Center Moriches’s Red Devils Swat Bridgehampton’s Hobbled Killer Bees

An easy 60-44 win.
Elijah Harding, at left, Elijah White, right, and their teammates were pretty much overmatched by Center Moriches in the county B-C-D game. Craig Macnaughton Photos

Certainly had he had J.P. Harding, who has been averaging 21 points per game, available to him at Suffolk Community College-Selden Friday night, Carl Johnson would have given his Killer Bees a fighting chance at the tipoff.

But Harding, who has a broken wrist that is encased in a soft cast, had to sit out this one, namely the county B-C-D game with Nick Thomas’s Center Moriches Red Devils, who swept through League VII at 10-0.

Enjoying a height advantage and bringing a lot of pressure to bear, Center Moriches had its way with the Bees pretty much from the outset, and went on to an easy 60-44 win.

There was nothing riding on Friday’s game other than bragging rights, though Thomas, who played the point for the Johnson-coached Bridgehampton team that won a state championship in 1996, ending a decade-long drought, was not crowing afterward. Instead, he said, he thought his young players (he has eight sophomores), while they played hard, had work to do when it came to “turning defense into offense” and in “closing out quarters.”

Center Moriches and Southampton, the county’s Class A champion, were to have played for the small schools title Tuesday night. Center Moriches lost by 12 to Southampton in the Southampton Youth Ser­vices tournament in December, though the Red Devils, said Thomas, who is also an A.A.U. coach, led at halftime.

Thomas has only two seniors — Jalyn Preston and Nakia Durham, who finished with 15 points, as did Tyiquon Nix, the point guard. A smooth player with good moves, Nix runs the show.

While his group is young, Thomas thinks it can make some noise in the state tourney, if not this year, certainly next year and the year after that. His experience with his former coach had taught him to think in terms of state championships, he said, rather than just county ones.

Johnson, of course, was hoping that J.P. Harding would receive a doctor’s clearance to play in the looming state Class D regional semifinal this week. That game, the first rung on the ladder to the Final Four in Binghamton over the March 17-19 weekend, is to be played at Mount St. Mary’s College in Newburgh on Monday at 6 p.m.

A win there would mean the Bees would face the Section IX winner — S.S. Seward is the top seed — in the regional final at Suffolk Community College-Selden on Saturday, March 11. Center Moriches is to play at noon, and Stony Brook, Suffolk’s C champion, is to play at 2:30 p.m., with the Bees to follow, presumably at 5.

The state’s Final Four games on the following weekend are to be played this year at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.

Section IX’s championship game was to have been played last night.

The Bees advanced to the B-C-D game here by defeating Stony Brook 47-42 at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood on Feb. 21.

The Bears were missing their big man, the 6-foot-6-inch senior center, Jyles Etienne, who was visiting his family in Barbados, but, as Johnson pointed out, Bridgehampton was missing its leading scorer.

Nykell Dean, the Bees’ sixth man, did well in coming off the bench, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Elijah Jackson, who was shadowed throughout by a box-and-one defense, was held to 9 points, but 7 of them came in the all-important fourth quarter that the Bees capped, after trailing 42-41, with a 6-0 run.

Nykell Dean, at right, the Killer Bees’ former sixth man, has played well in the playoffs.