McKee’s Boys Eclipse John Glenn, Messemer Sees the Light

East Hampton High School’s basketball teams
Rolando Garces, moving toward the hoop above, has played well coming off Bonac’s bench and filling in as a starter during Juan Cuevas’s vacation. Jack Graves

   East Hampton High School’s basketball teams were to have played big games with their Bayport-Blue Point peers Tuesday.
    Meanwile, in recent action, the boys, on Jan. 8, parlayed an energetic second half into a 53-47 win over Elwood-John Glenn before losing 73-57 on Friday at Amityville, the odds-on favorite to win the league championship. That same night, the girls, following lopsided losses to Shoreham-Wading River and John Glenn, rebounded behind Jackie Messemer’s breakout 21-point performance to defeat their Amityville peers 49-36.
    “We want Jackie to be a little more selfish,” Howard Wood, the girls’ coach, said during a conversation Monday morning. “We want her to know you can score and be a team player at the same time.”
    A “light went off,” said Wood, when Messemer took a hard foul going for the basket at one point in the second half. “She looked up as if to say, ‘I can do this.’ You’ve got to expect to get hit, you can’t play scared. Blockers need space. If you take it to them, if you initiate contact, chances are you’ll be going to the line.”
    Messemer scored 15 of her 21 in the first half, by the end of which the Bonackers led 34-15.
    “But we didn’t finish them off in the early part of the third, which we should have done,” said Wood. “You don’t want teams to think they can come back on you. They pulled to within 11 or 12 before we got it back together again.”
    “We ended up by 13, and some of the kids were disappointed that they didn’t get in, but they’ve got to get used to that. It’s hard to get all 13 kids into games. Sometimes the situation calls for a certain substitution, sometimes it doesn’t. I rode the bench at times — the main thing is to work hard. . . . Amityville was a physical team, athletic, quick, though not as talented as they have been in the past. Our girls were a little sore the next day, but that was fine.”
    Going into Tuesday’s game at Bayport, “a very well-coached team,” in Wood’s opinion, East Hampton was 3-2 in league play, needing to win three of its final seven regular season games to make the playoffs.
    As for the boys, they started desultorily versus John Glenn, but finished strong, much to Bill McKee and his assistant, Bob Vacca’s, delight.
    Having trailed by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, the Bonackers stepped it up a couple of notches defensively and offensively thereafter, turning the tables on the visitors in the second half.
    Two big 3-pointers, by Brandon Neff and Thomas King, pulled the home team to within 1 point midway through the third, and soon after, a technical foul called on Glenn resulted in Rolando Garces tying the score at 30-30, after which East Hampton inbounded the ball. King then drew a foul, made both of his free throws, and McKee’s crew never trailed after that.
    The consensus M.V.P. was Thomas Nelson, who in 12 or so minutes in the second half corralled nine rebounds. He finished with 10 boards. Neff went 4-for-6 from the 3-point line, “a terrific percentage,” said Vacca, who in the late 1960s and early ’70s was every bit as deadly from the outside — before the 3-point line was introduced into basketball.
    Neff led East Hampton’s scoring with 12 points, followed by Danny McKee and Garces, each with 11, and Thomas King, the poised point guard, with 10. King also had 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
    “You changed the game, Thomas,” Joey McKee, East Hampton’s junior varsity coach, said as Nelson left the locker room.
    “Better late than never,” said Vacca, concerning the team’s performance. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said, with a smile.
    Concerning the game at Amityville, McKee said during Biddy basketball practice at the John M. Marshall Elementary School Saturday morning that “to win against a team like Amityville you’ve got to play a very good game. It was a 2-point game at the half, and a 10-point game with four minutes to go, but we couldn’t get any closer. . . . We didn’t shoot well, we were 3-for-18 from the 3-point line, though that had something to do with Amityville’s defense. They were tall and athletic.”
    Still, said the coach, “there were some good things. We had four kids in double figures. Thomas Nelson had 11 rebounds and 13 points. He’s starting to show what he’s capable of. Thomas King had 16 points, Rolando had 15, and Danny [McKee’s son] had 12. But to beat a team like that you’ve got to shoot well and limit your turnovers.”
    In parting, McKee said that King was “hit in the mouth by an elbow in taking a charge. He may not be able to play Tuesday.”
    Mount Sinai is to play here tonight at 6:15.