just didn’t fall,” Ligon said. “You have to give them credit where credit is due, but it’s so hard to swallow.”

So ends a tremendous season — and career — for Johnson-DeSilvia, who Coard called the most underappreciated player on Long Island. “She is without a doubt one of the top players on Long Island,” he said. “Her heart is bigger than she is. She can shoot it from the outside, mid-range, go to the hole. She plays defense with intensity. She does it all.”

The season was not without its challenges for Riverhead. “We had injuries and sicknesses and all that fun stuff throughout the season, but we always bounced back,” Ligon said. “No matter what was thrown at us, we bounced back. Lots of things were thrown at us, but we would just brush them off and keep moving forward.”

Until an untimely cold spell put an end to it all.

“Last year they were 7 and 12 and didn’t make the playoffs,” Coard said. “This year they more than doubled their output in terms of wins and we made the playoffs. I think they achieved everyone’s expectations. You know, I’m proud of them.”

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Photo caption: Riverhead senior guard Kate McCarney attempting a shot during her team’s loss to Brentwood. (Credit: Garret Meade)