The East Hampton High School girls basketball team dug itself into a hole with a 2-point loss here to Shoreham-Wading River on Feb. 7, a game it could well have won. In a must-win situation, at Amityville’s inhospitable gym three nights later, the team fell out of playoff contention.
Bonac’s boys lost to their Amityville counterparts too, by a lopsided 60-32, here on Saturday, but, at 5-6, they still had a chance to make the postseason if they defeated winless Westhampton Beach in an away game Tuesday.
The girls’ 48-39 loss at Amityville, which had edged the Bonackers 44-43 here on Jan. 13 as the result of a last-second 3-point “Hail Mary” heave, dropped Howard Wood’s team to 4-6 with one game left to play, with Westhampton Beach here Tuesday.
When told the opposing coach had said East Hampton “had a foul to give” in the final 20 seconds of the stunning loss to Shoreham — a game decided when one of its players was hammered in the lane as she drove to the hoop with 2.4 seconds left, Wood said he had been more concerned with “playing good D and not fouling” as the clock wound down. “I may have lost track of the fouls, but the fact is we lost that game in the third quarter when we came up empty in our first seven possessions,” said the coach, who played professionally for a decade in Spanish leagues.
The girls went into the second quarter trailing 16-8, but closed to 25-26 before it was over thanks to fast-break layups by Nicole Miksinski and Jackie Messemer, and a perimeter jumper by Messemer in the final 24 seconds.
But the Bonackers couldn’t get it done in the third as they went 1-for-9 from the floor and turned the ball over a number of times. Messemer ended the drought with a basket from the foul line just before the 8-2 quarter ended.
Wood’s team came back again in the fourth, however, erasing a 9-point deficit with three baskets and a foul shot by Kaelyn Ward, the star junior point guard, and a 3-point play by Messemer. A 3-pointer by Ward, with 1:56 to play, capped the 11-1 run, and gave East Hampton a 38-37 lead, its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
A foul shot by Sarah Johnson, Bonac’s senior post player, made it 39-37 with 1:04 left, but the visitors’ Courtney Clasen tied the score at 39 on a layup with :50 to go.
After a miss in close by Ward and a jump ball call that allowed Shoreham to bring the ball up with :19.6 remaining, the visitors worked the clock down before Alyssa Fleming drove the lane and picked up the foul that was to prove fatal. Fleming made both of her free throws, wresting the lead back for Shoreham, at 41-39. On the inbounds play, East Hampton got the ball up to Messemer, who let go a long 3-point try from inside the half-court line, but it bounced off the backboard.
Fleming, with 12 points, and Clasen, with 10, led the visitors. Messemer, a promising freshman, with 13 points, and Ward, with 12, led East Hampton.
One could have taken heart perhaps in the fact that the first time out Shoreham had bested the Bonackers by 26, but Wood, who remembered that “last year we beat them here after they’d beaten us by 33,” was not having any of that. It had been a disappointing season, he said, especially given the fact that the girls had made the playoffs last year.
“It’s not a good feeling. We never should have been in that position [having to win the penultimate game at Amityville in order to make the postseason]. There were games here with Bayport and Amityville that we shouldn’t have lost. . . . Though I take responsibility. We’re looking to put on a good show Tuesday. It’s senior night and we’re going to come out ready to play.”
Westhampton, at 5-6 and with a playoff berth on the line, presumably had plenty of incentive as well.
“We competed all season,” Wood continued, “but if the girls had played in the off-season — I still think basketball is the hardest game to play — we would have been a lot better.”