Boys Basketball: Heartbreaker in Riverhead as Waves fall in overtime

After forcing extra time by scoring 6 unanswered points in the last 40 seconds, Riverhead’s Blue Waves had a chance to finally win Thursday night’s basketball game in overtime.

With just 5 seconds remaining on the overtime clock, Riverhead trailed Longwood, 81-80. The stage was set for the perfect moment. 

The ball was inbounded to Riverhead’s Amari Funn, who sprinted down the court, cut through the defense into the paint and let a teardrop layup fall off his fingertips. The ball went around the rim and missed. Amid all the commotion in the paint, Connor Levasseur corralled the rebound and quickly tried to put it in the basket, but it didn’t fall. A back-and-forth game was finally over. Riverhead, in front of their home crowd, lost to the Longwood Lions, 81-80.

“I thought I got fouled there,” Funn said afterwards of the game’s final moments. “I felt it on my arm. My emotions are definitely all over the place right now.”

Riverhead head coach Elwood Lamb said the referees “called a good game.”

“It could have been a foul but you can’t call a foul there at the end of the game. I don’t blame the referees.”

It was an unfortunate end to a game that saw Riverhead claw its way back into the lead after falling behind by 12 points in the first quarter. The Blue Waves dominated the second quarter, forcing Longwood (3-11 in Division II, 4-14 overall) into 8 turnovers and cutting the 12 point lead down to just 3.

“We got off to a slow start in the first quarter,” Lamb said. “They came out a lot quicker and ready to play.”

Riverhead (4-10, 4-14) was without Funn and John Booker to start the game. Both players have been mainstays in the starting lineup for the entire season.

“It was a team thing,” Lamb said. “Not going to comment further on that. Maybe if they played, we wouldn’t have fallen that far behind.”

Funn and Booker were dominant for the rest of the game. They worked off each other. Whether it was a pick-and-roll or Funn collapsing the defense by driving and dishing the ball to Booker, their ability to score was uncanny. Funn scored a team-high 28 points and Booker added 26. Booker was also a force under the basket, snagging 15 rebounds. 

“All of a sudden at the end of the season they’re getting some chemistry together,” Lamb said. “I wish we could’ve had that chemistry earlier in the season. I couldn’t believe (Booker) had 26 points. He’s a tough and rugged kid. It’s actually only his first season playing high school basketball. It’s unfortunate he’s already a senior.”

Funn has been scoring all year for the Blue Waves. He came into the day 18th in scoring in all of Suffolk County with 17.6 points per game. Lamb said he had a slow start to the season because he was injured following a brutal football season where he carried the rushing load for the Blue Waves as the starting running back.

“He’s the type of kid that always wants to put the team on his back,” Lamb said. “He wants the ball for that last shot. He wants to guard the other team’s best player. He’s just a warrior.”

With Riverhead already eliminated from the playoffs, Lamb brought up a freshman to play point guard. Malaki Bullock played significant minutes and was instrumental in the Blue Waves second quarter comeback. He scored 5 points, getting big time minutes at the varsity level.

“I never had a true point guard from the start of the season,” Lamb said. “He sees the floor very well. I think he just needs to get a little stronger, but he’s going to be a good player.”

The Blue Waves have several players returning next year, which is encouraging, but Lamb is focused on finishing this season strong. The final game is Wednesday against William Floyd. It’s also the school’s senior night.

“I would love to win on senior night,” Lamb said. “Send the seniors off on a high note. We didn’t make the playoffs but they’ll remember in 10-15 years that they beat a playoff team in William Floyd to finish the season. That’s all we can hope for.”