“It was nice to see the gym packed and that the Bleacher Creatures were back,” Bill McKee, who coaches East Hampton High School’s boys basketball team, said after his charges, playing with increasing confidence, dispatched Bayport-Blue Point 77-67 here Friday, a win that assured the Bonackers a berth in the Class A bracket of the county tournament.
The seventh Class A seed, East Hampton was to have played a first-round game at second-seeded Harborfields yesterday. The winner of that game is to play the John Glenn-Sayville winner Tuesday at the site of the higher seed. John Glenn is seeded third. Sayville is seeded sixth.
The 77 points the Bonackers put up against Bayport-Blue Point, a team that had bested East Hampton 52-50 the first time around, was its highest total in league play and its second-highest over all this winter.
“And that was against a good team,” McKee said during a conversation Monday.
Bayport had the upper hand in the early going, “but then things evened out,” said McKee, who credited Kevin Fee, a freshman who came off the bench, with providing a momentum-changing spark in the second quarter, driving repeatedly in traffic to the hoop, either coming away with baskets or with trips to the foul line. The freshman finished with 16 points, 8 of which came in that second period, the result of two layups and 4-for-4 shooting from the foul line.
“He has a baby face, but he played like an animal!” an appreciative Bonac fan said in the game’s aftermath.
East Hampton took a 35-33 lead into the locker room at the half, and, with the backing of its fans and the first melodic music heard in this gym in years, from a mix provided by the athletic director, Joe Vas — songs like Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” that had cheerleaders, students, and parents swaying — asserted itself in the third, ending it with a 10-0 spurt that Kyle and Danny McKee (just before the buzzer) capped with 3-pointers.
The visitors’ Mike Walker scored the first basket of the fourth, but a scoop and fast-break layup by Fee put Bonac ahead by 12. Soon after, a basket by Thomas Nelson, who also played with great energy that night — winding up with 20 points and 11 rebounds — extended the margin to 14.
With about three and a half minutes to go, a technical assessed a frustrated Bayport player following a foul call further helped East Hampton’s cause as Brendan Hughes and Kyle McKee canned their attempts, for 67-52, before Nelson tacked on 2 more points from the line.
The visitors chipped away a bit thereafter, but by that time the game was out of their reach.
Connor Panzner, Bayport’s all-county player, who had scored 19 points in Bayport’s 52-50 win over East Hampton at Bayport, was limited to 9 points on Friday night. “Our goal was to make somebody else beat us,” said McKee, whom Panzner congratulated for having made the playoffs near the game’s end.
Nelson, as aforesaid, had a game-high 20 points; Hughes finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, and Danny McKee had 13 and 6 assists.
“Bayport played some man and some zone, and pressed us, all of which we’re going to see at Harborfields,” said the coach. “But the kids are playing with increasing confidence.”
Harborfields (the League V champion, at 11-1 in league play) was a big team, said McKee, who added, “We’ll be shooting our 3s, you can be sure of that.”
East Hampton’s leading 3-point shooter is Kyle McKee, who has made good on 47 of 96 attempts thus far this season. He’s also the leading foul-shooter, with an 88.6 percent average. The scoring has been pretty much evenly distributed, “which is good,” the coach said. Nelson is the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 11.9 per game. Hughes is averaging 7.8.