By Gavin Menu
The path to the Suffolk County Class D basketball championship got a whole lot easier when perennial power Greenport was moved up to Class C earlier this year, opening the door wide for defending champion Bridgehampton to retain its title this season.
Ross School will also compete in Class D, as will Smithtown Christian and Shelter Island, neither of which have been contenders in recent years. Ross, which won the county title two years ago, will look to improve on a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Killer Bees last season with former Pierson coach Kevin O’Halloran now at the helm, having replaced long-time head coach Kelly McKee last spring.
But most eyes will be on Bridgehampton this season with the Killer Bees hoping to make a return trip to Glens Falls, the site of the New York State basketball championships where they have won titles eight times.
Head coach Carl Johnson, who won three of those titles as a player and three more as a coach, said he was extremely pleased with the way this year’s team played in a recent four-way scrimmage against Center Moriches, Westhampton Beach and Hempstead, a large school from Nassau County.
“They played way beyond my expectations,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “We’re still very young but we played extremely well.”
Returning to lead the Killer Bees is senior Jason Hopson, who at 6-feet-4-inches is the team’s tallest player and biggest scoring threat. The backcourt will feature two returning freshmen who competed as eighth graders last season in Tylik Furman and Joshua Lamison, while juniors Anajae Lamb, Devon Bevard and Jerome Walker will fill out the top of the line-up. John Mantute, a freshman, will see minutes off the bench, according to Johnson.
In addition to losing Brenden Hemby, Canaan Campbell and Zave Brodie to graduation, Johnson learned just last month that sophomore Davion Cooper, who had developed into a major scoring threat, had transferred to Newfield High School. Still, Johnson believes the remaining core of players has enough to make a run at league and county titles, and maybe even back to Glens Falls.
“It’s not going to be easy, but with Greenport moving up, we caught a big break,” said Johnson.
Bridgehampton’s season ended last year in the New York State Class D Regional Final with a 69-53 loss to Livingston Manor, which graduated almost its entire line-up. Johnson said that Roscoe High School in Roscoe and Coleman Catholic from Hurley are the top Class D teams from upstate, and both are beatable, Johnson believes.
But for now, those games are too far away to think about, Bridgehampton’s long-tenured head coach said, and instead he will focus on the season-opener against Stony Brook at home this Tuesday, December 4 at 6 p.m.