Double trouble: Cheatom, Tolliver lead Riverhead
Double-double, double trouble, double-digit victory.
That was the formula for Riverhead Thursday, as the double-play combination of Jeremiah Cheatom (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Tolliver (15 points, 13 rebounds) was pivotal in the Blue Waves' 71-57 victory over host East Islip in a Suffolk III game.
Riverhead (11-3, 8-2) enjoyed a big rebounding edge, but it wasn't because of a size advantage. Cheatom is just a smidge taller than six-feet and Tolliver is 6-2. Yet both controlled the glass with aggressiveness and quick-jumping ability that produced numerous second-shot opportunities.
Cheatom was effective early, scoring the Blue Waves' first eight points, including three putbacks. "It's all about heart and hustle," said Cheatom, also a star running back. "We practice boxing out in practice and it's definitely a matter of pride to get rebounds over taller guys."
Tolliver came alive late, scoring 11 points in the second half, including the game's only dunk. "The second half is our dominating half," Tolliver said.
That was true only after the Blue Waves absorbed one rally by East Islip (9-5, 6-4). Mike Simonetti, who scored a game-high 27 points, had six points, a nice feed and a steal during a third-quarter flurry and Brandon MacMorris (14 points) hit a couple of nice layups as the Redmen cut it to 43-38 with 2:47 left in the third period.
That's when Markim Austin took over. He nailed two long three-pointers from the left wing, and rattled in a jumper from the other side as the Blue Waves closed the quarter on a 10-2 run for a 53-40 lead.
Austin and Cheatom each converted three-point plays during the fourth quarter and Ryan Bitzer (seven assists) contributed a long three-pointer as Riverhead maintained a comfortable lead. "We needed a lift. I was open and I took the shots," said Austin, who scored 11 of his 25 points in the third quarter.
"As a team, we play a lot bigger then we are," Riverhead coach John Rossetti said. "Then, when you establish an inside game, that opens up the outside game for guys like Austin."
That's a double dose of difficulty for Riverhead opponents.