During his time playing point guard on state championship teams for the Killer Bees in the 1990s, Nick Thomas says he developed a killer instinct. He’s passed that on to his players in his eight years of coaching at Center Moriches, and it was on display at William Floyd High School on Tuesday afternoon.
Thomas’s Suffolk County Class B champion Red Devils used a suffocating, full-court defense for the majority of the game in a 111-53 thrashing of his former team, county “D” champ Bridgehampton, in the county B/C/D title game. The Red Devils moved on to the Small Schools Championship, against “A” champ Wyandanch, set for 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at Farmingdale State College.
Bridgehampton will be on the court next on March 1, when it takes on the Nassau County champion, Academy Charter of Hempstead, at Center Moriches High School.
“I was raised to have that killer instinct in Bridgehampton, so I didn’t want to disappoint any of my fellow alumni by not coming out with that kill mentality,” Thomas said after the game, with a smile. “It’s a little bittersweet giving that to the home team, but at the same time you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
“It’s about how we play, not who we play,” he added. “That’s always the message.”
The Killer Bees were certainly the underdog in the tilt with Center Moriches, a team that has its sights on a state title this season and has been a force to be reckoned with in Class B under Thomas’s guidance. But Bridgehampton proved itself capable of an upset earlier in the week, when it knocked off county “C” champ Greenport on Saturday. It was clear from the opening tip-off, however, that Bridgehampton wasn’t going to come up with another improbable win. The Red Devils shot out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back, creating easy lay-up opportunities thanks to turnovers created by its suffocating defense. Center Moriches held a 34-9 advantage after the first quarter.
Bridgehampton head coach Ron White, who played alongside Thomas as a freshman, in Thomas’s senior year—when the team won the first of three consecutive state championships—gave credit to the Red Devils for being a talented team, and said that coaching against his former teammate doesn’t add any extra motivation or feeling of rivalry.
“We’ve been there and done that and now it’s these kids’ time,” he said. “I respect him, and I like that we both have a chance to give back to the community. I was blessed to stay at Bridgehampton, and he’s created an awesome program at Center Moriches.”
Bridgehampton was led by J.P. Harding, who had 23 points, while Elijah White had 14. Center Moriches had five players in double figures, led by Micah Snowden (25 points).
“They’re an awesome team; I commend the coach and the athletes,” White said. “We came out and fought. We gave up a little bit, much sooner than I expected. Of course, [Center Moriches] pressed, that’s their style of play, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot a bit.”
Despite such a lopsided loss, White doesn’t think it will be hard for his team to get back on track and it looks to the next opponent in Class D. Playing against bigger schools like Center Moriches, and the confidence boost of beating a powerhouse like Greenport, is something he hopes goes a long way for his team. He said what his players need to do now is simple.
“It’s just energy and belief,” he said. “Just shoot the shot; the biggest risk is not taking that shot. They understand now that they belong. They’ve just got to continue to work.”