By Gavin Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
The Beehive was buzzing Tuesday night and the Bridgehampton boys basketball team put on a show.
Playing the final home game of his high school career, senior Jason Hopson had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Killer Bees to a 82-71 victory over rival Pierson, a win that clinched a berth in the Suffolk County Class D playoffs for Bridgehampton.
Freshman forward Josh Lamison had a monster night for the Bees, scoring 21 points to go with 15 rebounds while Devin Bevard finished with 19 points, including four three-pointers.
Bridgehampton played without freshman point guard Tylik Furman, who was clipped by a car earlier in the day in a hit-and-run incident, but was not seriously injured, according to head coach Carl Johnson, who said he expects Furman to be ready to play later this week.
Pierson, which had already locked up a postseason berth in Class C, fell to 10-3 in League VIII play while Bridgehampton improved to 7-6. Earlier in the week, on February 1, Bridgehampton lost, 39-34, on the road to Shelter Island, where Hopson was held to just nine points.
Those two teams will most likely clash for the county title sometime next week, with both the Class C and Class D playoffs tentatively scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 12.
“We’ll be ready this time,” Hopson said after being mobbed by friends and family as he left the floor on Tuesday. “This win tonight means a lot to me. There was a lot of emotion out there and we came out and played hard. It’s a big win and we’ll be ready for the playoffs.”
After falling behind by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, Pierson forward Forrest Loesch led a spirited comeback and finished with a career-high 33 points. The Whalers were able to cut the lead to four at one point in the fourth quarter but with Hopson and Lamison leading the way, the Bees were too strong down the stretch.
“It’s a great, great victory,” Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson said afterwards. “But as happy as I am to get the win, I’m most happy for Jason. He’s been playing great basketball for me all year.”
Johnson compared his team’s performances on Tuesday with the Shelter Island game as “night and day,” and said his team played better in all facets of the game against the Whalers at home.
“I’m hoping this momentum carries into the playoffs,” Johnson said.
It was the Whalers who jumped out to a 12-4 lead early in the first quarter as a raucous crowd packed the tiny gymnasium, leaving dozens of fans at the door unable to witness what turned into a classic meeting between two storied programs.
Jake Bennett, Pierson’s best on-the-ball defender, shutdown Hopson in the first quarter but got into early foul trouble and sat for long stretches of the game. He fouled out early in the fourth quarter, leaving Hopson with much more room to operate.
“It’s not easy guarding the best player every night, and you can get into foul trouble,” Pierson head coach Dan White said when asked about Bennett. “The thing about this team is they know everything they have to do. They just walked in here and thought they had it locked, and it never works out that way. I’m at a loss right now.”
Pierson led 14-11 after the first quarter but Bridgehampton scored 28 points in the second quarter and left the Whalers behind, 39-25, at halftime, a deficit they were never able to overcome.
Aside from Loesch, Pierson’s Patrick Sloane was the only other Whaler to score in double figures, finishing with 13 points, all of which came in the second half.
“It’s always a tough game here,” White said long after the crowd had left the gym, where so many great memories have been made. “Normally we do a lot better here, but we forgot how to do things tonight.”
Pierson will close out the regular season tomorrow, Friday, February 8, at 6:15 p.m. at undefeated Stony Brook, which clinched its second-straight League VIII title with a win over Southold on Tuesday.
Bridgehampton will close against Ross tomorrow, Friday, February 8, at 4:30 p.m.