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Girls Basketball: Riverhead turns game over

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Riverhead High School girls basketball team was in a giving mood Thursday.

Sometimes, however, it was the wrong type of giving that the Blue Waves had in mind, as in giving away the basketball.

Riverhead made more than enough turnovers — 26 to be exact — that added up to a 51-35 defeat at Bay Shore in Suffolk County League II action at Ralph Elliott Gymnasium.

Those turnovers, many unforced, stifled possession and zapped any momentum the Blue Waves had or were trying to create, whether it was an awry pass here, indecision there, an ill-advised pass into a crowd of players or an inbounds pass that did not make its mark. It can add up in a hurry.

“They’re a good team. They had athletes, they had shooters and they had big girls,” Riverhead coach Jackie Zilnicki said. “It wasn’t our game today. We still have to figure out ways to create an offense and our main thing is taking care of the basketball, limiting our turnovers. We still have to get better at that.”

There were other factors as well that made life difficult for the Blue Waves. Due to the turnovers and some superior offensive rebounding, the Marauders (3-3, 1-2) were able to double the number of field-goal attempts they had over the Blue Waves (2-5, 1-3) — 80 to 40. And since the shooting percentages were almost identical — Bay Shore was at 27.6 percent and Riverhead at 27.5 — that helped turn the tide in the Marauders’ favor.

And then there was Bay Shore’s twin 6-foot-1 towers at forward — Majegane Barry, whose 13 points tied her with guard Angie Fargas for a game-high total, and Daja Farmer (eight points). Together they ruled the boards.

“We played good, but I think we just all need to work together and use each other’s strengths and put them all together,” said forward Kristina Dunn, who led Riverhead with 12 points. “We need more dedication and just want it more.”

Riverhead never led, although it knotted things up at 5-5 on the first of Angie Graziano’s three treys with 3 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Barry sank a layup with 2:13 left in the period to give the hosts the lead for good.

After Bay Shore reeled off eight consecutive points to grab an 18-6 advantage with 5:35 remaining in the second quarter, Zilnicki called a timeout. That seemed to settle the Blue Waves down as they moved within 18-16 with 3:11 to go, thanks to eight of Graziano’s 11 points (two treys and a two-point bucket) and Dunn’s basket.

The Blue Waves continued to throw the ball away as Bay Shore went on an 8-3 burst to close out the half for a 26-19 lead.

Still within striking distance at the start of the second half, everything just about went south for Riverhead in the third quarter as it was outscored, 16-2, behind Barry’s seven points. The Blue Waves hit only one basket out of nine attempts — junior point guard Ishanti Gumbs’ 15-footer with 4:12 left — while committing eight turnovers.

“I think we should have kept our heads more up after halftime and worked more together,” Dunn said. “We couldn’t get out of it, especially on defense.”

Graziano said Bay Shore found a way to shut down Riverhead. “We played really well in the first two quarters,” she said. “At halftime they realized who did what and how to guard them and they started to lock us down a little bit better. Then we started to fall a little bit.”

Things started to compound themselves.

“We were just getting very frustrated,” Graziano said. “We were missing layups. We were fouling, having unnecessary fouls that we didn’t need. We were getting frustrated not only with ourselves but with each other. That never helps us, and we know that. It’s harder to settle down.”

Zilnicki was still optimistic the team can it around. After a closed scrimmage with Shoreham Wading River Friday, the Blue Waves will host Smithtown West in a league encounter on Wednesday.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” she said. “Last year we graduated three or four seniors so now it’s these new girls stepping up and still everyone figuring out and understanding one another on offense. We’re getting there. We’ve gotten there defensively, now it’s offensively. Bay Shore is really good. I give them a lot of credit today. They came out strong. The main thing is we’ve got to catch the ball.”