It’s back to the drawing board for the East Hampton girls basketball team.
Searching for its first playoff victory in program history, the Lady Bonackers suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of host Islip, losing 73-41, to the Lady Buccaneers on Friday, in a Suffolk County Class A opening round game. The victory advanced Islip to the Class A semifinals at Harborfields, which was played on Tuesday. The winner of that game will take on either Elwood/John Glenn or Shoreham/Wading River in the finals on Friday at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
East Hampton got off to a very sloppy start to Friday night’s game. Multiple turnovers and an inability to rebound led to Islip going on a 14-0 run in the middle of the first quarter. By the end of the first eight minutes of play, the Lady Bucs had a commanding 20-5 lead.
Out of the break, the Lady Bonackers went on a small 6-0 run of their own in the second quarter and eventually cut Islip’s lead to just six points. Turnovers and rebounding came back to hurt East Hampton, though, as Islip built its lead back up to 39-25 by the end of the first half.
Islip’s top scorer, Shannon Duer, had 21 points at halftime, and combined with teammate Julia Hande to score 36 of their team’s 39 first-half points.
East Hampton showed in the second quarter that it could stay with the Lady Bucs had they limited its turnovers and grabbed a few rebounds. None of that came to fruition in the second half, though. Islip increased its lead to 63-33 by the end of the third quarter as it sealed its playoff victory. Duer finished with 33 points and 20 rebounds while Vanessa Juengerkes had six points, six assists and eight rebounds. Hande finished with 16 points for the Lady Bucs.
East Hampton head coach Howard Wood was confident coming into the game that his team was going to earn its first ever playoff victory. “I thought we were going to be able to because any time you can come back on a team, you can tell you can play with them,” he explained. “[Islip] is a good team, but I really think we made them look better. Again, not to take anything away from them, but I don’t believe they’re a 32-point better team.”
Wood remarked that his team had gotten off to slow starts in most of its games this season, so Friday’s 15-point deficit in the first quarter was not so surprising. East Hampton, having played in League VI this season, hadn’t played Islip, which plays in League V, at all this season.
“I give the girls credit. We probably had two or three girls that hadn’t picked up the ball since last season,” he said. “And I just told them how good we could be if we work on our game … none of them hardly do. And we still made it this far. I hope we can get them interested in coming in during the offseason. Great things happen when you work.
“But I told them I’m proud of them,” he added. “No one thought we were going to make it. It’s not a great moment right now, but time will cure all and then we’ll start working for next year.”
With almost three minutes remaining in the game, Wood decided to take out his star player in senior Kaelyn Ward, who finished with 25 points in her final high school game. Ward, arguably the program’s best player and the only girl to ever score more than 1,000 points, got a nice ovation from the visiting fans, hugged Coach Wood when she got to the sideline, and then was greeted with hugs from her teammates as she went to go sit down.
Along with Ward, Courtney Dess will be graduating in the spring. With the majority of the team currently being juniors and sophomores, the Lady Bonackers will be returning a strong core of their team.