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Jan 9, 2018 10:25 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Whalers, Bees Win Their League VIII Openers

Pierson senior Will Martin scored 32 points and totaled 11 steals in the win over Shelter Island last week. DREW BUDD
Jan 9, 2018 10:40 AM

The Bridgehampton and Pierson boys basketball teams got their League VIII schedules underway last week, making strong first impressions.

Both the Killers Bees and Whalers struggled a bit through their non-league slates in December—the Whalers went 3-5 while the Bridgies went 0-6—but as they enter the league season, it seems as if both teams are feeling rejuvenated. Pierson easily defeated Shelter Island, 70-47, at home, while Bridgehampton won, 60-48, at Southold; both games took place on January 3. Each team had their second game postponed due to last week’s snowstorm.

The Whalers jumped out to a 22-11 lead on Shelter Island after the first quarter and pushed themselves out to a 17-point lead at 50-33 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Shelter Island didn’t have an answer for Pierson’s half-court trap, which forced a number of turnovers; senior Will Martin had 11 steals just by himself. Martin also finished with a game-high 32 points, while sophomore Henry Brooks finished with 17, which was still more than Shelter Island’s leading scorer in Dan Martin (11 points). Senior E.J. Burke brought down 16 rebounds for Pierson.

“I think they played really well,” Pierson head coach Hank Katz said of his team. “We’re trying to create chaos when we can, and play a bit more up-tempo, especially on defense. I think we have the ability to play fast at times, on both sides of the ball, and it’s something we work on every day in practice.”

Katz is hoping that what he saw in last week’s win carries over to the rest of the season. “There are a lot of good teams in our league so consistency is really the key,” he said. “Can we play like that night in and night out? Can we trust each other? A lot of those things will determine how successful we will be throughout the season.”

Bridgehampton had the tough task of traveling to the North Fork to face Southold but the Bees didn’t seem to have an issue with the First Settlers. They led most of the game thanks to a 14-9 first quarter. J.P. Harding, a junior, led all scorers with 23 points and he also had 15 rebounds. Sophomores Elijah White (16 points) and Will Walker (13 points) each had strong games, as did junior Johnny Degroot, who finished with eight points.

Bridgehampton first-year head coach Ron White said it’s taken some time for his players to not only make the necessary adjustments acclimating to the varsity level but believing in themselves.

“Me, along with the team, we’re learning,” White said. “We were reflecting back to a few games prior, to the Mercy, Port Jeff and Mattituck games, and we realized we shot ourselves in the foot. We wish we could get those games back, but I think, for the most part, they’re starting to believe and trust in the process and they have relaxed a little bit.”

White mentioned that Harding is starting to finally come along after a slow start to the season due to an appendectomy just before the season opener against Babylon. He’s also had to learn how to take on a larger role on the team while also adding more to his overall game.

“J.P. is understanding that he can be a quality perimeter player and doesn’t have to play the post all the time,” White explained. “Elijah White, my son, is starting to orchestrate a little bit better. Will Walker is doing well, and Jonathan Degroot is averaging close to a double-double right now and he’s really been our catalyst since the beginning of the season and has been pushing us along.”

Pierson played at Greenport on Wednesday and will host Southold on Friday night at 6:15 p.m. before playing a non-league game at Stony Brook on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday at 4:30 p.m. Bridgehampton hosted Smithtown Christian on Wednesday night and is scheduled to play at Ross on Friday night at 4:30 p.m. The Bees will host the Whalers on Wednesday, January 17, at 6 p.m. in what should be a good showdown between the two rival schools.

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