Each Riverhead player went into the locker room with teary eyes and each one walked out the same way following a 67-49 loss to Penfield in the state Class AA girls basketball semifinals Friday night in Troy. While the loss was a reason for the dejection, the toughest part for them was realizing there would be no more practices.
The 14 players, including seven seniors, won't spend as much time with each other as they have since the beginning of practice in November.
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"I'm not mad we lost," senior guard Jalyn Brown said. "I'm upset I'm not going to be with this team anymore. I love this team so much. It's so hard to leave them. Everybody's going their separate ways. We're going to see each other from time to time, but it just won't be the same."
The loss couldn't take away from the success Riverhead had this season. The Blue Waves opened the season with a 48-42 loss to Glenn on Dec. 7 and then won 23 consecutive games, going more than three months without a loss.
Riverhead (23-2) won its first county championship since 1984, won its first Long Island Class AA championship and reached the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
"The season was amazing," said senior Melodee Riley, who averaged 18.7 points and 11 rebounds in the postseason to earn the Suffolk tournament MVP. "Playing with this team was great. It's a little sad to end this way, but we're Long Island champions and we're going to go home with our heads held high. We should be proud."
Riverhead took some lumps in the playoffs the past few seasons, including a 31-point loss in the quarterfinals to Sachem East last season. The nucleus of Brown, Riley and junior Shanice Allen played together for four seasons and this was the year they hoped to make a run.
"I knew we were going to be good," Brown said, "but not this good. We achieved so many goals we didn't expect. I am just so thankful to make it this far."
Said Riverhead coach Dave Spinella: "It's tough. They're really a special group. I am going to miss them very much. It's not just the games, the wins, and the trophies, it's the time together. People don't get it unless you coach."