By Gavin Menu
If Monday’s game between Bridgehampton and Stony Brook is any indication of how the League VIII boys’ basketball season will play out, then soft teams need not apply to the title hunt.
After 32 minutes of physical and high-energy basketball in Bridgehampton’s famed Bee Hive, the defending league champion Bears escaped with a 56-43 victory that was much closer in the end than the final score would indicate.
“It’s going to be tough, real tough,” Carl Johnson, Bridgehampton’s long-time head coach said when asked about the upcoming league schedule. “We knew this was going to be a tough game. They are a scrappy team and they play great team defense.”
Andrew Daniel had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Max Pitsch had 13 points and seven rebounds to lead Stony Brook (1-0) in what was the season-opener for both teams. Jason Hopson, Bridgehampton’s lone senior, scored a game-high 17 points while Josh Lamison, a tenacious freshman forward, scored 15.
The schedule for Bridgehampton (0-1) will not ease up anytime soon, with a game on Friday, December 14 at home against Greenport and then the first road contest of the season at Southold on December 17. The annual Holiday Tournament at Southampton High School will kick-off with the Killer Bees playing the rival Mariners on December 21 at 8 p.m. in a non-league game.
“We open with some really tough teams,” Johnson said.
On Monday, the Bears fell behind, 14-11, after the first quarter but played swarming zone defense the remainder of the way and moved the ball efficiently on offense within the tight confines of the Bee Hive to take a 17-4 second quarter advantage and a ten-point lead into halftime.
Bridgehampton came out of the locker room in a 2-2-1 full-court press to start the third quarter and Hopson began to heat up offensively, scoring nine of his 17 points in the period. But Hopson also picked up his fourth personal foul in the third quarter, and the Killer Bees as a unit were unable to play as intensely on defense as Johnson had hoped.
“We failed to turn up the pressure,” Johnson said. “When you’re down like that, you need possessions.”
But still the Killer Bees kept the game close. Back-to-back lay-ups from Lamison and freshman point guard Tylik Furman cut what was once a 15-point lead to single digits and a three-point play by Hopson closed the third quarter with Bridgehampton trailing by eight, 41-33.
Stony Brook came out with a quick 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter but the Bees’ pressure defense finally began to force some turnovers and a nice baseline finish by Lamison was followed by coast-to-coast lay-ups from Furmen and Hopson that cut the lead to six points with just over two minutes to play.
But just as quickly, Stony Brook took the air out of the Killer Bees’ home gym with a 7-0 run that closed the game and opened the Bears’ league title defense with a solid road victory.
“You need to be able to run your offense fully against a team like that, and we failed to execute on the offensive end,” Johnson said when asked what went wrong down the stretch. “But this game was good for us. We needed something like this early on.”