Ice T for three!
The basketball player they call Ice T was red-hot.
Te-Andre Pope could also have been called Mr. Three on Thursday night, and not just because that’s the uniform number he wears. The Riverhead High School senior guard had the game of his life, thrilling the home crowd by canning eight three-point shots and 28 points — both career-high figures — as the Blue Waves closed out the regular season by beating Lindenhurst, 89-72.
“It just felt great,” Pope said after the Senior Night game in which he and fellow seniors Jahquel Blount and Albert Daniels played prominent roles. “… I just had to do my best and everything was falling tonight.”
Pope, normally the sixth man, made his first varsity start one to remember. He drilled four three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Riverhead (14-6, 8-4 Suffolk County League II) stretch a 12-point lead. He got a bounce in his favor on his eighth trey, which made it 84-65.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Daniels said. “That’s every kid’s dream right there.”
Blount said Pope is a “three-point shooter, he makes all of them or most of them. When he hit like his fourth three in a row, I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was like, ‘We have to get him the ball.’ ”
Pope’s long-distance marksmanship took some of the shine away from a tremendous 43-point performance by Lindenhurst junior Keith Valdez, who knocked down four three-pointers himself.
All three Riverhead seniors had exceptional games in what could be the Blue Waves’ final game this season in their home gym. (The Suffolk Class AA playoff brackets are expected to be released Friday and it appears likely that Riverhead will have to hit the road for its playoff game.)
Blount produced 22 points and Daniels totaled 14 points. Pope also had six assists to go with his prodigious scoring. Teammate A.J. Johnson had a complete game with 17 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. He fouled out with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game.
“Obviously you want to see your team be successful and [Pope’s] success is a manifestation of our guys distributing the ball and giving it to the open man,” Riverhead coach John Rossetti said. “He had the hot hand, and we always talk, ‘Whoever’s got the hot hand, give it to him,’ and he filled it up.”
Again and again.
“That’s my brother,” Blount said of Pope. “He’s been my brother since like middle school, you know. All great vibes. Every time I let it go from my hands, passed it to him, you know, he made it.”
Pope’s first triple of the game gave Riverhead a 22-21 edge early in the second quarter. Shortly after, the Blue Waves took the lead for good on a 9-0 burst. Then Riverhead wrapped up the first half with a 12-3 run (started and capped by Pope threes) for a 49-35 advantage. Pope added another one in the third quarter before really turning it on in the fourth.
“I had to bring it all out for Senior Night, you know,” Pope said. “I had to let it all out on the floor.”
Following a conventional three-point play by Daniels, all three seniors made their exits with 1:39 remaining to loud applause.
“Perfect senior night,” Daniels said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
Rossetti called his seniors “great kids. They come to practice, they work hard, they set the tone. More important than good basketball players, they’re good people.”
As a team, Riverhead shot 11-for-25 from three-point range and 33-for-65 (50.8%) overall.
Lindenhurst (3-17, 1-11) received seven assists from Daniel Gron.
“The scoreboard talks,” Rossetti replied, when asked to assess his team’s play. “Defensively, it wasn’t our best effort, but we did what we had to do to get that ‘W’.”
As for his take on Senior Night 2020, Rossetti was more fulsome.
“You couldn’t draw it up any better,” he said. “A home game, a nice crowd, a great performance by all three of them and a victory, and now we have playoffs. What else can you ask?”