The Bees are back.
The Bridgehampton boys basketball team beat Ross, 72-62, in the Class D semifinal—played at Pierson High School on Friday afternoon—dethroning the defending county Class D champs and earning the right to face Greenport for this year’s crown.
That game was slated for Monday afternoon at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Selden. (See separate article).
Friday’s victory was a bit of vindication for Bridgehampton, a program with multiple county, Long Island and state Class D championship banners hanging in its gym. The Killer Bees missed the playoffs last year after going 2-10, including two losses to Ross in the regular season. Because Greenport was a Class C school last year and no other Class D teams made the playoffs, the Cosmos became automatic county champions.
Things were different this year. Aside from the fact that Greenport returned to Class D, making it a more intriguing race, Ross and Bridgehampton matched up better, splitting their regular season battles. The Cosmos went on a roll in the latter part of the season to qualify for the playoffs, winning five of their last six games. And although they beat Bridgehampton in the most recent game, the Killer Bees had plenty of momentum on their side, too, with impressive wins in the second half of the year.
On Friday, Bridgehampton and Ross squared off on Pierson’s home court because the Killer Bees are not allowed to host playoff games on their non-regulation-size court. But the Bees certainly played like the team with home court advantage, particularly in the third quarter. After facing a five-point deficit at halftime, the Killer Bees outscored the Cosmos 28-13 in the third quarter, giving them a 59-49 lead going into the final period.
Ross didn’t go down without a fight, however, cutting the lead to 62-59 after Max Rowen scored inside with 2:55 left. But the Bees stopped the bleeding thanks to a big three-pointer from Jason Hopson, off an assist from Anajae Lamb, who had kept the ball alive with an offensive rebound that he kicked back out to Hopson. That shot put Bridgehampton up 65-59 with just under two minutes remaining and took the wind out of Ross’ sails for good.
Caanan Campbell led all scorers with 23 points and 15 rebounds while Hopson finished with 19 points and Josh Lamison added 10. Liam Chaskey led Ross with 19 points.
Ross head coach Kelly McKee said Bridgehampton’s play in the third quarter was the deciding factor in the game.
“We gave them 20-something [points] in the third quarter and that was the difference,” he said. “We had to chase them from behind for the rest of the game. They came out strong in that third quarter and we didn’t.”
Johnson agreed, but offered more specifics. When asked what was the key to his team’s third-quarter surge, he answered simply: “Jason Hopson.”
“I thought he showed a lot of leadership and hit his three’s,” he continued. “He was really vocal and got the guys ready to go. I don’t think they had an answer for him.”
Johnson said he and his team did not panic despite being down at halftime.
“I told them, ‘We’re right where we need to be—we’re only down five points,’” he said. “We just needed to rebound better and go to our weapons, Jason and Caanan, and that’s what we did.”
After the game, Campbell said his team simply came together and took care of business.
“We knew we just had to work hard and stay focused, not turn the ball over and have team unity and play defense,” he said. “[Ross] has good shooters and good ball movement, so we just needed to stay focused and minimize our mistakes. We know if we play together and play hard and leave it all out there on the court, we’ll be fine.”
For Ross, the loss dashed its dreams of repeating as county champs, but it marked the second year in a row that the team made the playoffs, which McKee said is a step in the right direction.
“We’re getting there,” he said, adding that the team will say good-bye to five key seniors, including Chaskey, Fuhito Yoshida, Hayden Aldredge, Rowen and Dylan Stilin.
“I’m very proud of this group,” McKee said. “It’s disappointing to lose but they won five of their last six games to get into the playoffs, which is a testament to a great senior class.”
While McKee was left reflecting on a bittersweet end to the season, Johnson was soaking up the moment, delaying talk of bidding good-bye to seniors for at least another game. Instead, with a big smile, he expressed his happiness at getting back to the title game.
“It feels good,” he said. “Really good. It’s great.”