Losing a playoff game in triple overtime will linger for quite a bit for any team, and East Hampton boys basketball head coach Dan White is hoping that his team’s 92-89 loss at Elwood/John Glenn last Valentine’s Day has stuck in the heads of those players who are returning to fuel them going into this season.
“I don’t think they have put it behind them, and I don’t think they should. I haven’t,” he said. “Any time you’re up 11 with three minutes left you should win, so I’m not going to say it was a good thing, but we were in [the gym] two weeks later, so I’m hoping that we stay healthy and eligible and we have some drive toward getting back to some meaningful playoff games.”
Turner Foster, Malachi Miller, Max Proctor and Bladimir Rodriguez all had a hand in getting the Bonackers back to the postseason after a two-year layoff and all return this season as seniors. Some of the players feel they have moved past the tough loss to Glenn and others hope it helps the team this season.
“It was a tough loss, but we kind of know what to expect now going into playoffs, hopefully,” Foster said.
Each one of the seniors will find themselves in the starting lineup on a nightly basis, White said, with the fifth spot currently up for grabs between a handful of new players. Clarke Miller, a 6-foot-3-inch junior who was the starting center on junior varsity last season, should slide into a fairly big role on varsity this winter. Christian Johnson, Liam Leach, Logan Gurney, Frank Bellucci, and last year’s sixth man, Jeremy Vizcaino, are all currently fighting for minutes, White said.
With Jack Reese and Chris Stoecker having graduated after last season, White said the offense will take on a bit of a different look. It won’t run through a single player like it did the past few seasons since it had a bonafide point guard in Reese. Instead, multiple different players could be called upon to take the ball up the court, which will give opposing teams a number of different looks.
“We’re all guards. We don’t really have an offense where it runs through one guy. We did last year because Jack was obviously a special player,” White said. “Turner, Jeremy Vizcaino, Malachi, even Blad, they can all handle the ball. It’ll give them all a chance to make plays.”
East Hampton will play seven of its first eight League V games on the road, the lone home game in that stretch being December 21 against Sayville at 6:15 p.m. White said “it’s a tough deal,” but, if his team can play well and win a few games early on, it’ll be set up nicely for the second half of the season, where seven of its eight games will be at home. The Bonackers will also host their annual Kendall Madison Tip-Off Classic on December 7 and 8. Bridgehampton, Mattituck and Southampton will be the teams competing in this year’s tournament.
There are 19 Class A teams in Suffolk County this season, the majority of them split between Leagues IV and V, with Glenn being the lone ‘A’ team in League VI. East Hampton will continue to compete in League V, which this season includes returning state champion Amityville, Bayport/Blue Point, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Sayville, Shoreham/Wading River, returning county finalist Westhampton Beach and Wyandanch. White said that each school brings its own set of variables to the court each and every game, and the one thing he’s learned from playing in Class A the past few seasons after coaching at Class C Pierson years prior, is that almost everything comes down to matchups.
“We struggled against Harborfields last year just because we didn’t have an answer against Mike McDermott. Kings Park buried Harborfields twice last year, but Chris Stoecker could match up with their best player so we buried Kings Park,” White explained. “So it’s kind of hard to say who is going to be tough this season. For us, it could be Amityville or Bayport. For someone else it could be Mt. Sinai. I know there are a lot of good coaches and each team has two to three legitimate scorers, and if you’re not prepared and you don’t compete you’re going to get beat.”
White is expecting a return to the playoffs this season while his players are expecting to take a step forward.
“I feel like everyone’s improved, everyone’s stepped up and ready to take that next step,” Malachi Miller said.
“We brought back a bunch of our players and I think we’ve all made major improvements since last year,” Proctor added.
After a 15-year hiatus, Krista Brooks is back leading the East Hampton girls basketball team. From 1996 to 2003, Brooks, who has been a teacher in the school district for 22 years, was the head coach of the team and now takes over for Kelly McKee, who stepped down after last season. Similar to when she took over the program in 1996, the team had gone winless the season before Brooks took over, and as she did back then, she plans on taking a similar approach in her second go-around with the team.
“My only expectation is for the girls to really start to enjoy basketball again and do the best they can,” she said. “I want them to score more than they did last season, and before they start focusing on winning games, I want them to win more quarters than they lose. I want them to be confident in their shooting, play hard all the time. It is a rebuilding year, but, there are eight girls coming back, so they have a base, it all just needs to come together now.”
Brooks didn’t want to divulge any of her players’ names on Monday but said that by the end of this week she will have figured out who the captains are, who will start, and a role for each of the 11 or so players she plans to have on varsity. The Lady Bonackers, who will play in League V this season against Amityville, Bayport/Blue Point, Elwood/John Glenn, Miller Place, Mt. Sinai, Sayville, Shoreham/Wading River, Westhampton Beach and Wyandanch, open the season on December 7 at Westhampton Beach at 4 p.m.