With eight seniors competing in their last regular-season home basketball game Thursday night, the Blue Waves clinched a berth in the 2011 Suffolk County boys' playoffs.
"This is something we have worked for," said senior forward Ben Edmund.
Boosted by a 20-7 surge in the third quarter, Riverhead dominated Smithtown East 57-41 before the largest home crowed of the season.
The victory, after a Senior Night celebration, gave Coach John Rosetti's team a 7-6 record in the Suffolk League III standings, assuring the program its third playoff bid in the last four seasons.
"We knew this game was the clincher," said senior guard Rodney Rollins. "We all wanted to get this out of the way so we could relax a little. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. It was really intense. Our defense was there. The crowd was there, and it all became positive.
"We definitely feel accomplished."
Before the opening tip off, all the seniors and the senior cheerleaders were introduced and saluted along with their parents. Everyone gained applause as they stood gathered on the court.
"The emotion was really high, but at the same time we had to focus and get the job done," said senior guard Elwood Lamb III. "We are happy, but not satisfied. We want to go to East Islip and get a win so we can go into the playoffs with four straight wins."
The Blue Waves (8-9 overall) visit East Islip (12-1 in the league) for the final regular-season game next Tuesday night. The Blue Waves lost at home last month against East Islip.
After that, Rosetti will learn his team's first-round playoff opponent.
"Now, hopefully, we can make a (playoff) run," said senior center Alex Sakhno. "I have been playing with these guys since the seventh grade. They all have a place in my heart."
A total of 15 players contributed to the Thursday victory, including the other RHS seniors: Earnest McMillan, Glenn Patriss, O'Shane Perkins, and Trevon Ward.
"It didn't look like we played with pressure," said Rosetti. "We just asked them to go out and give the energy, the heart, the hustle. This is rewarding; the hard work and the effort and you get a positive result."
Edmund scored a team-high 14 points and sophomore guard Ryan Bitzer, who has earned more playing time, added 12 points. Sakhno had eight points. Lamb and Tim Clement each scored six points. Rollins, a ball hawk on defense, collected seven assists.
"That was the best balance we've had," said Rosetti. "We shared the ball, made the extra pass and our turnovers were down. . . . There was nice energy in the crowd."
The Blue Waves had already clinched a playoff spot, but lost Thursday at Smithtown East 61-47.
"We have East Islip at home on Tuesday to finish the regular season," said coach David Spinella. "A win there and we should clinch a home (playoff) game."
Riverhead, with no seniors on the roster, owns a 10-3 League III record, 12-5 overall.
The team missed a usual starter, Naysha Trent, for the third-straight game.
"Smithtown East hit eight three-pointers and did not miss it seemed," said Spinella. "They probably shot 70-75 percent from the floor. We, on the other hand, shot 21 percent. Everything was back rim and they outworked us."
The Blue Waves are second in the League III standings behind undefeated North Babylon (16-0 overall, 13-0 in the league).
BOYS WINTER TRACK
Two Riverhead record-setters, Kashaun Boynton and Treval Hatcher, are top contenders Saturday for the state qualifying meet for boys' winter track.
Boynton (high hurdles) and Hatcher (triple jump) will compete at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood along with Kevin Williams (triple jump) and Jonah Spaeth (pole vault).
Both Boynton, a junior, and Hatcher, a senior, won their event last weekend during the 2011 Suffolk County Large Schools Meet. They each placed first against more than 20 other boys.
In the 55 hurdles, Boynton ran a personal-best time of 7.88 seconds, also a school record.
"He excels (because) he has good spring; he's light on his feet," said long-time Riverhead coach Sal Loverde. "And he goes over the hurdles in a sound, technical way."
Hatcher, who already owned the school record, leaped 46 feet, six inches.
"In order to be successful in the triple jump, you have to have strength, athleticism and coordination," said Loverde. "He also has an absolutely second-to-none work ethic and he is a complete student of the event. And he is extraordinarily coachable."
Riverhead placed seventh in the team scores (24 points) at the Suffolk Large Schools Meet.
Jeffrey Pittman, a sophomore, scored four team points with his fourth place in the long jump (20-2).
Boynton and Hatcher have already achieved the qualifying standard or the 2011 State Meet March 5 at Cornell University in Ithaca.