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10/28/14 5:21pm
10/28/2014 5:21 PM
Riverhead's freshman goalie, Rachel Bornstein, making only her second career start, was kept busy by Sachem East's relentless attack. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Riverhead’s freshman goalie, Rachel Bornstein, making only her second career start, was kept busy by Sachem East’s relentless attack. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)


Being a high school field hockey team that plays its home games on a grass field, Riverhead prepared for the playoffs by participating in a scrimmage at Rocky Point High School and practicing at Eastport/South Manor High School, which both have field turf. But, playing surfaces aside, there was perhaps nothing that could have prepared the Blue Waves for what they faced on Tuesday.

It wasn’t the field turf at Sachem East High School that proved troublesome for the Blue Waves so much as the Sachem East team that played on it. (more…)

02/20/13 8:34pm
02/20/2013 8:34 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead's Shanice Allen finds her path to the basket blocked by Sachem East's Sammy Drake.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead’s Shanice Allen finds her path to the basket blocked by Sachem East’s Sammy Drake.


Riverhead was under no misconception. The seventh-seeded Blue Waves knew they were facing a tall order, trying to upset No. 2 Sachem East in Wednesday’s Suffolk County Class AA girls basketball quarterfinal.

Even so, perhaps Riverhead couldn’t have imagined its challenge being as difficult as it was.

The most telling numbers of the game might have been these: With its reserves in the game, Sachem East put up a measly 2 points in the fourth quarter — and still won by 25!

A 25-10 third-quarter blast sent Sachem East on the way to a 63-38 trouncing of the visiting Blue Waves and its seventh straight county final four. The Flaming Arrows (16-1), who also ousted Riverhead from the playoffs in 2010, will play Bellport or Walt Whitman in a county semifinal on Saturday at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

“I expected a better fight, honestly, I did,” said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella.

But Sachem East, the League I champion, brought too much for Riverhead to handle. Two juniors, Katie Doherty and Kathleen Everson, spearheaded the offense for the Flaming Arrows. Doherty led all scorers with 21 points to go with 6 assists while Everson put up 16 points and 10 rebounds. Emily Carmel chipped in 11 points with the aid of three 3-pointers, and Sammy Drake grabbed 10 rebounds to go with 8 points.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Naysha Trent of Riverhead searching for dribbling room around Sachem East's Emily Carmel.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Naysha Trent of Riverhead searching for dribbling room around Sachem East’s Emily Carmel.

Doherty scored her first 6 points within the opening 3 minutes 22 seconds as Sachem East, like a basketball tsunami, flew out to a 10-0 lead. Riverhead (12-8) committed 8 of its 19 turnovers in the first quarter, which ended with Sachem East holding a 17-11 lead.

Then, Sachem East distanced itself further from Riverhead in the second quarter. While Riverhead struggled with 1-for-9 shooting from the field in the quarter, Sachem East closed out the first half on a 14-2 run for a 37-15 halftime cushion.

Another 14-2 run by Sachem East in the third quarter made the score 53-20. The rest of the game was little more than a formality.

“They execute so well,” Spinella said. “They’re big and they can move, and they can all shoot. It just makes it a tough situation. We didn’t play very well, but that’s a tribute to their defense. Our youth kind of got exposed.”

Asked what the decisive factor in the game was, Doherty replied: “I think it was really our energy. We came out really hard. Everybody was going for loose balls and rebounds, and I think that motivated us to win.”

Second-chance scoring opportunities didn’t hurt, either. Sachem East hustled for 16 offensive rebounds. The Flaming Arrows outrebounded the visitors, 43-32.

“In spots of the game, they played as well as we can play,” Sachem East coach Matt Brisson told reporters.

Asked if he was surprised by how well his team performed, Brisson answered, “They never surprise me.”

The game marked the end of the Shanice Allen era for Riverhead. With the senior’s five-year varsity career concluding, a poignant scene developed late in the game. After sinking a pair of free throws for her 13th and 14 points of the contest, Riverhead’s all-time leading scorer with over 1,400 points, was pulled from the game. When Allen, who is headed for Pace University, arrived near the bench, she received a hug from Spinella, and then more hugs from teammates.

Brisson had some words for Allen after the game while the teams exchanged handshakes. “I said, ‘What a legacy you leave behind,’ ” Brisson said. “She should be so proud of herself for what she accomplished in her time over there.”

Sachem East is looking to accomplish a lot with a team that has the talent to win a second county crown in three years.

Brisson was the head coach of Sachem for two years before the school split into two schools, Sachem East and Sachem North. He could just as easily be the Sachem North coach now, but he chose Sachem East.

“Every now and then I think to myself, ‘Which way should I have gone?’ ” Brisson said. “My momma raised no fool. I came the right way.”

Brisson credited his players for the team’s success. “Katie Doherty walks into the gym and Kathleen Everson walks into the gym, and all of a sudden I’m a pretty good coach,” he said.

What are Sachem East’s expectations?

“We want to win,” Doherty said. “We want to win as much as we can, and we’re going to go for it.”

Riverhead, which had lost 10 players from the team that reached the New York State final four last year, couldn’t feel too bad about its season.

In addition to Allen, Riverhead will lose Denise Brunskill, Naysha Trent and Jocelin Zaneski to graduation. The bulk of the team will be back next season, though, including two freshmen starters, Dezarae Brown and Sam Dunn. One can envision enhanced roles for Kim Ligon, Destiny McElroy and Kyra Braunskill.

“We lost 10 kids from last year, and we were one game from the [county] final four, so what can you say?” Spinella said. “This whole year has been a tremendous success. Our youth got so much extra time, extra games and so much more experience. Extra games and extra practices, all of that adds up in the long run.”

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02/20/13 5:35pm

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Shanice Allen leads the Blue Waves into the Class AA quarterfinals against Sachem East tonight.

Class AA Quarterfinals

No. 7 Riverhead (12-7) vs. No. 2 Sachem East (16-2)

Sachem East High School

The Riverhead girls basketball team faces Sachem East at 5:45 p.m. tonight in the Class AA quarterfinals. Both teams will be looking to advance to Saturday’s semifinal matchup against Walt Whitman or Bellport.

Riverhead and Sachem have won two of the last three county titles in Class AA. Sachem won the county title in 2010 and lost in the finals in 2011 to Deer Park. Riverhead won last year en route to the state semifinals. Click here for a preview.

Click below for live updates from tonight’s game:

02/20/13 9:00am
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Riverhead senior Naysha Trent scored 20 points against Half Hollow Hills East Thursday in the Class AA playoff opener.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Naysha Trent leads the Blue Waves against Sachem East tonight.

The road to the county championship appeared to run through Sachem East last season. The Flaming Arrows sat atop the Class AA bracket, the No. 1 seed and seemingly the No. 1 obstacle for Riverhead to get through.

On the opposite side of the bracket, the No. 3 Blue Waves figured they’d meet the Flaming Arrows in the county finals.

Only that matchup never came to fruition after Hauppauge picked off Sachem in the semifinals.

Tonight, the Blue Waves and Flaming Arrows resume their postseason rivalry when Riverhead travels to Sachem for a 5:45 p.m. tip-off in the Class AA quarterfinals. [Check back for live updates during the game]. It was the same spot the Blue Waves found themselves in two years ago, when the Flaming Arrows won 76-45.

Riverhead, behind 42 points from Shanice Allen and Naysha Trent, cruised in the first round of the playoffs last Thursday against Half Hollow Hills East, 61-36.

The Flaming Arrows, seeded 2nd, come into tonight’s game off a 61-31 win over Brentwood in the first round. The League I champion Arrows are 16-2 and have won eight straight.

The Blue Waves will have to contain Sachem East guard Katie Doherty, who comes into the game averaging 16.5 points per game. The Flaming Arrows aren’t as dynamic an offensive team as some of their recent teams, but they still have another talented player who can score in Kathleen Everson. Emily Carmel also gives them a threat from beyond the arc.

The winner of today’s game advances to the semifinals against No. 3 Walt Whitman or No. 11 Bellport Saturday.

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03/01/11 1:29pm
03/01/2011 1:29 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shaniece Allen of Riverhead tried to get a shot off despite the defensive efforts of Allie Drake (No. 44) and another unidentified Sachem East player.


The Riverhead High School girls basketball coach, Dave Spinella, was right on the mark when he described Sachem East High School as a castle on a hill. And what a castle it is.

Sachem East is one of the most impressive public high schools in Suffolk County. It is relatively new, having opened in 2004. The campus has a rustic appearance. The football team plays on neat-looking field turf. After walking into the school building, one just has to stop and take a look at the attractive trophy case.

The gym itself is nice looking, color coordinated with the red and gold of the Flaming Arrows.

Sachem East also has a girls basketball team that matches the fine surroundings, and what a team it is. The Flaming Arrows are the defending New York State Class AA champions and the reigning five-time League I champions. Led by their sharp-shooting junior guard, Meagan Doherty, they can knock down three-point shots with the best of them and zip passes around accurately and efficiently. They can even throw in a couple of back-door layups.

That is who the Riverhead Blue Waves had to contend with last Thursday night in the county quarterfinals.

By all reports and appearances, the Blue Waves were loose, relaxed and confident before the game. Players sang and danced to music as they went about the process of preparing for their next challenge.

“We were ready to go,” said Riverhead’s talented sophomore guard, Shaniece Allen.

But when the time came for the teams to hit the court and test their mettle, Sachem East’s quality prevailed — by 31 points!

The best way to describe Sachem East is to call it a complete team from top to bottom. The Flaming Arrows play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They can serve as a team Riverhead ought to strive to be. As good as the Blue Waves are, they still have a way to go. The 76-45 final score in Sachem East’s favor speaks volumes. Riverhead scored 12 points under its average and gave up about 30 points more than it usually surrenders.

“It’s disappointing,” Spinella said. “You got to execute, and they executed better than we did, and they shot much better than we did.”

Indeed, Sachem East was good on 57.4 percent of its field-goal attempts. Riverhead shot 34 percent.

“I think we are just completely taking off right now,” Doherty said. “This is going to be the peak of our season. I can just tell. We’re all in, we want to win, and we want to get to the states again.”

And what about Riverhead?

The Blue Waves do not have a senior among them, so they should all return next season. The team looks well-placed to make a strong run next season. Riverhead has one of the best guard tandems in the county in Allen and junior point guard Jalyn Brown. Allen averaged 14.9 points per game during the regular season and Brown was good for 13.4. Melodee Riley, a junior forward, has quite a vertical leap and plays taller than her 5 feet 7 inches. Kayla Nazario, a sophomore forward who transferred from Virginia, was a find for Riverhead. She has undoubted athletic ability, and if the Blue Waves get more offensive production from her next season, that would help the team a good deal.

What Sachem East had that Riverhead didn’t have last Thursday night was more scoring options.

“I think we just need to become better shooters,” said Allen.

Riverhead could do worse than to try to emulate Sachem East. The Flaming Arrows qualified for their fourth straight county final, and that’s not shabby, especially in Class AA. When a team establishes a record like that, winning becomes expected.

“There comes a point in time where they grow to expect you to do well, and it’s cool,” said Matt Brisson, the only coach Sachem East has had. “It’s called culture, but at the same time there’s so much work that goes into it.”

The affable Brisson has an engaging sense of humor.

“The parents are phenomenal,” he said. “I’m crazy. I have [the players practicing] all hours at night, and no one’s blown up my car yet and I haven’t really had too many death threats.”

Winning has a way of preventing that sort of stuff.

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02/24/11 8:52pm
02/24/2011 8:52 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Shaniece Allen faced an obstacle in Sachem East's Samantha Drake during their county quarterfinal.

FARMINGVILLE — Odd as it may sound, the defending New York State Class AA girls basketball champion Sachem East Flaming Arrows have found drawing fans to their home games to be something of a challenge. Then again, there is a reason for it.

“We have a hard time getting people to come watch our games,” Sachem East guard Meagan Doherty explained. “Every time they come we’re winning by 20, so what’s the fun of seeing that?”

Interesting point.

If Sachem East keeps playing the way it has, it could find itself in a position to capture another state crown.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown was consoled by Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella.

Sachem East’s execution was on Thursday night when it put an end to the Riverhead Blue Waves’ season with a 76-45 quarterfinal victory in front of a decent-sized crowd, although good seats were available.

“I think we played amazing,” Doherty said. “We’re not going to get much better than this.”

The home fans who were there had to like what they saw. Sachem East, which opened in 2004, has a beautiful high school, sitting atop a hill like a castle, a neat gym and a great team. League I champions for the past five years, the Flaming Arrows have a sharp shooting touch, splendid ball movement and the sort of chemistry that doesn’t develop overnight.

“It takes a long time for the cake to bake,” Sachem East Coach Matt Brisson said. “We say it all the time. You put those ingredients in, you set it at 350, and then you got to work.”

That work has paid off for third-seeded Sachem East (16-2). It will play the No. 2 North Babylon Bulldogs in the semifinals on Monday at Farmingdale State College.

Meagan Doherty led five Sachem East scorers in double figures with 23 points against No. 6 Riverhead (14-6). Her sister, Katie Doherty, and Allie Drake added 13 points apiece while Emily Carmel and Kathleen Everson provided 10 points each for Sachem East. Katie Doherty also had 10 assists. Everson and Drake grabbed nine rebounds each.

The Flaming Arrows shot a red-hot 57.4 percent from the floor while Riverhead had a 34-percent accuracy rate. A complete team, Sachem East received 23 points from its bench; Riverhead had none.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | From right, Kayla Nazario, Shaniece Allen and Aly Doscinski watched from the bench as the final minutes of their season ticked down.

“Their shooters are phenomenal,” said guard Shaniece Allen, who was Riverhead’s top scorer with 18 points. “They could shoot, they could drive; they got all-around players.”

If the assist-to-turnover ratio is anything to judge by, look at these numbers for Sachem East: 28 assists, nine turnovers. Not bad.

Sachem East used a 20-3 run to take a 20-8 lead late in the first quarter. The Blue Waves pulled to within five points of Sachem East three times after that at 36-31, 40-35 and 42-37, but the Flaming Arrows then pulled away. Sachem East seemed to make shot after shot, and finished strong by hitting 10 of its final 13 field-goal attempts. The final score was the largest margin of the game.

Not even a 13-point, 10-rebound performance by Riverhead’s Melodee Riley was enough to stop that.

“They shoot better than any team we’ve seen all year,” said Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella, who does not have any seniors on his team. “We just need to be a little more disciplined, defensively and offensively.”

Riverhead faced a disciplined and motivated team in Sachem East, which would like to return to Hudson Valley Community College next month to defend its state crown.

“It helps us 100 percent,” Meagan Doherty said. “People think that it takes our hunger away, but it really didn’t. We will do whatever it takes to get back there and have that feeling again.”

Meagan Doherty, whose older sister, Kristen, is a starter for Boston College, is unquestionably driven. The junior missed the first several games this season and has been playing in pain with a mysterious knee ailment. That didn’t prevent her, however, from finishing the regular season with a team-leading average of 14.9 points per game and 33 three-pointers. As a team, Sachem East totaled 97 threes, the second-most in the county.

With a team that starts two freshmen and two sophomores, Sachem East should be good for a while, too. In the meantime, Meagan Doherty said she can sense another county title on the horizon.

A banner commemorating last season’s state championship has not been hung up yet on the gym wall at Sachem East High School. “We don’t make a big deal out of it,” said Meagan Doherty.

Perhaps management is waiting for a second state title. Maybe that would bring the fans in.

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01/10/11 7:32pm
01/10/2011 7:32 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Travis Walker rolled a 224 in the third game for Riverhead.

Because of an unfamiliar oil pattern, Wildwood Lanes had not been Jeremy Milito’s favorite bowling alley. But the Sachem East High School senior may be feeling more kindly to the Riverhead house after what happened on Monday night.

Milito rolled his second career 300 game, and the Flaming Arrows needed it, too.

With the help of Milito’s perfect game, Sachem East won the third game by 22 points, 1,073-1,051, capping a 21-12 victory over the Riverhead Blue Waves and taking first place in Suffolk County League III. The matchup of the league’s top two teams saw them split the first two games on Monday, with Riverhead winning the first game, 1,047-913, and Sachem East taking the second game, 1,081-909.

Defending county and league champion Sachem East raised its point total to 184, seven more than Riverhead. Furthermore, the Flaming Arrows hold the advantage of a match in hand.

Milito, Sachem East’s anchorman who entered the match with a 228.3 average, also threw a 207 and a 237 for a 744 series, his fourth 700-plus series of the season. He finished with 25 strikes and six spares.

Last season Milito bowled a 300 in Sachem East’s home alley, Bowl Long Island in Patchogue. He might have even surprised himself by duplicating the feat at the Riverhead venue, which hasn’t been kind to him or the Flaming Arrows over the years.

“I’ve struggled here in the past,” Milito said. “I’ve never bowled good here before, but I just came in with a good mind-set and took a game plan. It’s really rough because the lanes are really touchy, so you have to be pretty good, accurate.”

This is the second 300 this season for Sachem East. Matt Hecker, a junior, threw one a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s very special,” Sachem East Coach Mike Stanek said of Milito’s big game. “He bowls all the time. He’s in the tournaments, he travels. He’s lefty. That helps. He’s a great kid. His attitude is superior. He’s very confident and that’s what it takes.”

Riverhead senior Jon Horton is familiar with Milito’s work, having seen him bowl on numerous occasions. “He hits his mark every time, which is why he bowls 300s,” Horton said. “He makes it look so much more simpler than it really is.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jon Horton and his Riverhead teammates were dislodged from first place in League III by Sachem East.

With “Xs” dotting the monitor next to his name, Milito headed into the 10th and final frame with more than a tight match on the line (Riverhead might have won had Milito not thrown a strike on his first ball in the 10th frame).

“It’s really nerve-racking. It’s kind of scary,” he said. “You really want to be concentrated, but you don’t really want to be too tense because then you’ll miss your shots. You want to be as relaxed as possible.”

A hush fell over the crowd of spectators and bowlers as Milito let go of his final ball of the day.

“I was just praying that they would all go down,” he said. “One went down late.”

After all 10 pins fell, Milito received high-fives and hugs from happy teammates who congratulated him.

“That guy there is topnotch,” Riverhead Coach Scott Hackal said. “He threw one ball that was marginally high, maybe. The rest were all great shots.”

Stanek, who said it was his team’s first win at Wildwood Lanes in six or seven years, remarked: “That was huge. We needed every bit of it.”

Sachem East also received a boost from Steve Sabella. Sabella scored a 688 series with games of 212, 244 and 232. He had 22 strikes and 10 spares.

Riverhead, which had beaten Sachem East last month at Bowl Long Island, was led by Adam Vail, who recorded 22 strikes and eight spares. Vail’s opening and ending games of 237 and 247 helped him to a 675 series. Anthony Trent added a 642 series with a 241 high game. With the help of 17 strikes and 15 spares, Elliot Jones finished with a 621 series for the Blue Waves. Travis Walker had a 565 series and Horton a 504.

“It was a big match,” said Walker, who scored a 224 in the third game. “We lost a pretty close game. A guy bowls a 300 with a spare. You can’t do much about that.”

Milito said this 300 was more gratifying than the first one he had rolled because he felt he did more to earn it. Recollecting his final shot of the night, he said: “There was so much satisfaction in that shot, too. It was all worth it.”

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