Boys Basketball: Rough night for Riverhead at home

As quickly as Riverhead rediscovered its magic touch, the Blue Waves somehow lost it.

And with it went the game — a 56-41 home defeat to Centereach on Thursday night.

After overcoming a five-point halftime deficit with some heads up play early in the second half in its Suffolk County Division II boys basketball game, Riverhead could never get its act together again and watched its chances for a rare win go out the window.

“It was a good 2 1/2 quarters,” head coach Elwood Lamb said. “We turned the ball over. They started trapping us. We went on a dry spell with shots and things just fell apart.”

And the Blues (2-12, 2-8) extended their losing streak to four games.

“It’s frustrating and frustrating for the whole team when you’re not putting games together,” Lamb said. “You’re not winning and just a little mistake will set you off and set you back. It’s down to belief. They don’t believe that they can continue to work. It’s a never-ending battle. I figured that tonight would be a good test for us, and that we could make them play a good game and get one, but our league is tough.”

None of the players were made available to the media, but there was little doubt that some of them were angry and disappointed. At least two Blue Waves stormed out of the locker room after Lamb’s team talk.

“When you lose it like that, any little thing and they kind of get down on themselves, get down on the teammates and they don’t stick together,” Lamb said. “I try to preach to them that when things get bad you’ve got to stay together. You can’t keep pointing fingers and getting aggravated with each other. It’s a long season but unfortunately that’s what losing does.”

The game was going to be a tall order for Riverhead from the outset as the Cougars (10-5, 7-4) had two towering players in the lineup — the 6’5″ senior center Riddick Drab and 6’4″ senior guard Evan Grant in the starting lineup and 6’3″ senior guard Tim McCarthy coming off the bench. At 6’1″, senior guard Markus Griff was the tallest player in the Riverhead lineup.

Lamb was hoping for the Blue Waves’ speed and quickness to make a difference.

It did, for a while.

The second half began so optimistically for Riverhead, which reeled off three consecutive baskets to turn a 27-22 deficit a 28-27 lead with five minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter behind baskets by junior guard A.J. Austin (team-high 13 points) and senior guards Amari Funn and John Booker (eight points apiece).

Then the bottom fell out.

The Cougars surged ahead behind a 13-2 tear the rest of the period for a 40-30 margin.

“At halftime we focused on making sure that we slowed the game down and didn’t try to force anything,” Centereach head coach Nick Clemente said. “Let it come to us, use the full 35 seconds. Some shots started to fall in the second half that we didn’t get in the first half.”

Senior guard Christopher Buzaid, who scored a game-high 16 points, keyed the turnaround with two of his four treys, and senior center Riddick Drab (game-high 16 points, 15 rebounds) added a three-pointer.

The Cougars switched to a trap defense at the start of the second half, which unsettled the Blue Waves.

“They just outplayed us,” Lamb said.

Centereach, which was lethal from the free throw line for the game, sinking 17 of 22 attempts, enjoyed as much as an 18-point lead at 55-37 in the fourth quarter. Austin kept it from getting more out of hand by scoring seven points.

The Blue Waves are longshots to reach the playoffs as they need to win their final six league games to achieve that. Lamb, however, has other goals in mind for his squad, which plays at Longwood at noon on Saturday.

“That the first goal is trying to win a game,” he said. “You win a game; you get a little confidence. Before you know it, you put another one together. So, try and get a little streak going. But it’s not that easy. What we as coaches all we can do is just keep being positive and try different things, different lineups and try to keep their heads up. But it’s tough. So go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”