Killer Bees in a Blowout and a Squeaker

Over Roscoe Central in state tourney and Academy Charter for Long Island D title
Elijah White, with the ball above, and his fellow guard, Naejon Ward, led Bridgehampton in its 63-61 Long Island championship win over Academy Charter of Hempstead at Center Moriches High School Friday. Craig Macnaughton

Bridgehampton High School’s boys basketball team, the Killer Bees, blew out Roscoe Central 59-29 in a state Class D southeast regional playoff game in Newburgh Monday evening, a win that advanced the Bees to the eastern regional final this weekend, a game that’s either to be played tomorrow at Pace University should Martin Luther King Jr. be the opponent or on Sunday at the Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton should the opponent be Marathon. The M.L.K.-Marathon game was to have been played Tuesday night, after press time.

J.P. Harding, Bridgehampton’s high-scorer and its chief rebounder, almost equaled Roscoe’s total with 24 points, most of them scored off screens. Naejon Ward, the junior point guard, had 15 points and eight assists. Defense was the key, said the team’s coach, Ron White.   

As for the Long Island championship, a title that invariably goes to the Bees, inasmuch as Nassau County generally doesn’t field any Class D teams, Bridgehampton had to earn its 63-61 victory Friday at Center Moriches High School.

Nassau’s entry, Academy Charter of Hempstead, a young first-year varsity team that in the end was not quite up to it, almost gave as good as it got. 

Led by a poised eighth-grade point guard, Jarrett Dingle, the Panthers, whose regular-season record was 2-8, breezed to a somewhat stunning 19-9 lead through the first 7 minutes and 42 seconds of play, a high-arcing 3-pointer by Dingle extending the margin to 10 with 18 seconds to go in the period.

Dingle clapped repeatedly as Naejon Ward, his counterpart, brought the ball up the left side of the court, but Ward’s beautiful crosscourt pass to Elijah White, wide open on the right wing, was converted into a buzzer-beating 3 that elicited from the Bees’ fans — and perhaps from the players themselves — a sigh of relief. 

It took Bridgehampton another five minutes, during which White absorbed two charges, hit another 3-pointer, drove to the hoop, and fed Ward for two 3s, to wrest the lead, at 29-26, for the first time that afternoon.

Yet another 3 by Ward, again with White assisting, kept the Bees in the vanguard, at 34-28, with a minute until the break. 

The teams went into the locker rooms with Bridgehampton ahead 38-33 after J.P. Harding, the Bees’ 1,000-point scorer, who’s been averaging 25.7 points per game, put back a Jonny De Groot miss.

When play resumed, Coach White continued urging his charges to keep it up defensively and to run their sets at the other end.

Justin Faulkner, a tough inside player, scored over De Groot midway through the third to narrow the Bees’ lead to a basket, at 42-40, but Bridgehampton, thanks to Ward’s drive in the paint and two made free throws by him, extended the margin to 6 with two minutes remaining in the quarter.

The final two minutes of the period were frenzied, with Academy Charter getting the better of the to-and-fro thanks to a turnaround basket by John Tinch, another score by Faulkner, and a gutsy shot by Dingle over Harding that tied it at 46.

It was clear that this game was going down to the wire. Faulkner wrested back the lead for the Nassau school as he shot over Harding in the first of the final eight minutes. A putback by Wesley Hall made it 50-46, but the Bees, on a subsequent basket by Harding and two made free throws by him after being fouled in trying for a reverse layup, knotted the count at 50 each.

With six minutes to go, Ward, who had picked Dingle’s pocket and was fouled as he laid the ball in, capped a 3-point play at the free-throw line.

“Let’s go, Bridgies! Let’s go, Bridgies!” Bridgehampton fans sang out to a one-two, one-two-three bleacher-stomping beat. Then Jahqur Carr, who had come in earlier for William Walker, drew a foul — his third — from Faulkner. Carr made the first free throw, for 54-50, and, after missing the second, alertly grabbed his own rebound and put it in for a 6-point Bridgehampton lead with 5:15 left on the clock.

But again Academy Charter came back, on two baskets by Faulkner and one by Dingle that capped a fast break. 

De Groot was blocked by Rayne Shim as he tried for a layup with two minutes left. Dimitre Martin missed a 3 at the other end, and Ward, shifting into high gear, sped through traffic for 58-56 Bridgehampton. 

As the final minute began ticking down, the Panthers missed five times in succession, once from 3-point range and the others from in close, a feeding frenzy that prompted White to call a timeout to further urge on his players with 48.6 seconds left.

An Academy Charter miss and a big rebound by White, who was fouled by Dingle, got things going when play began again. 

White, who was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line that day, made both shots for a seemingly insurmountable 60-56 lead with 24.1 seconds left.

Gordon James, Academy Charter’s coach, called timeout, and while Bridgehampton’s players huddled across the way, White said to them, “There’s a lot of time — we’re not done. We’ve got to help out on the weak side. We’re not done!”

Having charged upcourt on the inbounds play, a layup attempt by Dingle, who was fouled as he shot, rolled tantalizingly around the rim before dropping off. He made both shots, pulling the Panthers to within a basket with 15.5 ticks left, prompting another Bridgie timeout.

De Groot inbounded the ball to Ward when play resumed, and Ward was immediately fouled by Tinch. Ward, who was to go 7-for-8 from the free-throw line, made both tries, retaining the all-important 4-point lead as 13 seconds remained. 

About seven seconds later, a long 3-pointer by Faulkner brought the Panthers to within 1, and in the ensuing tumult the clock ran out. It was reset at 1.1. Harding inbounded to Ward, who was fouled. The Class D tournament’s M.V.P. made the first and missed the second. Tinch came down with the rebound, but it was all over. Bridgehampton had won 63-61. 

“So close . . . we came so close,” James said afterward. When you lose, and learn from it — that indeed you can play with anyone, in this case — you don’t lose, he said.

“It’s all about defense in the postseason — we’ve got to get back to that old Killer Bee defense,” said White as he cradled the Long Island championship golden ball trophy, Bridgehampton’s first ever. “But I commend these guys. We’re still young. Naejon, J.P. . . . they all have been working hard. It’s only going to get harder from here on in. We either win or go home.”

Elijah White, who made the all-tournament team along with Ward, said, when asked about Academy Charter, that he and his teammates hadn’t known quite what to think, that the visitors were largely an unknown quantity, “though we knew they had two good guards and were scrappy.”

“You always have butterflies,” he said when asked about the Bees’ tentative start. But they had concentrated, he said, on what they did best, had played hard, and had shot well (78.6 percent) from the free-throw line. 

It was “such a relief” to have won, he said.

Ward finished with 24 points, including the three 3-pointers in the second quarter, four steals, and three assists; White had 18 points, six assists, and five steals, and Harding had 16 points and 9 rebounds.

Ron White, Bridgehampton’s head coach, was delighted to receive the Long Island championship trophy, for which the perennial Suffolk Class D champions have apparently never, in the absence of any UpIsland competition, had to contend. Craig Macnaughton