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Feb 13, 2019 9:28 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bridgehampton Boys Basketball Wins Class D County Championship

The Bridgehampton boys basketball team defeated Shelter Island, 61-49, to win the Suffolk County Class D Championship on February 13. DREW BUDD
Feb 18, 2019 2:22 PM

With nine state titles on its résumé, the Bridgehampton boys basketball team has long had a reputation as a powerhouse. In seasons past, the road to the New York State Final Four has often been short, thanks to a lack of other Class D schools on Long Island. This year, the Killer Bees have their sights set on a state title, as usual, but unlike other years, it won’t be quite as easy for them to get there.

The Killer Bees took care of their first order of business on February 13, defeating Shelter Island, 61-49, at Center Moriches High School to win the Suffolk County Class D Championship. Since Bridgehampton typically has the only winning record among Suffolk Class D schools, it’s awarded the county title, or dubbed the county representative, and a county championship isn’t needed. But this year Shelter Island forced a county title game by defeating Bridgehampton, 65-62, on January 10. The Bees, on their home court, defeated the Indians, 78-61, in the more recent matchup on February 4, but it was clear since the two teams split their regular season matchups that a rubber game was going to be needed to decide a county title. Last week was the first time a Class D title was contested since 2016, when the two schools met for the crown.

What also makes this season different is that the Bees will have to play in a Long Island Class D Championship—what’s thought to be, by many, the first ever—against Academy Charter of Hempstead. That will be the next elimination game the Bees will play, which will be back at Center Moriches on March 1 at 5 p.m. Bridgehampton continued in the Section XI, or Suffolk County, Tournament in the C/D Qualifier against Greenport on Saturday (see separate story).

Bridgehampton head coach Ron White and senior J.P. Harding said that had they taken care of Shelter Island in both of their regular season games, last week’s county final wouldn’t have been needed. But both agreed that it was probably for the best that there was a game.

“I love it. It’s all about earning things. Nothing is given in real life. You’ve got to go out and earn it and I really appreciate the fact that we did play somebody,” Coach White said. “Had we beat them the first time we wouldn’t have had to play, but I like the idea of having to continue to play. We play again on Saturday. If we win, we play again Tuesday, but if we don’t, we don’t play again until March 1, so we get to keep game-time conditions throughout the entire playoffs.”

Harding, who finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, has been a part of four playoff runs each season he’s played varsity for Bridgehampton. In what was his first actual county championship game, he made sure his team would advance. Harding scored his first basket of the game on a tough layup that he was fouled on. He made the ensuing layup to put his team up, 6-5, and just a little over three minutes into the game, the Bees had a lead they would never relinquish. But Shelter Island never let the game get too out of hand.

The Indians trailed by only seven, 28-21, by halftime, and even went on a little run midway through the fourth to cut into the Bees’ lead even further, forcing Bridgehampton to call a timeout. Not long after that break, Elijah White nailed a three-pointer to increase the Bees’ lead back to double digits. Shelter Island hit a few baskets of its own down the stretch to keep things close, but it never came within more than seven points of Bridgehampton’s lead since that early first-quarter lead after Harding’s first basket.

Coach White gave credit to Shelter Island for never giving up.

“I commend the coach and the team. Those guys are studs over there,” he said. “We knew that we were going to come into a rowdy squad. I respect those guys, they just don’t quit. And they had a pretty good game strategy against us on defense; close up the middle, make us shoot from the distance. We had to go and figure things out, set some good screens and get downhill.”

Due to the storm that came through the region the day prior to the county final, neither of the teams was able to practice since afternoon activities were canceled. Coach White said not being able to practice prior to a county championship made him a little leery but he commended his own team for “persevering.”

On top of Harding’s solid game, Bridgehampton junior Nae’Jon Ward finished with 11 points and 10 assists, while Elijah White scored 18 points to go with six steals and six rebounds. Senior Johnny DeGroot scored nine points.

“It’s a big relief,” winning the county title, Elijah White said after the game. “A lot of people coming into the game, even our own fans, they doubted whether we can get here. We doubted ourselves with a lot of the losses we took [this season]. It was just nice to get that off of our chest, play our first playoff game. It was nice to have our first playoff game be against someone that we’ve played before, not some random team from Westchester. We got the first playoff jitters off of our backs.”

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Well done BEES.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 14, 19 7:03 PM