East Hampton High’s girls and boys basketball teams began playing this past week, and their nonleaguers with Pierson went well, the boys winning 40-31 here last Thursday and the girls winning 47-33, “or something like that,” according to Howard Wood, the head coach, at the Sag Harbor school on Dec. 6.
Both teams run an up-tempo offense, though it appears, given this past week’s cursory look, that the girls may wind up having more success vis-a-vis their peers.
“We could be good . . . but we’ll have to wait and see,” Wood said following Saturday morning’s practice at the East Hampton Middle School.
The former professional still has yet to be convinced that his undoubtedly talented players are sufficiently passionate about the game, and the fact that some “play other sports” intermittently during basketball season galls him. “We had some 50 days of open gym from May to November, and very few showed, six or seven at the most. From November to February, I do want these girls who have volunteered to play basketball to respect the sport.”
That having been said, one could see at Pierson that the girls, who in the first half kept the pressure on with a full-court man-for-man defense, were more in control once the ball was turned over than they had been last season — somewhat more in control at least.
By the end of the first half, East Hampton, with its star junior point guard, Kaelyn Ward, having scored 17 points, mostly following steals, led 34-15.
Wood and Louis O’Neal, his assistant, kept their starting lineup, which, besides Ward, included Quincy King, Indrea Stephens, Jackie Messmer, and Ryann Ward, on the floor in the third quarter, by the end of which the Bonackers led 44-19. They came out in the fourth as their fellow teammates on the bench finished up.
“We let down in the third and fourth — I don’t know why we stopped attacking,” said Wood. “I love every single one of them — their attitude’s been great for the most part — but you’ve got to have that passion, and we have to run the plays in the games that we run in practice. Our offense and defense aren’t that difficult. If I can’t trust them to run the plays correctly, they won’t be playing. They have to be hungry. Just don’t go through the motions. They’re going to have to earn their playing time.”
In the second half, Wood said, “we didn’t rebound well. I’m not talking about the subtle things, just about going up for the ball. There was no boxing out. . . .” Pierson, he said, had “played hard the whole game — they’ll be fine.”
Saturday’s practice finished with a foul-shooting drill, each girl going to the line for one shot as the rest watched from the baseline. A missed shot triggered a sprint by all to the far wall and back. A made free throw resulted in a brief respite. And so it went.
The girls are to open their league season with Mount Sinai today at 6:15 p.m. They are to play next at Elwood-John Glenn, a team that has a versatile 6-foot-2-inch center, on Tuesday. “We’re not going to stop her, but we can slow her down,” said Wood.
Next Thursday, Wood and O’Neal’s charges are to play a nonleaguer at Bellport.
As for the boys, Bill McKee, their coach, said during Saturday morning’s Biddy basketball practice at the John M. Marshall Elementary School that, despite the fact that “it wasn’t pretty, it was a good first game for us. We held them to 19 throughout the second, third, and fourth quarters after they’d scored 12 in the first. We controlled the boards at both ends in the fourth.”
“We didn’t shoot well, and part of that was Pierson’s defense. Both teams played good defense. We do have good shooters, but we didn’t make good decisions. That’s because of our inexperience. Only two of our starters — Thomas [King] and Patrick [McGuirk, who at 6-2 is East Hampton’s tallest starter] — have any experience.”
King, who alternates with Danny McKee at the point, led East Hampton in scoring with 12. Juan Cuevas, who was injured for most of last year, had 10, Thomas Nelson 8, McGuirk and McKee each had 4, and Cameron Yusko, a senior who came off the bench in the fourth quarter to take free throws for King, who had cramped up after having been fouled, had 2.
Yusko, King, and McGuirk are East Hampton’s captains. “We’re hoping not to rely on perimeter shooting — we don’t want to take 30 3-point shots a game,” the coach said in answer to a question. (East Hampton went 1-for-11 from 3-point range last Thursday.) “Patrick has improved tremendously, and we can do things off him offensively. Our guards have to look for him.”
McKee added, referring to an animated student cheering section in the stands, “it was great to see the Bleacher Creatures! The atmosphere was nice. Maybe,” he said with a smile, “we’ll continue to give them something to root for.”
The boys were to have played a nonleague game at Eastport-South Manor Tuesday. They are to open the league season at Mount Sinai today, and this weekend, East Hampton, the Dalton School of New York City, Bridgehampton, and Southampton are to play in a holiday tournament at Southampton. East Hampton is to open with Dalton at noon Saturday, McKee said. The consolation and championship games are to be played Sunday.