Carl Johnson, who coaches the Bridgehampton High School boys basketball team, said before Saturday’s county B-C-D playoff game at Longwood that while he knew he probably shouldn’t, he was viewing the encounter with Babylon as “a glorified scrimmage.”
The Bees, after all, had already won what was for them the main event, the county Class D title, and weren’t scheduled to play again in the state tourney until March 6.
“Babylon’s two divisions above them,” a Bees partisan said at halftime, by which point the Panthers held a commanding 28-18 lead.
“And six inches taller,” this writer added. Newsday, in its account of Babylon’s 45-34 win the next day, said two of the winners’ players, Brendan Laing and Raymond Wardell, were 6-10.
Despite the significant height advantage, the Bees played with tenacity on defense. “Our goal was to cut the game in half,” Johnson was to say later. “To slow it down. And we did that. But the turnovers [especially when Bridgehampton inbounded the ball] killed us.”
The turnovers, he told his feisty charges in the pre-fourth-quarter huddle, were “the only difference.”
Bridgehampton, with Tylik Furman and Jerome Walker knocking down 3-pointers, and with Jason Hopson converting a coast-to-coast layup and a foul shot, started off well, prompting Babylon’s coach, Chris Morra, to call a timeout with the score 9-2.
Inevitably, the much taller Panthers, led by their impressive senior point guard, Fernando Vasquez, came back, tying the score at 12-12 on a steal by Jacob Carlock, who had been shadowing Hopson, and a 3-point play by Vasquez.
As may be imagined, it was hard for the Bees to pass over the top of Babylon’s defense, and hard going for them, as well, when they took the ball to the hoop. Moreover, they had to contend with full-court pressure. An inside basket by Anajae Lamb, with about a minute left in the first period, treated the Bees to their last lead, at 14-13. A 3-pointer by Alec Zamet from the perimeter wrested the lead back for the Panthers, who were to keep a couple of steps ahead of Bridgehampton thereafter, their lead shifting between 8 and 12 points.
Another 3-pointer by Walker narrowed the margin to 9 in the final minutes, but the Bees could come no closer. A backdoor basket by Laing, whose three inside baskets at the end of the second quarter hurt the Bees, extending a 4-point lead to 10, finished them off.
Asked before the team left the court, what his players had learned that day, Johnson quickly replied, “Not to turn the ball over.”
Earlier, he said his team would have to play a perfect game to beat the well-balanced Babylon team, whose point guard, Vasquez, he said, was “unbelievable . . . really good. . . . They beat Southampton pretty easily [for the Class B championship] and Southampton wore us down in the second half of the game we played against them in their holiday tournament.”
Still, it had been a pretty good showing for a team that had gone 7-5 in league play. Last year, the Bees were ousted by Pierson in the C-D game.
To get to the B-C-D game, the Bees, with Hopson scoring from all over, surprised Stony Brook, defeating the Brooksters, who had twice downed the Bees in the league season, 54-42.
“Their starting point guard wasn’t there, but still,” said the Bees’ coach, who added that Stony Brook had a front line of 6-8, 6-6, and 6-6.
Hopson finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Next up for the Bees is a Class D regional semifinal game Wednesday with Section IX’s winner at Center Moriches High School at 5 p.m.. The winner is to advance to the regional final to be played March 10 in Section I. The Class D Final Four is to be contested at Glens Falls over the March 15-17 weekend. The Bees were last there in 1998.