In a Hole, Boys Are Still Eyeing Playoffs

“Two tough losses,”
Jackie Messemer has been among those who’ve taken some of the pressure off Kaelyn Ward lately. Jack Graves

   East Hampton High School’s basketball teams continued this past week to point toward the postseason, though the boys, with Thomas King missing because of an injury, from both games, dug themselves into a bit of a hole.
    “Two tough losses,” said the boys’ coach, Bill McKee, referring to the games with Bayport-Blue Point and Mount Sinai. East Hampton lost 74-69 to Bayport in overtime and 53-49 at Mount Sinai last Thursday.
    “I don’t want to blame the losses on Thomas’s absence,” McKee said during a conversation Friday. “In both games we had our chances. The kids stepped up . . . Rolando [Garces] started at shooting guard, Danny [McKee’s son] played the point, and Thomas Nelson played away from the basket. . . . They fought all the way.”
    “Bayport was a lot bigger than we were, but we still did a nice job on the boards. It was a tough one to lose, because the kids worked so hard. We were down 49-39 going into the fourth quarter, and came back to tie it at the end of regulation. They outscored us 13-8 in overtime.”
    “Still, I was really pleased with the way we played. Rolando had 19 points, a season-high for him. We had 20 turnovers, which wasn’t good, but most of them came in the first half. We adjusted in the second. We shot great from the foul line, 24-for-26 over all and 17-for-19 in the second half. Our foul-shooting kept us in the game.”
    “Last night,” McKee continued, “Mount Sinai’s 22-12 fourth quarter did us in. I think we were a little worn down by that point. We became a little tentative at the offensive end. Mount Sinai was bigger than us too. We didn’t shoot well. You’re not going to win if you only score 49 points.”
    McKee said he hoped that King, who had to get his upper lip stitched after having been elbowed in the recent game at Amityville, would return to action tonight at Miller Place.
    Another starter, Juan Cuevas, who took a long vacation in the Dominican Republic during and following the Christmas break, has returned here, said McKee, “though he’s got to get up to speed in his school work before he can play. I hope we’ll have him back in time for Miller Place.”
    “We’ve dug ourselves into a hole — we’re 3-4 now and in fifth place in the league — but it’s not a hole that we can’t dig ourselves out of. We need to win three of our last five games to make the playoffs.”
    Regarding the girls, Howard Wood, their coach, asked Friday how they’d fared the night before, said, “We won at Mount Sinai [46-42], but it was ugly. We’d beaten them by 19 here, so you’d think we would have been confident, but they weren’t going to roll over and play dead. It was a very, very, very difficult game. Nothing was decided until the last couple of minutes. We made so many mental mistakes. For instance, there were 20 seconds left until the half and we told the girls to take one shot. You’re supposed to wait in such a situation. You don’t want to throw it up right away, you want to wait until there are four or five seconds left so the other team doesn’t get a chance to score. . . .”
    “We had a 6-point lead near the end, and they were in a 1-and-1 situation. You don’t want to foul them then and give them a chance to score 2 points while the clock is stopped, yet we did.”
    In the final moments, he said, “We said, ‘Give the ball to Kaelyn [Ward, the senior point guard, who recently scored her 1,000th career point] and clear out.’ ”
    Lexy Jones, a post player who started, and who did well on the boards, had to come out because of a hairline wrist fracture late in the fourth quarter.
    As for the 50-47 loss at Bayport on Jan. 15, Wood said he didn’t know all that much “because Louis [O’Neal, his assistant] coached the varsity that night and I coached the jayvee” in the absence of the junior varsity’s coach, Robyn Mott.
    The jayvee, he said, was impressive that night. “They won last night too. They don’t stand on their tiptoes when they go for rebounds — they jump up in the air. They fight like champs. They’ll be good if they keep playing.”
    The varsity was 4-3 in League VI play as of Friday, tied with Bayport-Blue Point for third place, behind 6-0 John Glenn and 6-1 Shoreham-Wading River. “Two more wins and we’re in the playoffs,” Wood said.