By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
Amazing how fate can change in an instant.
Last March it seemed as if the Bridgehampton boys basketball team would return to Glens Falls and the New York State Final Four, which once upon a time was an annual pilgrimage for the Killer Bees and their head coach, Carl Johnson, who has six state titles on his resume as a player and coach.
But basketball can be a cruel game, and with the Killer Bees leading by a point in the final seconds of the New York State Regional Final against Martin Luther King Jr. last spring, the Killer Bees were sent home in shock after a three-pointer by MLK at the buzzer extended the team’s Glens Falls drought to 15 years and counting.
But there is renewed hope heading into this season with the bulk of last year’s team returning to make another run for glory. Jason Hopson, the team’s leading scorer and an All-County selection from a year ago, has graduated so the Killer Bees will rely heavily on sophomore forward Josh Lamison, who dominated in the paint last season and has improved his overall game from a year ago.
“With Josh, his ball handling has improved, he’s been working on his jump shot, he’s stronger and has a sense of his value now,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “He can be an unstoppable force if he puts in the work.”
The team’s other projected starters have also improved, according to Johnson, with seniors Anajae Lamb and Jerome Walker returning alongside sophomore point guard Tylik Furman.
Freshman Elijah Jackson and sophomore Matt Hochstedler will also contribute this season and a newcomer in senior Henry Kotz will “bring some toughness,” according to Johnson, along with added defense and rebounding.
“They all have to realize with the loss of Jason that seniors move on and now it’s their turn to step up to the plate,” Johnson said. “And they have the talent to do so.”
Speaking of Lamison and Furman, Johnson said they have the potential to be two of the best players on the East End this season, but that the work they put in now, during the preseason, will be key to their success.
Bridgehampton will once again compete in League VIII against Stony Brook, Southold, Shelter Island, Ross School, the Knox School and Smithtown Christian. The team will open its season with a non-league game at Mattituck tomorrow, December 6, at 7:30 p.m.
The league opener will be held this Tuesday, December 10 at home against Pierson at 6 p.m.
Should the Killer Bees qualify for the postseason they will compete, as usual, as a Class D school, where they hope to defend their Suffolk County title from a season ago. That accomplishment will be made all the more difficult this winter, however, with longtime rival Greenport having returned to Class D after competing as a Class C school for the last several years. Those two Class D favorites will get their first look at each other on January 10 with a game at Greenport.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Johnson said.