Hoops: A Cheery Winter Eyed

Erik Engstrom will compete in the Footlocker invitational at the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park this weekend
Brandon Kennedy-Gay, with the ball, and Kyle McKee, looking on, promise to provide the Bonackers with plenty of firepower. Jack Graves

The cross-country season still isn’t over for East Hampton High’s top runner, Erik Engstrom, who is to compete in the Footlocker invitational at the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park this weekend.

Engstrom, who is to be one of the honorees at the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s holiday dinner Monday, led his team to a fifth-place finish — the highest ever for a Bonac cross-country team — at the recent state meet, and to county and Long Island titles as well. 

He placed 38th among 255 runners in the state Federation meet in Wappingers Falls Saturday, in 16 minutes and 42 seconds.

Kevin Barry, Engstrom’s coach, said the course was as tough as Sunken Meadow. Engstrom was the top finisher from Suffolk, though his Sachem North rivals, Jonathan Lauer and Christopher Tibbetts, did not go.

In other news, Craig Brierley, who brought six of his competitors — Carly Drew, Lilah Minetree, Cecilia De Havenon, Madison Jones, Julia Brierley, and Sophia Swanson — to the state girls swimming meet at Ithaca College this past weekend, said they “put in another valiant effort, as they have been doing all season long.”

The 200 medley relay team of De Havenon (backstroke), Brierley (breaststroke), Drew (butterfly), and Minetree (freestyle) did a season-best 1:51.10 to qualify for the Class B final, in which the foursome placed 15th, “earning all-state honors in Section XI.” 

In other events at the state meet, De Havenon placed 34th in the 100-yard backstroke, in 59.77 seconds, .17 off her season best; the 400 relay team of Swanson, Drew, Jones, and Brierley placed 37th in that event, and Drew placed 57th in the 100 butterfly, in 1:01.60.

Moreover, the 200 freestyle relay team (Swanson, Jones, Drew, and Brierley) placed 38th over all, “within .3 of their season best.”

And now on to basketball. Bill McKee, the boys coach, said Sunday, following a week of practice, that his charges, just about all of whom played in pick-up games at the high school over the summer, ought to give the bleacher creatures something to cheer about this winter.

“We’re a senior-heavy team, as are others in our league — John Glenn, Bayport, and Shoreham-Wading River ought to be good too,” said the coach, who added, “The key will be defense, how we play the 1-3-1, which requires that you react quickly and put pressure on the ball. I’m not worried about scoring.”

Brandon Kennedy-Gay and the coach’s son, Kyle, both of whom can hit from the outside and drive to the basket, contribute to the elder McKee’s confidence in his team’s ability to put points on the board. Brandon Johnson, a 6-foot-3-inch all-county football player, who clearly is not shy when it comes to mixing it up, ought to provide rebounding and inside shooting strength, not to mention the 6-3 Regis O’Neil, the 6-5 Will Stoecker, and Will’s younger 6-5 brother, Chris, a sophomore.

McKee has four senior starters — Kyle McKee, Kennedy-Gay, O’Neil, and Johnson — returning. Another senior, Will Stoecker, “saw a lot of action coming off the bench last year.”

Harvey Foulser, Kevin Weiss, and Ty Olszewski, all guards, are also seniors. Then there are five other players up from the junior varsity, which is coached by Bill McKee’s brother, Joe — Yari Willock, Jordan Foster, and Jimmy German, all juniors, and sophomores Jack Reese, “a guard who had a very successful season last year,” and Chris Stoecker.

Kevin Fee, who, along with Kyle McKee and Kennedy-Gay, formed a formidable guard trio last winter, is now playing at Iona Prep, a top Catholic school. Obviously, he’ll be missed. Foulser, Weiss, and Reese are vying to fill the vacancy.

East Hampton faces a busy preseason. There are to be scrimmages at Comsewogue and William Floyd Monday and Tuesday, and the Kendall Madison Tip-Off tournament is to be held here tomorrow, with Pierson and Bridgehampton matched in the first game, at 5 p.m., and with East Hampton and Mattituck paired in the second one, at 6:30. The Bees-Whalers game will be their first league game. Boys and girls teams from Hjemly High School in Denmark are to play scrimmages and stay with families here next week.

Jim Kelly, whose Rye High School team lost to the late Ed Petrie’s Bonackers in the 1989 state Class B final, and who subsequently moved to Denmark, began this tradition years ago. “It’s been a while since the Danes have been here, about seven or eight years ago,” said McKee. “It’s always fun to be a stop on their 10-day tours.”

East Hampton is to play a nonleaguer here with St. John the Baptist on Dec. 15, and is to play in the eastern Suffolk referees’ Christmas tournament at Suffolk Community College-Selden on Dec. 29 and 30. The Bonackers are to play Riverhead, and Bridgehampton is to play Southampton on the 29th. The consolation and final games are to be played the next day.

“We just missed winning the league last year,” said McKee. “If we hadn’t lost that last game to Bayport, we would have been the league champs. So, it should be another exciting winter.”