The late boys basketball coach Roger Golden, when I asked what it was he loved about basketball, said, “The gyms are warm.”
And indeed it’s so, especially in Bridgehampton’s, that tiny black-and-gold bandbox that has a precious quality that you don’t find in the more modern, ill-lit, cavernous ones.
True, Bridgehampton’s Killer Bees, winners of nine state championships, with perhaps yet another on the way, deserve (have deserved for years) a regulation-size gym, one sanctioned for playoff games that the team would otherwise have to contest on the road. But it will be sad to see this jewel go.
Well, it won’t go — it will remain an auditorium, with its curtained stage, the momentary resting place sometimes of the backsides of players intent on making layups, at one end, and, at the other, two wide doorways through which the ball can be inbounded more easily than when pressed up against the padded “Killer Bees” wall in between.
The gym is interesting, too, for the fact that, while it provides a warm and intimate setting for the lucky fans often jammed into it, it can at the same time be frightening for teams not used to playing in such close quarters. You’ve got to be good, really good, to win there because there’s no room to breathe. Hold on to the ball and you’re done. There’s no time, no space. Pass, pass, shoot.
The games have a prizefight aura without the crushing blows that attend boxing rings, though crashing into the wall, however much padded, is not a fate you’d wish upon anyone. It happened in last night’s game with Port Jefferson to J.P. Harding, and it was nice to see him get up and make both free throws.
Afterward, everybody comes out onto the floor and it’s a wonderful feeling, like a warm embrace.
A feeling that I doubt you’ll find many places in this world.