By Gavin Menu and Michael Heller
Two young players in the midst of phenomenal boys basketball seasons clashed inside the oh-so-tight Bee Hive at Bridgehampton High School on Wednesday, with the Killer Bees escaping with their fifth straight victory.
Bridgehampton sophomore J.P. Harding had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Killer Bees in an 87-66 blowout of visiting Pierson, which came in with one of the hottest players in Suffolk County.
Pierson junior Will Martin is averaging 27 points per game this season and went into Wednesday’s showdown fresh off a 36-point performance against Stony Brook last week. Martin scored 29 against Bridgehampton but even that was not enough against the red-hot Killer Bees, who in recent weeks have knocked off Class B schools Mattituck and Babylon and league foes Shelter Island, Southold and now Pierson to improve to 3-0 atop the League VIII standings.
Six players joined Harding in double figures on Wednesday, with seniors Elijah Jackson, Elijah Harding and Nykell Dean scoring 13 points apiece. Freshman point guard Naejon Ward also scored 13 and chipped in with nine assists in one of his best all-around performances of the season.
Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson missed Wednesday’s game because of a one-game suspension that followed his being ejected from a 74-58 victory over Southold on January 13. Johnson’s absence gave assistant coach Ron White the opportunity to coach a big game between local rivals. And while White, who doubles as the Bridgehampton School Board president, was proud of the team’s performance against Pierson, he also warned of a long season ahead.
“We did what we needed to do, and ultimately got the win, but we had too many slip-ups,” White said afterwards. “We have to be prepared for the bigger courts, being able to space things and anticipate movements. That’s where we’ve always struggled, for the most part, but overall I think we did pretty well – I was happy that we were able to get this for coach.”
The Killer Bees will get right back at it when they host another tough opponent in Stony Brook on Friday, January 20, at 6:15 p.m. Johnson is expected back on the sideline — along with his 27 years of experience and six state championships as a Killer Bee — but could certainly appreciate what Wednesday’s win over Pierson must have meant to White, an alumni of the program himself.
“I’ve always tried to encourage the guys and make them understand that no matter where it is, every team is going to give us their best punch,” White said as a sold-out crowd poured out of the Hive. “No matter what — if it’s an A school or a C school, or even just a different class, they’re always going to be looking to come after us. We’ve got to come with that chip on our shoulders, that they’re coming to take care of us. We have a bench, we have skill; we just have to put it all together now.”