Girls Basketball: Despite losses, Riverhead coach stays positive

When you see and hear Riverhead head coach Cherese Hinckson on the sidelines during the Blue Waves’ basketball games, you can tell that she is in it for the long haul. The results so far haven’t been great but that doesn’t stop Hinckson from trying to build a winner.

Though the Blue Waves lost Friday night at Riverhead High School against Newfield, 71-42, Hinckson never lost her intensity and coached until the final buzzer. 

“I’ve never in my career backed down from some adversity,” Hinckson said. “What do you do when you face adversity? As an athlete, I was taught to keep going. Especially in basketball, everything needs to be short-term memory. Move forward. My goal is to teach these girls how to face adversity. If I sat down on that bench and stopped talking, it wouldn’t be who I am.”

Hinckson played basketball at Amityville High School before playing for Delaware State University and Dowling College. After college she went on to play professionally in the National Women’s Basketball League. Adversity followed her every step of the way. 

“I fell in love with the game in 8th grade,” Hinckson said. “And all I’m trying to do here is to get these girls to fall in love with this game too.”

Riverhead (0-7 League II, 1-9 Overall) has still yet to find their first league win but after the first quarter, the Blue Waves were actually ahead, 18-17.

“If we can have a first quarter like that and take it into the second, third and fourth, we will get our win,” Hinckson said. 

The Blue Waves were moving the ball, finding the open shooter and making shots left and right in the first quarter. Things were looking up. Sophomore Logan Pilon was leading the way as a handful of her shots hit the bottom of the net. She led the team with 14 points.

The second quarter is when things started to fall apart for Riverhead and most of it can be attributed to the play of Newfield junior Raiyah Reid. The Blue Waves battled throughout the quarter and took their final lead with three minutes left in the second quarter. From there on out, it was Reid’s game.

Newfield (3-5 League II, 4-7 Overall) clamped down on defense and held Riverhead to 17 points the rest of the game. Reid, with her speed, basketball IQ and dribbling ability, became unstoppable. If she wasn’t hitting an easy layup from her dribbling ability, she was finding an open shooter for an easy basket. She scored a game-high 32 points.

Today wasn’t the day for Riverhead’s first league win but Hinckson knows it’s coming. 

“From the beginning of the year to now we’re really moving the ball a lot better,” the coach said. “Not only that, we’re finally fully healthy after losing two of our best players early in the season.”

Freshman Kyleigh Lennon also made a name for herself on the court today. She scored six points but most importantly she played phenomenal defense and brought the intensity. She frustrated Newfield’s Reid on numerous occasions.

Part of obtaining success on the varsity level is getting the athletes started at a young age and Hinckson, currently in her second season, is trying to implement that. 

“I need to get them in the summer so they can play more,” Hinckson said. “It’s hard because the girls play other sports but if I could get a core together it would do wonders. And also getting the young ones out to play – even as young as fourth graders. It’s never too early.”

But overall, Hinckson stresses that this season is about memories. Win or loss.

“This is an awesome team and great group to work with,” Hinckson said. “When the ball stops bouncing for them and they’re going to go off to college, they’re not going to remember how many turnovers they had, they’re going to remember the memories they made with their teammates. My goal here is not just to teach basketball but to teach things about life and how to deal with adversity.”