Just when it looked as if last year’s endgame swoons might become this winter’s pattern as well, the East Hampton High School boys basketball team proved in Saturday’s 64-56 win over the Dalton School that it can come back, and win.
“We got off to a bad start,” said Bonac’s second-year coach, Bill McKee, on Monday. “We were trailing 15-2 near the end of the first quarter before pulling to 15-8. We were down by 5 at the half, and in the third quarter we played really well, outscoring them 23-10.”
In that period, Thomas King, who played in the middle of East Hampton’s defense in the absence of Pat McGuirk, who recently underwent an appendectomy, scored 10 points, Juan Cuevas, King’s fellow guard, 5, Cameron Yusko, 3, and Danny McKee, 2. “All five guys scored in that quarter,” said the coach, adding that “it’s the best quarter we’ve had so far.”
East Hampton went 9-for-15 from the foul line to maintain its lead in the fourth.
It had been satisfying to finish well, and also to have upended the Southampton holiday tournament’s two-time defending champion, even though, McKee acknowledged, “Dalton wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past two years.”
Cuevas led the way with 22 points, King had 20, McKee had 10, and Thomas Nelson had 8. “In the final three quarters we did a real nice job defensively,” the elder McKee added.
Saturday’s victory put East Hampton into Sunday’s championship game with Southampton. And in that game, rather than come back, the team blew an early 12-0 lead.
“We were up 21-9 at the end of the first quarter — we were ahead most of the game,” McKee said. “It was 38-26 at the half, and we were up by 9 going into the fourth.”
Then the roof caved in as the incrasingly energized Mariners came on to win 65-61.
“We missed all five of our foul shots in the fourth quarter, but it was the turnovers that killed us. We had way too many. You’ve got to credit Southampton’s defense for that. It was the turnovers that did us in and the fact that we didn’t get enough shots off.”
Danny McKee was East Hampton’s high scorer in the final, with 18 points, followed by Nelson, with 13, Cuevas, with 9, King, with 8, Alex Munoz, with 7, and Donja Davis, with 6.
The coach said he didn’t know how long McGuirk, who’s East Hampton’s tallest player at 6 feet 2 inches, would be out of action. “He’s doing well — I don’t expect him to miss the rest of the season,” McKee said in reply to a question.
Meanwhile, Scott Smith, a former East Hampton and New Hampshire College star, has been working with the 6-5 senior Brian Seekamp in practices. “He may see some playing time when we go up against teams with big men,” said McKee.
In Monday’s practice, Munoz, who was hitting from the perimeter, and Davis looked as if they were ready to make significant contributions.
East Hampton, in other recent action, lost 60-54 to Mount Sinai and 51-45 to Eastport-South Manor, a “big team that beat us on the boards.”
The tournament results, however, inclined McKee to be sanguine. “We’re definitely on the right path,” he said. “We just don’t want it to be a long path.”
The boys were to have played Elwood-John Glenn here Tuesday, and are to be at home in a nonleague game with Greenport this evening.
East Hampton’s girls team, coached by Howard Wood, with Louis O’Neal’s help, has looked promising thus far. The girls, who were to have played at John Glenn Tuesday, blew out Mount Sinai 64-33 here last Thursday, a point total that was the second highest in Suffolk that day.
Though feisty and persistent, Mount Sinai was no match for the quicker, surer-handed Bonackers, who, with an extended defense, frequently deflected the visitors’ passes, cashed in on fast breaks, and shot well from the free-throw line.
Kaelyn Ward led the way with 29 points, Jackie Messemer, an impressive freshman forward with good moves, had 7, and Indrea Stephens, Ward’s fellow guard, had 6.
Part of Saturday morning’s practice at the East Hampton Middle School was devoted to defending Glenn’s 6-3 star, Allie McKenna, an all-around player.
“But we don’t want to get obsessed with McKenna,” said Wood, during a break. “I’m sure they’re talking about how to defend Kaelyn too. My philosophy is if they’re going to beat us let it be someone else who beats us, not McKenna. She’s got a complete game, but that’s not to say she doesn’t have a weakness. All players do. We’re going to front her and back her, make her work for her shots. We’re going to make them work on defense too.”
The main thing, said Wood, was to “get better every game.”
Last season East Hampton lost four games in the regular season — two to Glenn, one to Westhampton Beach, and one to Shoreham-Wading River.