By Benito Vila
To long-time League VIII basketball fans, the current standings seem a bit like science fiction, as if the 2009 season has started out in a parallel universe of oddly inverted realities.
Pierson and Bridgehampton, two schools usually in the middle or towards the top, are both 0-2 and at the bottom; Ross, which typically year-in, year-out is looking up is 2-0 and at the top looking down.
The Ravens’ high perch has come about with tough team play and timely individual effort. With just seven seconds on the clock last Thursday, the score 51-50 Shelter Island, Ross’ Brendan Pettaway stepped to the foul line with the game in the balance.
With the voices in the Ross gym going from roaring to whisper, Pettaway dribbled, set himself and made the first shot to tie the game, raising the volume once more. The second shot dropping through the net, set off hugs on the home side bleachers and smiles and fist pumps on the floor.
The clock still at 0:07, the Indians were left to in-bound the ball with a chance to tie. With both coaches and benches, and the fans, imploring and directing their players, Pettaway intercepted an Indian pass at the mid-court line, giving Ross the ball.
That possession drew an immediate foul, Pettaway putting the game away by sinking two more foul shots to make the final score 54-51 Ross. Pettaway was the Ravens’ leading scorer contributing 21 points, Liam Chaskey adding 15 and Funtito Yoshicka 10.
Raven coach Kelly McKee said afterwards, “It was some game. Every time we play Shelter Island, it’s a knock out, drag out fight. It’s our most intense games of the year. The hustle [Thursday] on both sides was just incredible to watch.”
When asked about Ross’ new place in the standings, McKee remarked, “Our kids have put in a lot of hard work, and it’s paying off for them. We’re a bit of a surprise in that we’re starting three sophomores and a junior. Still, it’s nice to be 2-0 and we’ll go from here.”
“From here” for the Ravens is a home match-up with Pierson January 5 and a road game at Stony Brook January 7, before coming back home to host Bridgehampton January 11.
The Bridgehampton Killer Bees were looking forward to playing in the Hive, their unique, undersized gym, for the first time this year. The hometown fans swarmed into the gym in their yellow shirts and the team’s 21 cheerleaders raised a din, but all that was not enough to distract Greenport, who left with 72-42 win.
The game was closer than the final score for the first nineteen-plus minutes, but then with the score 41-38 Porters with 4:40 left in the third, the visitors set off on an improbable 31-4 run to put the game away.
Sparking that run was Dantré Langhorne, who put a charge through fans on both sides in the fourth quarter by taking an alley-oop in-bounds pass one-handed and throwing it down the hole. That astounding dunk was two of his team-leading 25 points, his effort was balanced by three teammates who scored in double figures.
The Bridgehampton scoring was led by Ainsley Wyche, who had 15 points, with Cesar Banados dropping in 13. Killer Bees coach Carl Johnson said afterwards, “We shot well in the first half but we forgot to take care of the ball in the second; our intensity wasn’t there and we didn’t make the adjustments we needed to when they changed from a 2-3 [zone] to a 1-3-1.”
In talking about the challenge of containing Langhorne and his tall teammates, Coach Johnson added, “They had a lot of length but we have more girth. We have to learn to use that better.”
Next up for the Bees are non-league away games at Bay Shore Monday and East Rockaway, January 2. The team is on the road against Smithtown Christian, January 5, before returning home against Shelter Island, January 8.