One of the most exciting times for high school players is playing in that first home game of the season in front of family, friends and fellow classmates, and getting that extra push from the home crowd.
The Bridgehampton boys basketball team had to wait well over a month into its season to be able to experience that, with its first game in the Bee Hive on January 8 against rival Pierson. It took a full half for the Killer Bees to adjust to playing at home, but they eventually put it all together for a 77-55 victory over the Whalers to improve to 3-1 in League VII, 6-5 overall. Pierson dropped to 2-2 in League VII, 5-6 overall.
J.P. Harding, a senior, scored a game-high 36 points, 26 of which came in the second half to help spark his team. Juniors Elijah White and Will Walker each scored 12 points while junior Nae’Jon Ward scored 11. Pierson junior Henry Brooks scored 11 points in limited time due to foul trouble. Senior Cooper Schiavoni, who was also in foul trouble toward the end of the game, scored 10 points.
After leading by just six points at halftime, 30-24, the Bees jumped out to a 9-0 run to start the second half and quickly built a comfortable 20-point lead or so, which it maintained for much of the rest of the game due, in large part, to its 27-point outburst in the third. Bridgehampton head coach Ron White said Harding’s big game was a product of what Pierson’s defensive scheme was giving the Bees. The Whalers decided to go to a zone where it tried trapping guards Elijah White and Nae’Jon Ward, leaving the middle wide open most of the time for Harding, who could shoot the ball from the top of the key or drive to the basket, the latter of which he did more often than not.
That, in turn, led to the foul trouble that Pierson was in throughout the night. One of it’s more proficient scorers in Brooks sat out most, if not all, of the second quarter. Schiavoni was in foul trouble in the second half and junior Nick Egbert fouled out in the fourth. But Pierson head coach Hank Katz didn’t make excuses for his team’s loss.
“Wasn’t a mystery ... they just outplayed us,” he said. “They struggled with our pressure early on and then they handled it. We were having a hard time getting to the right spots quickly enough. They were better than us tonight.”
Freshman Wilson Bennett played in his first varsity game on Tuesday night for Pierson and scored eight points and corralled a number of rebounds. With many of the smaller schools on the East End not having junior varsity teams, Katz said he brought up Bennett to get him more playing time, but he may have done enough to start to get regular playing time on varsity.
“He did great, beyond expectations. Was a pleasant surprise, actually,” Katz said. “We’ll see, we may have to give him a close look. If he’s going to contribute like this we may have to make some decisions.”
White said it was nice being back on the team’s home court, but it was a conscious decision on his part, he said, to schedule that many away games to start the season because many of the Bees’ playoff games would be on the road. Bridgehampton’s victory on Tuesday night came after an 81-60 loss at Class C juggernaut Greenport on Friday night, its first league loss of the season. White said he thought he and his team overthought the Porters and is confident they’ll do better against them on their home court in a few weeks on January 28.
Overall, White likes the direction the team is heading.
“We’re a little battle-tested now,” he said. “We got beat up a little bit in the beginning. We just have to continue to remain hungry and to continue to build and learn.”