By Gavin Menu
Over the last 35 years, the Killer Bees have been the poster boys of Suffolk County Class D basketball, winning eight state championships and a remarkable 29 Suffolk titles. And while the Bees entered the season as the two-time defending champs, it has become clear that this is no longer their dad’s Class D competition any more.
The Shelter Island Indians, who are led by the all-around talent of sophomore forward Tristan Wissemann, rode a big first-quarter lead to a 49-47 home victory over Bridgehampton on Tuesday, stamping their ticket to the Class D playoffs with their eighth win of the season.
To earn an automatic bid of its own, which requires a .500 record or better over the 16-game regular season, Bridgehampton (6-8) will have to win its last two games. The Bees will host Greenport (7-7), another Class D school, today, February 6 at 6 p.m., before closing out the regular season on the road against the winless Knox School tomorrow at 5 p.m.
The Class D playoffs are tentatively set to begin Saturday, February 15.
“Now we have to win the remaining two games,” Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson said when asked about his team’s playoff chances. “I was hoping to take care of it today, but now it’s back to the drawing board.”
Should the Bees lose one of their final two games and finish below .500, they could still petition Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body of athletics, for a playoff spot based on their record against fellow Class D schools. Following their loss to Shelter Island on Tuesday, Bridgehampton was 4-2 against Class D competition.
“We can always apply, but you never know what the committee will say,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “But if you do it on the court, you don’t have to worry about it.”
Johnson added that this year’s Class D playoffs should be more competitive than years past, and could very likely be contested by more than two teams, which has been the norm in recent years.
“Either one of us can get beat on any day—Shelter Island, Greenport—who knows what can happen on a neutral court,” Johnson said about this year’s Class D ranks. “Even Smithtown Christian, you catch them on the wrong day, they can beat you.”
Shelter Island got out to a big lead in the first quarter on Tuesday, riding Wissemann’s hot hand to a 16-4 advantage. Bridgehampton chipped away over the next two quarters, basically relying on a two-man, inside-out attack between Josh Lamison and Tylik Furman, who finished with 19 points apiece.
The Bees once again played without freshman Elijah Jackson, who was the pleasant surprise of the season before he suffered a stress fracture in his ankle. Anaje Lamb and Jerome Walker, the team’s remaining regular starters, , combined for just nine points on Tuesday.
Wissemann, who has displayed an impressive all-around game this season, scored 19 points to lead Shelter Island. His offensive rebound and put-back late in the third quarter gave the Indians a 40-28 lead, and with the Bees struggling to score, the home crowd was sent into a frenzy.
But Lamison closed out the third quarter with two straight baskets and opened the fourth with a three-point play. Furman’s steal and finish moments later capped a quick 9-0 run that cut the lead to 40-37 just minutes after the lead had ballooned to 12.
Furman sliced through traffic and hit a runner with 20.8 seconds to play that cut the Indians’ lead to 48-47. Shelter Island’s Matt Dunning hit one-of-two free throws, pushing the lead to two, but a last-second runner by Furman hit the back of the rim as the Indians held on for a huge late-season win.
“We didn’t have a chance to get in the gym yesterday, and I don’t like not being able to get in the gym to go over things,” Johnson said, referring to Monday’s snow-induced school closure. “So we got off to a slow start. But these guys have to understand, going on the road, that we have to be ready to play right away.”