The only senior on a very young team, Raynisha Witherspoon’s teammates love her. The Huntington High School girls’ basketball star was the toast of Louis D. Giani Gymnasium during a pre-game Senior Night ceremony before going out and notching 16 points, 15 rebounds and five steals to lead the Blue Devils to a 63-31 victory over West Babylon.
Wildly known as Ray-Ray, Witherspoon helped Huntington get off to a fast start against the Eagles. The Blue Devils led 12-5 after the first quarter and held a 28-14 advantage at halftime. A 19-9 third quarter run put the game away.
Heather Forster had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks and Ellyn Byrnes poured in 10 points. Katie Nugent added eight points, eight assists and four steals and Katie Reilly had five points and six assists.
Witherspoon was surrounded on the court by family members during the pre-game ceremony. She presented them with flowers and was then serenaded by Huntington head coach Mike Kaplan and her teammates. “As the only senior captain, she has had the tough task of leading 14 underclassmen,” Kaplan told the crowd as West Babylon’s players and coaches looked on. “Ray took on this challenge with open arms. She has guided them, led them and encouraged them to be better individuals.”
The senior, who earned All-League honors last winter, has played with the high school program since seventh grade and has also earned varsity letters with the Blue Devil volleyball and spring track and field teams. “Ray worked extremely hard last summer to take her basketball game to the next level,” Kaplan told the crowd. “She played on a top AAU team that traveled all over the country. She also made the Basketball Coaches Association of New York team. Only the top 12 players in Suffolk were selected for this team.”
Kaplan has coached Witherspoon since she played on an AAU team as an eighth grader. “Since then I have watch her grow into a mature young lady,” the coach said. “I am extremely proud of her for all of her accomplishments on and off the court. Not only is Ray an amazing athlete, she takes her school work very seriously. She has been on the honor roll every semester of her high school career. She has set an outstanding example of what a student-athlete should be for our future Blue Devils.”
Witherspoon has not announced her college plans, but has said she intends to study physical therapy. Near the close of the pre-game ceremony, Kaplan and assistant coach Marissa Bergmann presented the teenager with flowers and a gift at center court.
“Ray I thank you for your hard work and dedication to this program,” Kaplan told Witherspoon during the pre-game ceremony. “You have made the past five years truly special and have been a pleasure to coach. On behalf of your coaches and teammates we are truly going to miss you.”
The festivities wrapped up with Witherspoon’s teammates standing along the court and one-by-one taking the microphone and using one word to describe their beloved friend. When they were finished, the group mobbed the senior before she turned in an amazing performance in her last regular season home game.
Blue Devil Notes: Emma Hughes scored three points . . . Brooke Baade and Joellen Ceide each had two points . . . Former Blue Devil athletic great Charlie Forte was at the game . . . Huntington has won 8-of-12 league games.