Riverhead teachers take to court to support seniors

Sixteen teachers from across the Riverhead Central School District played the Harlem Wizards last Thursday evening in the Riverhead High School gymnasium. The annual faceoff between Riverhead educators and the Wizards began in 2013 to raise funds for scholarships awarded to graduating seniors. The school has not hosted the game since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the scholarship fund was able to cover the awards amounts during that time, as well as pay $10,000 into an interdistrict effort to buy Chromebooks for East End students, according to RHS physics teacher Gregory Wallace, president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association.

“We gave out scholarships in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, so we were able to continue with the money we had raised in the past,” Mr. Wallace said. “We now reinstituted the program and it was another successful evening … We are going to clear $15,000.”

The Harlem Wizards, formed in 1962, have raised money for school districts nationwide. They left the Riverhead court victorious, 114 to 90, but the home team certainly put up a fight. Sure, teachers missed some layups, but they also took their chances at three-pointers and found the net. They also leaned into the playful dances and comedic bits the Wizards are known for, from lining up mid-game for a football-style skirmish to taking the announcer’s teasing, such as asking if their missed shots were passes, in stride.

Fifty-two district faculty members made the evening possible, according to Mr. Wallace, both by running up and down the court and by volunteering for other duties, such as running the concessions stand and selling souvenirs.

“It was about the kids; it wasn’t about us or the Wizards,” Cherese Foster, the Riverhead girls basketball varsity coach and a physical education teacher at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School, said after the game. “I think we did well because we were smiling at the end. It’s about teamwork and when you have a team that is enjoying their time on the court together that is the most important thing. It’s not about the score all the time, it’s about getting better and being a great team.”

The crowd filling the bleachers cheered affectionately for players on both teams. While some sports audiences’ enjoyment of a game might hinge on its outcome, those in attendance last Thursday were simply looking for an evening of family entertainment.

“[My son] goes to Aquebogue school and this was a fundraiser for the school so I figured I’d bring him out,” said Eddie Perry, standing alongside his -5-year-old son, Emir, who was holding a new Wizards basketball. “Plus, he’s never been to a basketball game, so we’re having fun.”