‘Good Effort’ by Under-12s at S.Y.S.

Nick Thomas’s U-16s ‘have had a tremendous year’
Luke Reese, with the ball, and his Long Island Elite under-12 teammates won two of the three games they played in an A.A.U. hoops tournament at the Southampton Recreation Center Saturday. Craig Macnaughton

The cavernous Southampton Recreation Center was apportioned into four basketball courts Saturday as the better part of 300 hoopsters from all over the Island contested a daylong A.A.U. Summer Hoops Festival tournament there with under-12-through-under-18 teams.

Scott Johnson, S.Y.S.’s executive director, who provided the space gratis, was given a plaque by the tourney’s director, Nick Thomas, during a break in the action at noontime. The plaque thanked Johnson for his “ongoing commitment and dedicated service.”

Recently, Johnson, who had solicited pledges keyed to the number of free throws he could make in an hour, raised $102,000 that is going into the recreation center’s scholarship fund. “I put up 1,700 shots and made 1,326 of them,” Johnson said when questioned. “I made one every 2.77 seconds. We’re going to do it again on October 15, with four kids shooting 15 minutes each.”

“No, no,” he said, with a smile. “Not me. It was brutal. Never again.”

Don Reese, who heads the youth football and basketball organization here, had a team in the under-12 division, playing under the Long Island Elite banner.

It was not the same team, he said, as the East Hampton under-12s who are 82-1 in the past four years, but an amalgamated one that included four East Hampton u-12 players — his son, Luke, Hector Maldonado, James Conigliaro, and Dylan Fee. 

They — along with their teammates, Jayden Griffin of the William Floyd School District, Justin Turner of Manorville, and Wilson Bennett of Sag Harbor, among them — went 2-1 on the day, which the elder Reese said was “a good effort.”

“We won our first game by 2 points in overtime,” Reese said before his team’s second game that morning. “We were up by 2 at the end of regulation, but we fouled a guy who was shooting a 3 in the final seconds. He made two of the foul shots to tie it. In overtime, Luke made both ends of a one-and-one with eight seconds to go to win it.”

The second encounter, with the Boulevard Boyz of Greenport — a team coached by Rodney Shelby — did not go as well given the fact that Dayrien Franklin was on fire from the outside in the first of the two 14-minute, running-time halves. 

The Porters led 24-12 at the break, and Franklin had by that time accounted for 14 of those points.

The Elites’ defense did a better job on Franklin in the second frame and, thanks to an 8-0 run during which Reese and Griffin had baskets, pulled to 20-26 on Reese’s 3-point play at about the midway point, but could come no closer on the way to a 35-24 loss.

“That 14 [Franklin] killed us,” Don Reese said afterward. “I think he was six-for-seven from 3-point range. . . .”

Game three, at 1 p.m., proved to be a breeze. “In the end, whichever team tallies the most overall points wins,” Reese said before the Elite-William Floyd contest began. “We’ll have to win by 40. . . .”

In the end, the Elites, with Turner’s 15 points leading the way, defeated Floyd by 22 — 36-14.

As for East Hampton’s under-12 team (its other members include Richie Maio, Liam Fowkes, Jack Dickinson, Riley Cullen, Colin Ruddy, and Noah Mahler), Coach Reese said, “We played them up against eighth graders in the summer league here. They’ve been lights-out, beating teams by 20 to 30 points. It’s almost gotten to the point where it isn’t much fun.”

Asked how they’d done against the older kids at S.Y.S. this summer, Reese said, “They did well. . . . Jessie [Shapiro, East Hampton High’s recently hired boys basketball coach] will have some talented young players coming up.”

Among the tourney’s teams was one from Brentwood that sported a 6-foot-5-inch eighth grader, Zed Key, who scored 23 points in one of the games. Key will be one of two eighth graders — the other is Kenny Lazo, a point guard — on Brentwood’s varsity this winter.

“This is the first A.A.U. tournament we’ve had here in a while; we had one four or five years ago,” said Thomas, whose under-16 team played in invitational tourneys in Boston and Orlando this summer, the latter televised by ESPN. 

Jack Reese, Luke’s older brother, East Hampton High’s point guard, is on Thomas’s under-16 team, as are Sean Braithwaite of Center Moriches, Elijah Wingfield of Southampton, Elijah Harding of Bridgehampton, and Jack Gaudiello of Westhampton Beach.

“We made it to the Elite 8 in Orlando,” said Thomas. “A Nike-sponsored team from Alabama beat us . . . all sorts of Division I coaches were there. . . . We’ve had a tremendous year. We’ve won five tournaments. Our record is 37-8.” 

James Conigliaro and Jayden Griffin contested a rebound in the Long Island Elites’ game with William Floyd. Craig Macnaughton
Nick Thomas, the director of the A.A.U. Summer Hoops Festival, left, and Scott Johnson, the executive director of S.Y.S.Craig Macnaughton Photos