With nearly two weeks since its last competitive game, the Bridgehampton boys basketball team needed a bit of a wake-up call in Monday night’s Class D regional semifinal at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, and Livingston Manor was there to provide it.
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, the Killer Bees started the second quarter on a 7-0 run to take an 18-17 lead, and while Livingston Manor (Section IX-Orange, Sullivan, Ulster) didn’t make it easy, Bridgehampton held on for the 50-48 victory. With the win, the Bridgies advanced to the Class D regional final against the winner of the other regional semifinal game between Martin Luther King Jr. (Section I-Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester) and Newfield (Section IV-Southern Tier), which was played Tuesday night. A win in that game would clinch a berth into the Class D New York State Final Four.
Bridgehampton first-year head coach Ron White—who technically earned his first playoff win on Monday night due to the Bees’ winning the Suffolk County Class D title outright and losing the C/D Qualifier of the Section XI Tournament to Greenport on February 20—acknowledged that his team was a little sloppy in the first half but liked the fight he saw from his players.
“We have a young team and a lot of the time with a young team they kind of teeter a little bit,” he said. “But we were able to get it together and sneak this win out. They rallied together and they persevered and I really commend them. The coaches kind of stepped back and said, ‘Listen, this is you guys. You guys gotta do this,’ and they figured it out.”
Tied at 45-45 with 1:37 remaining, a put-back by junior Jonny Degroot gave Bridgehampton a two-point lead, which it was able to hold on to for much of the rest of the game. In the meantime, sophomore Nae’Jon Ward fouled out with 39 seconds remaining, leaving the Bees without one of their most potent shooters for the final stretch of the game, but junior J.P. Harding stepped up.
Harding read a telegraphed pass by Livingston Manor, stole the ball at the top of the key and went the distance and finished with a lay-up to give the Bees a 49-45 lead with 16 seconds remaining in regulation. Senior Allan Ward hit a three with 1.7 seconds left to pull the Wildcats within a point of the Bees’ lead, but sophomore Elijah White made one of two free throws to make up the final score. Livingston Manor was able to inbound the ball but sophomore Patrick DiBartolo couldn’t get his half-court shot off in time and the Bees went on to win.
Elijah White, the coach’s son, who was tied for the team lead in scoring with Harding with 14 points, said the team’s defense, or lack thereof, in the first quarter was more or less unacceptable, but he and his teammates were able to turn things around.
“Late [down] the stretch we came up with big stops, big turnovers, big rebounds, and we just fought all game, cause we started off really bad on defense,” he explained. “We were letting them get a lot of second-chance points, easy lay-ups, letting them get around the corner, but I think that was due to butterflies and not knowing who we were playing. But, once we got into the second quarter, third quarter, we started to lock up, get into our mental stance on defense.”
The younger White said that playing on Friday, and not having two weeks between its next game, will certainly be a positive.
“We played our best games when we were in the middle of the season playing games every other day. It was a grind but we played our best then,” he said. “This win under our belt is going to give us a lot of confidence going into the next game.”
Coach White said that having two weeks between games wasn’t ideal and that even getting scrimmages with fellow teams has been difficult this late in the season. But he’s proud that his team was able to pull out Monday’s win, one that he said many people didn’t think was possible.
“One more game and we’re upstate,” he said. “I think some people counted us out in the beginning of the season and now we’re here, we’re one of the last teams playing on the island. We’re very blessed to say that we have some time to continue to play.”