Bees Were Fended Off in the End

The Bees played the heavily-favored Porters toe-to-toe throughout the first half
Nae’ Jon Ward, who recently rejoined Bridgehampton’s boys basketball team after having played earlier in the season at Southampton, has buoyed the Bees with his smooth ball handling, shooting, and court sense. Craig Macnaughton

It’s hard to win a game when you make 21 turnovers and shoot 30 percent from the floor, and so it was that Bridgehampton High School’s Killer Bees lost to Greenport in the county playoffs’ C-D game at Suffolk Community College-Selden on Feb. 20.

And yet, despite the final 67-41 result, the Bees played the heavily-favored Porters toe-to-toe throughout the first half, which ended with the shocked North Fork team hanging onto a 3-point lead.

Greenport, the undefeated League VIII champion, was obviously confident going in. The team had on average enjoyed a 38.6-point margin of victory over its opponents throughout its 18-2 campaign — one that included 81-46 and 89-48 wins over Bridgehampton. 

But when J.P. Harding rebounded and converted a missed free throw by Elijah White, who had moments before executed a give-and-go with Nate DePasquale to bring the Bees to within 1 point with four minutes and 36 seconds left to play in the second quarter — a basket greeted with shouts and applause from the Bees’ side of the gym — the Porters were awakened to the fact that they were in a game.

Wonderful to tell, the Bees, thanks to a 3-point play by White, actually took the lead a minute later, at 22-21. A nifty layup by Nae’ Jon Ward, the Bees’ point guard, that faked out Greenport’s 6-foot-3 wide-body center, Jude Swann, tied the score at 24-24 with a minute and a half left until the break. 

Greenport replied with a 3-pointer by Ahkee Anderson, Ward’s opposite number. In the minute leading up to the break, Swann put back a missed fastbreak layup, Ward went coast-to-coast, and Swann was stuffed at the other end of the court by Harding and Jonny De Groot just before the buzzer sounded.

White, who was to pin four fouls on Anderson that afternoon, squaring up to the high-scoring point guard on drives to the hoop, made two free throws in the early going of the third quarter, and that was to be it scoring-wise for the tiring Bees in that frame.

The long drought, during which Bridgehampton went 0-for-14 from the floor while the North Forkers began to burn the nets — a 20-2 run during which Anderson, Jaxan Swann, and Jordan Fonseca drained 3-pointers — emphatically put to rest the question that had until then been left hanging.

The third ended with Greenport up 49-28, on its way to the 67-41 final.

Fonseca finished with a game-high 21 points. Three of his teammates also wound up in double figures. White had 13 points and Ward 12 for Bridgehampton. DePasquale and Harding each had eight.

Ron White, the Bees’ coach — and the team’s former coach, Carl Johnson, who was one of the spectators that day — said fatigue and shaky ball handling had played a big part in the loss. That and indecisiveness, White said.

White said he had been begging some of his players, namely DePasquale and De Groot, who frequently dished off rather than shoot the other day, to step up when they had the chance. As for his son, Elijah, “He’s got the moves — he’s just got to be more decisive.” Harding, who often was double-teamed, and sometimes triple-teamed by the Porters inside, “should take jump shots rather than trying to force it inside,” he said.

De Groot, he added, had played “an amazing game defensively,” however, limiting Jude Swann to six baskets. 

The C-D game was meaningless insofar as the Bees’ statewide playoff hopes went: They are to play the Section IX winner — either Roscoe or Livingston Manor — in a regional semifinal at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood on Monday at 7 p.m. The Section IX final was to have been played Tuesday at Sullivan Community College.

The winner of Monday’s game is to play the Section I-IV winner in a regional final at Center Moriches High School on either March 9 or 11. The state’s Final Four is to be contested in Binghamton over the March 16-17 weekend.

Center Moriches, which is coached by Nick Thomas, a former Killer Bee state-championship teammate of White’s, defeated Greenport in the county’s B-C-D game. The Red Devils were to have played the Amityville Warriors for the small schools championship Monday night. 

White said Monday morning that he hoped to line up a scrimmage at Center Moriches “in the next couple of days.”

The Bees are given a good chance by observers to win Monday’s regional semifinal at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood. Craig Macnaughton