Senior Aditya Nugraha consoles Josh Lamison after the Bees lost in a state regional final on Friday.
By Gavin Menu; photo by Michael Heller
It was a long journey that ended in an instant. One more rebound or one more tip and Bridgehampton would have been bound for Glens Falls and the Final Four of the New York State boys basketball tournament.
Instead, a last-second tip fell into the hands of Rajien Griffin of Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Bridgehampton’s opponent in Friday’s Class D Southeast Regional Final at New Rochelle High School. With the Killer Bees leading by a point with two seconds to play, Griffin rebounded his own miss and launched a desperation three-pointer that dropped in for a shocking 44-42 victory.
“I got the rebound and there was two seconds left, so I just had to let it go,” Griffin said as Tigers fans mobbed the team at center court. “I had a good feeling when it left my hands.”
The loss ended an otherwise stellar season in which Bridgehampton won its second straight Suffolk Class D title and a regional semifinal playoff game earlier in the week.
“It was a long rebound and they got it into their best player’s hands,” Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson said about the final play, which left four-tenths of a second on the clock, not enough for the Killer Bees to get off a final shot. “What can I say?”
The loss also ended the career of senior Jason Hopson, the team’s emotional leader, who finished with a team-high 14 points.
“He meant a great deal to the program,” Johnson said about Hopson. “If it wasn’t for Jason, we wouldn’t even be here.”
Freshman Tylik Furman had 13 points and Josh Lamison had 5. Jerome Walker hit three huge three-pointers in the second half as the Bees battled from 10 points down late in the third quarter.
“The kids never gave up,” Johnson said. “They just kept playing hard.”
Martin Luther King advanced to the Class D Final Four this weekend in Glens Falls, New York, where they will compete for a state championship against three other Class D schools from upstate.
“Luck was on our side today,” Tigers head coach Scott Green said. “We watched Bridgehampton on film, but playing them was a whole different story. They’re relentless and hard to defend. They were great competitors and brought the same emotion and spirit that we brought. Our hats are off to them.”
The entire game was a seesaw battle with each team making runs just when it looked like they had been put away. Bridgehampton got out early with five quick points from Hopson but the Tigers used their size advantage down low to take a 21-15 lead into halftime.
Turnovers and missed shots plagued Bridgehampton early in the second half and the Tigers built an early nine-point lead. But then Furman knocked down a basket, followed by a three-point play from Hopson and another three from Furman that tied the game at 25-25 with just over three minutes remaining in the third.
Griffin, who finished with a game-high 22 points, began to put the Tigers on his back and hit two three-pointers during a 10-0 run late in the third and the Bees trailed, 35-28, going into the final quarter.
Walker erupted late in the third quarter and early into the fourth with three straight three-pointers from the wing that tied the game at 36-36 with 4:52 to play. Anaje Lamb, who had 16 points in the regional semifinal win over Coleman Catholic, scored his only point of the game on a free throw that put Bridgehampton up, 37-36, its first lead since early in the fourth quarter.
The game went back-and-forth for the next few minutes until Lamison snatched up an offensive rebound with Tigers big man Jermain Shaw having already fouled out. Lamison’s put back gave Bridgehampton a 42-41 lead with 56.2 seconds to play. Hopson then secured a critical defensive rebound with 17 seconds left and was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and set the stage for Griffin’s dramatic three at the buzzer.
“We had been preaching about offensive rebounds, and how long shots lead to long rebounds,” Johnson said. “We had our hands on the ball and it just went to the wrong guy.”