Momentum can mean everything in high school sports, a fact that the Bridgehampton boys basketball team has certainly discovered this season.
The Killer Bees had high hopes entering the year but got off to a rough start, losing four non-league games, their League VIII season opener against Pierson and their first battle with Class D rival Greenport. But Bridgehampton now seems to be back on the right track following consecutive league wins.
The high of a thrilling 81-75 overtime win at the Hive on January 10 carried over to a 74-32 domination of Shelter Island on the road Friday night. The wins brought the Killer Bees back above .500 in League VIII, giving them a 3-2 league record, 3-6 overall.
The game with the Settlers was back and forth throughout, and Bridgehampton looked like it would escape with the win in regulation after Caanan Campbell scored to put his team up by three with less than 10 seconds remaining. But Southold’s Kyle Clausen (25 points) hit a three with four seconds left to push the game into overtime.
The Killer Bees, however, did not let the last-second basket take the wind out of their sails. Instead, Campbell went on a tear, scoring the first seven points of overtime to put his team back in the driver’s seat.
Campbell finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, but it was his teammate, Jason Hopson, who provided the offensive spark in the second half. Hopson was unstoppable in the third and fourth quarters, tallying 21 of his team-high 27 points. He also added seven rebounds and four assists.
“Jason played unbelievable in the second half,” Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson said. “He did it all over; he was hitting driving lay-ups, he went to the line, he hit a couple threes. They really couldn’t stop him in the second half. He had a tremendous game.”
Between Campbell’s overtime heroics and Hopson’s big-time effort, the Bees were able to withstand a 30-point effort by Southold sharpshooter Winston Wilcenski, who hit six threes on the night.
The nail-biting game featured plenty of momentum swings, too. Bridgehampton had a 13-point lead at one point in the second half, but Southold battled back and took a five-point lead in the fourth quarter. Johnson was impressed with his team’s ability to keep its composure throughout.
“It was a game that would have been deflating if we had lost because we played so well,” Johnson said. “Before the overtime, I was thinking they would be hanging their heads, but they really showed me resilience. It was a great game.”
Four days later, the Bees had what Johnson called their best effort of the season in a win at Shelter Island. Bridgehampton shut out the Indians 19-0 in the first quarter and had a 37-16 lead at halftime. Hopson had 26 points and seven assists while Campbell finished with 22 points.
“I think it was the best overall game we’ve played, both defensively and offensively,” Johnson said. “We did the job defensively and shut them out in the first quarter.”
The Bees’ recipe for success has been getting big numbers from both Hopson and Campbell while also getting double-digit scoring from another member of the team. In the win over Southold, eighth-grader Tylik Furman stepped up, getting 15 points. Having three players score in double digits each game while also having solid performances on defense will make the Bees tough to beat, Johnson said.
“We just have to focus on the defense a little more,” he said. “But we do have the ability to put up numbers.”
In their three wins this season, the Bees have averaged 78.6 points. In the losses, they have averaged 52.3 points.
While Hopson and Campbell have been reliable scorers, Johnson said he has been happy with the development of Furman, who is emerging as Bridgehampton’s next best threat aside from the two stars.
“I really think Tylik has come around a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s shown some nice leadership for an eighth-grader and he’s doing the job defensively. He’s going to be key down the stretch, in the second half of the season.”
In fact, Johnson likes what he’s seeing from his entire team right now, and he’s pleased with the way they’ve bounced back from a tough start.
“The Pierson loss mentally took us awhile to bounce back from and even though we handled Smithtown Christian, it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “That carried over to Greenport.
“But we had a great game against Southold and that carried over to Shelter Island,” he continued. “It can be tough playing over there on a Friday night, but we went over there and played hard and the kids didn’t take it lightly. We’re in a good rhythm right now.”