A blue wave of pure joy engulfed Farmingdale State’s Nold Hall Friday night as the unthinkable just a few months ago became reality. players embraced on the court as shirtless fans in blue body paint yelped from the bleachers in excitement.
Senior Melodee Riley clutched the Long Island Championship plaque close to her chest as an army of reporters surrounded her.
“This thing is heavy, by the way,” said Riley, who led the Blue Waves down the stretch, scoring eight of her team-best 16 points in the fourth quarter.
It was unclear whether she was talking about the wooden trophy or the weight of history.
The Riverhead girls basketball team knocked off the defending Long Island Class AA champions, outlasting Baldwin, 56-50, before a crowd of 2,000 to claim the first title in program history. Riverhead (23-1) advances to the state Public Schools Final Four in Troy March 16 at 6:15 p.m.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Riverhead Coach David Spinella said. “It’s just an amazing experience. I just kept telling my kids in the fourth quarter, ‘This is crazy. This is crazy. Just have fun; enjoy it.’”
Riley’s putback in the paint off a missed three-point attempt forged a tie at 48 with 1:37 left. Kaila-Riane Nazario was fouled 15 seconds later, hitting both ends of a one-and-one to give Riverhead the lead for good.
Riley also had 18 points in a for the Suffolk title.
“Mel stepped up,” Riverhead senior guard Jalyn Brown said. “She had an outstanding postseason.”
The Waves hit 4 of 6 free throws in the final 27 seconds to hold off the Bruins. Baldwin (19-2), the three-time Nassau champ, earned another trip to the LIC with a .
Spinella admitted he simply hoped his team could reach the county semifinals. The Blue Waves did so much more, winning their first Suffolk title since 1984 and then toppling Baldwin.
“We were able to match them and just outlast them,” Spinella said. “If we played them tomorrow it might be the other way around. They’re a great basketball team.”
Long Island Class AA Championship
@ Farmingdale State’s Nold Hall
Teams...............1.....2.....3.....4 – F
Baldwin...........15.....8...14...13 – 50
Riverhead........10...10...19...17 – 56
B: Hudson 2-0-4, Harrison 6-3-15, Hampton 8-3-20, Butler 2-4-8, De’Graff 0-2-2, May 0-1-1. Totals: 18-13-50. R: Allen 4-3-11, Riley 6-6-16, Czaplak 2-0-6, Nazario 2-7-11, Brown 2-5-9, Ruisi 0-1-1. Totals: 16-22-56. Three-pointers – B: 1 (Hampton); R: 2 (Czaplak 2).