With the start of the Suffolk County Class AA boys basketball playoffs barely a week away, this is not the best time to have your poorest performance of the season.
Yet, playoff-bound Riverhead did just that in a discouraging 75-56 loss to host Bay Shore in a League II game on Tuesday night.
The Blue Waves struggled. They handled the ball like a hot potato, allowing the Marauders to take control of the game in the second quarter. They endured an abysmal time at the foul line, squandering precious points.
And they missed some easy layups.
That added up to a 19-point spread, the largest margin of defeat of the season for the Blue Waves (10-9, 8-7), who had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“It’s a game. Things happen,” Riverhead coach John Rossetti said. “We’re dealing with kids who are 16, 17, 18 years old. Over the season we’ve played very good basketball. We’re due for a bad game and it just happened to be tonight. No big deal. We move on from it.”
Riverhead already had clinched a postseason berth while Bay Shore entered the encounter hungry. The Marauders (12-7, 8-7) needed a win to earn a spot.
“We needed to win to get in. We’re young,” said Marauders coach C.J. Leary, who started a freshman, sophomore, two juniors and a senior. “We missed the playoffs last year. We’re pretty much the same young group. So, it was important for us to get in this year and get a taste of it. League II has been ultra-competitive. So, we’ve grown up a little bit.”
Bay Shore improved its winning streak to a season-best three games.
“Tonight was probably the pinnacle,” Leary said. “It seems that every time we play really well we take a step backwards. The kids are buying in and they’re getting better. Right time of the year for that to happen.”
Rossetti wouldn’t allow the Riverhead News-Review to interview his players. He said they were upset and it would be better off if he handled it.
When asked about what good he could take from the game, Rossetti replied: “Right now I don’t know what those good things are. I’ll process it a little bit tonight. I’ll watch the film tonight. One thing I know is that we have to come out with some more intensity. We’ll talk about that a little bit more in practice.”
One thing the Blue Waves can work on is their foul shooting. They were a dismal 9-for-23 from the line, compared to the Marauders’ 7-for-8 shooting. Bay Shore’s marksmanship from three-point land was quite remarkable, sinking 10-of-21 attempts, compared to Riverhead’s 3-for-9.
But that was far from the tale of the tape.
Junior guard Albert Daniels (game-high 20 points), off a basket and a trey, had given the visitors a 5-0 lead only 1 minute, 40 seconds into the game. The Marauders, however, were an impressive 4-for-8 from three-point range with freshman Aaron Davis (13 points) canning two.
The Blue Waves knotted things up at 20-20 on Quashiem Miller’s rebound basket with 5:44 left in the second period, but lost concentration within a stunning 56-second span in which they had the ball stolen three times. Sophomore Malachi Coleman (team-high 16 points) led the charge with two steals for layups. Davis came up with the other steal and knocked down another three as Bay Shore enjoyed a 29-20 advantage with 4:17 remaining in the quarter.
Riverhead committed eight turnovers during that period.
“They gave us some serious pressure defensive pressure,” Rossetti said. “We had a lot of turnovers tonight, more so than we’ve had in a long time and that was the difference in the game.”
Trailing at the half, 33-28, Riverhead came out flat in the third quarter as Bay Shore rolled off nine consecutive points, a streak that was stopped by a Blue Waves time out with 6:16 left.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Rossetti said. “They came out with a game plan and they executed better than we did tonight.
“It got them in the playoffs. They had a big sense of urgency. We had a little bit of a letdown tonight, but there’s no excuse there.”
Riverhead’s Cristian Pace added 14 points and Miller had 12.
Before the playoffs begin on Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Blue Waves can get their act together, hosting league-leader Half Hollow Hills East on Thursday.
Rossetti said, “Right now we have to focus on Hill East and … then after that, start really thinking about the playoffs.”