East Hampton High’s underclassmen got a taste of the playoffs at Shoreham-Wading River Saturday night, and, as a result, Bill McKee, the boys’ coach, said after the 51-40 loss that he hoped they’d play in the interim and come back ready to go further in the postseason next winter.
“Our goal was to try to do something in the playoffs this year, but, in the end, we were happy to get there,” said McKee, who graduates two seniors — Cameron Yusko, a 3-point shooter, and Patrick McGuirk, who, at 6 feet 2 inches was the team’s tallest player.
Unfortunately, McGuirk, who could have been expected to give East Hampton a stronger inside presence at Shoreham, didn’t play much this season, because of a preseason appendectomy and, at the end, because of a broken thumb suffered in a 42-point loss at Shoreham on Feb. 7.
“Don’t say if Patrick played we would have won,” McKee cautioned, when his name came up, “but he certainly would have helped.”
As it was, an energetic defense designed to limit the Wildcats’ offensive rebounding was quite effective. “They killed us on the boards in that second game,” McKee said. But the Bonackers shot poorly, until mounting a pleasant 18-3 run in the fourth quarter, giving the team’s many fans who’d made the trip reason to look forward to next year.
A 22-8 third quarter proved fatal. A basket in the lane by Juan Cuevas, assisted by Yusko, got that period going, but then the home team went on a 15-0 tear that effectively put the game away. During that dispiriting span, East Hampton went 0-for-8, until, with three minutes left, Thomas King netted a 3-pointer — one of three he was to have that night — for 31-19.
With 4:26 remaining, East Hampton trailed by 26, obviating any chance of repeating its fabled comeback here against the same team on Jan. 10, a game in which the Bonackers uncannily erased a 15-point Shoreham lead in the final five-and-a-half minutes to win 57-56 on King’s coast-to-coast layup.
Still, the final minutes were fun. East Hampton inbounded after a timeout and Cuevas drew a foul as he drove to the hoop. He made both free throws, and then, following a miss from 3-point range by Yusko, King hit a 3, prompting another timeout, after which Cuevas chipped in with a 3 and Brandon Hughes, a sophomore brought up from Bonac’s strong junior varssity, made a 3-point play.
Enter Andre Cherrington, a junior forward, who put back his own miss for 49-35. Thomas Nelson, a sophomore forward, answered a Shoreham basket by putting back a miss of King’s from beyond the arc, and Cherrington hit a 3 before the final buzzer sounded.
Thus ended East Hampton’s season, at 8-10, though with King, Cuevas, Danny McKee, Nelson, Donja Davis, Cherrington, and Hughes coming back, and given the strong jayvee, McKee can expect good results next year.
In parting, he said he hoped his charges would play basketball in the off-season, “and I’d also like to thank Joe Vas [East Hampton’s athletic director] for having supported us the way he did. It was great to see him there at the playoff game and all the fans.”
For East Hampton’s girls, who had been expected to make the playoffs, but did not, the 7-10 (4-8 league) campaign was a bit disappointing. They had also been urged by their coaches to play in the off-season, but for the most part did not.
Howard Wood, East Hampton’s coach, was hoping for a strong farewell in the regular-season finale with Westhampton Beach on Feb. 14, but did not get it as the Hurricanes, who were playing for a playoff spot, wound up winning 35-24.
The Bonackers pulled to 18-14 early in the third quarter on a basket by Nicole Miksinski, with an assist from Sarah Johnson, and, soon after, Kaelyn Ward, East Hampton’s star junior point guard, made it 18-17 by way of a 3-point play, but thereafter the visitors pulled away thanks to an 11-1 run during which East Hampton went 0-for-7 and turned the ball over three times.
With four minutes left, East Hampton trailed by 9, but couldn’t make any headway. Johnson, the senior center, fouled out with three minutes remaining.
Ward, a fine all-around player who drew most of East Hampton’s opponents’ attention, Jackie Messemer, a resilient freshman with good moves, and Quincy King ought to give reason for hope in 2012-13.