Adriana Martinez admitted she had mixed feelings in her varsity basketball debut for the Riverhead High School girls team on Monday.
The freshman tallied a team-high 11 points in what was a frustrating 35-30 non-league loss in the Blue Waves season-opener at Westhampton Beach High School.
What made it more frustrating was that Martinez couldn’t play the final three minutes and 20 seconds due to a sprained right ankle. She joined junior Claire Normoyle, who had suffered a left ankle sprain only minutes prior, on the bench.
“I’m feeling pretty bummed honestly,” she said while sitting in a chair with her right ankle wrapped during the junior varsity game afterwards. “We all put a lot of really hard work into that game in the beginning, I could have done better, but I was also kind of happy with how I played in the first couple of quarters.”
Martinez, who admitted she was nervous early on, did not take long to make her mark. She canned a three-point shot with 3:58 remaining in the first period.
“She impressed me a whole lot because she’s a freshman,” Riverhead coach Cherese Hinckson said. “Even in practice, you can see what she does when she faces pressure, how she reacts.”
The Blue Waves battled a Westhampton team (3-1), which already had three games under its belt, point for point for most of the game.
“It was a tough loss but at the same time these girls, this is the first game that they actually played together,” Hinckson said. “They haven’t played over the summer. They’re all in other sports. To bring them together and to lose to a great team that would probably be in the county championship means a lot. They showed us that when they face adversity, what are they going to do? Like athletes do, when they face adversity, they fight back.”
That adversity struck during the final minutes in a game in which neither team led for more than four points until the fourth quarter. That’s when Normoyle and Martinez sustained their injuries only 2:08 apart, which helped swing the momentum.
With 5:28 left in the fourth quarter, Normoyle departed with her injury as Westhampton scored seven unanswered points to turn a 25-23 deficit into a five-point advantage. Shannon Sweet hit a short shot, Kylah Avery (10 points) added a lay-up and Sandra Clarke converted a steal into a bucket.
After Martinez left with her injury with 3:20 remaining, Avery sank a foul shot nine seconds later for a 30-25 lead.
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The determined Blue Waves, however, weren’t about to lay down and die.
“We all helped each other get through those difficulties,” said sophomore Logan Pilon (nine points).
“We never really gave up and just took the loss,” Martinez said. “That’s not what our team is about. Our team is about just fighting to the last moment.”
Angelina Pace ripped the nets for Riverhead’s fourth trey of the game. After the hosts’ Kate Sweet (10 points, seven steals) scored, Pilon’s basket pulled Riverhead within 32-30 with 57.4 seconds remaining. But Avery canned another free throw and Clarke scored another basket to seal the Blue Waves’ fate.
Hinckson, who is hoping for senior standout Michaela Ligon to return from the ACL injury she suffered last year, realized there was plenty to work on.
The Blue Waves had 33 turnovers. They also were outrebounded, especially on the defensive boards. The Hurricanes got second and third chances at the basket. Fortunately for Riverhead, the hosts shot only 21 percent from the field (12-for-58) and sank only 9-of-26 foul shots. In contrast, the Blue Waves recorded 11-of-27 field-goal attempts for a 41 percent percentage.
A few more opportunities to shoot from the field, and perhaps things might have swung their way.
“We could take a couple of positives just by lowering their shooting percentage,” Hinckson said. “We can attack them a little bit more, but I’ve seen some great things happening there when we do attack the basket. Defensively, I think we did a great job.”
“We came into this game, thinking we can’t let them score anything over 60,” Martinez said. “Then we cut that almost in half — 35.
“I feel like we’re really getting somewhere as a team. We’re really connecting and getting a lot of chemistry. We’re going to have a real good team.”