The East Hampton boys basketball team lost what could definitively be called a heartbreaker, on Valentine’s Day.
In a Suffolk County Class A outbracket game at Elwood/John Glenn, the Bonackers—who led by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter—ultimately fell to the host Knights, 92-89, in triple overtime. That was due, in large part, to Glenn sophomore Josh Fenner, who scored 53 points after not scoring a single point in the first quarter and only 12 at halftime. He willed his Glenn team to victory with 16 points in the three overtimes. Glenn advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to second seed Westhampton Beach on Friday night.
East Hampton head coach Dan White said it was, hands down, the best high school game he’s ever been a part of, but that it was certainly a bitter way to end a season.
“Up 14 points, five minutes left, you gotta win,” he said. “I felt there was definitely like ... a two-minute period where we were like, ‘Wait a sec,’ instead of just keeping going.
“I made a couple mistakes coaching, for sure, defensively,” White continued. “Fenner ended up with , he had 12 at halftime, which is solid. I think a lot of that is just the transition element, you forget about your rules with regards to making sure we have two on him in transition.”
Malachi Miller hit one of his five three-pointers in the game to put East Hampton up, 60-42, with just under a minute remaining in the third quarter and things were looking up for the Bonackers, who led the entire game and never lost the lead until overtime. It was midway through the fourth when Fenner and junior Kyle Szokoli started to turn things on for Glenn. They scored the final 10 points for the Knights, the game-tying dagger coming from Szokoli, who sunk a three with 1:24 remaining to make it 69-69, which wound up being the score at the end of regulation.
Both teams were tied, 73-73, at the end of the first overtime, so they went to a second. Fenner finished off a three-point play after scoring on a layup and hit his ensuing free throw to give Glenn an 80-75 lead, but junior Max Proctor hit a three with 25.3 seconds remaining, then senior Jack Reese hit a pull-up, fade away jumper in the paint with 1.2 seconds left to tie it back up at 80-80 and force a third overtime.
With both teams running on fumes, Glenn seemed to have the extra push to maintain a lead in the third extra session. Glenn junior Justin Tiernan sunk two free throws with 45.3 seconds remaining to give the Knights an 89-84 lead. With 9.8 seconds remaining, Reese was taken out of the game signaling the end for the Bonackers. Junior Turner Foster continued to play hard for East Hampton. He hit a pair of free throws, and after Szokoli made one of two of his free throws afterwards, Foster got a good look at a potential game-tying three as time expired but it hit the side of the rim and the game finally came to an end at 92-89.
Fenner’s 53 points was a school record, and what makes his point total even more impressive is that he only made two three-pointers the entire game. Szokoli was the next leading scorer for Glenn with 17 points.
East Hampton had a much more balanced scoring attack. Reese led Bonac with 24 points in what was his final high school game. Miller finished with 20, Proctor scored 14 with 12 of those points coming off of threes—East Hampton made 15 threes throughout the game—and Foster finished with 11 points.
White, reflecting on what was his second season with the program after coaching at neighboring Pierson, said his team has come a long way from just the start of the season until Wednesday night. They fought through some adversity throughout the season, with illnesses and not having one of its top players due to ineligibility issues for five league games. The team continues to grow though, which is what White likes to see.
“I feel like when I started last year to where we are now, with a good core coming back, we’re still moving in the right direction,” he said. “One thing that games like this tend to do for you, it’ll stick in the underclassmen’s minds and it’ll be a driving force.”
The majority of the starters in Foster, Miller and Proctor, all juniors, are expected to return next season, and the first player off the bench in Bladimir Rodriguez is in that class as well. But the team is losing starters Chris Stoecker and Reese, who White will sorely miss.
“Jack Reese is the best guard I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He averaged 20 a game, he scored 24 tonight. He defends the best player, he doesn’t come out. He has tendinitis in his knee, plays through that. He’s everything you would want in a point guard and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him.”