By Gavin Menu
Dan White hoped to avoid a most dubious streak as his East Hampton Bonackers faced Bridgehampton in the consolation game of the Eastern Long Island Official’s Holiday Classic at Suffolk County Community College in Selden on Thursday, December 29.
“I didn’t want to lose all the Hamptons this year,” said White, the former head coach at Pierson who, with the Bonackers, lost games to Westhampton and Hampton Bays this season before falling to Southampton, 87-53, in the semifinals of last week’s holiday tournament.
With White pacing the sidelines last Thursday, East Hampton looked sharp and knocked off Bridgehampton, 57-40, with junior guard Jack Reese leading the way with 22 points and eight assists. After coaching seven seasons at Pierson, where he still teaches, White joined an East Hampton program that had just two coaches — Ed Petrie and Billy McKee — for nearly five decades. The Bonackers (2-7) struggled early this season but entered the New Year on a high note with their win over Bridgehampton, a local rival that is expected to make noise in Class D this season.
“We’re young and we are learning an entirely new system and that was the first time I felt like we saw what our potential could be,” said White, whose team was in control from start-to-finish. “It’s a good win for our kids, because you’re sitting there with one win and now they have something they can hang their hat on.”
Southampton, which joins the Bonackers in Class A this season, went on to win the tournament with a 69-57 win over Sachem East in the nightcap. It appeared earlier in the night that the Killer Bees might have left everything they had on the court one night earlier when they took Sachem East to the wire before losing, 59-56, in overtime.
“We spent a lot of energy last night but there is no excuse for their performance tonight,” said Carl Johnson, who returned this year for what he said will be his final season as head coach of the Killer Bees. “We played uninspired ball.”
Elijah Harding and J.P. Harding scored 12 points apiece while senior Elijah Jackson, the last remaining starter from Bridgehampton’s 2015 state championship team, scored nine. Freshman starters Elijah White and Naejon Ward were off the mark all night and finished with seven points combined.
Johnson was forgiving of his freshman, and said that J.P. Harding, a sophomore with tremendous potential, needed to improve while playing back-to-back nights. Johnson did not mince words, however, when it came to the overall play of his two seniors, calling out Jackson in particular, who has had moments of brilliance during his career with the Killer Bees.
“He’s a senior, he’s been through it all and he needs to step it up as a leader,” Johnson said about Jackson, who led the team with 18 points against Sachem East. “Last night’s game showed us what we’re capable of doing and tonight shows we can be beaten by everyone if we don’t come to play.”
The Killer Bees hosted Mattituck on Wednesday after press time and will welcome Babylon on Friday, January 6, at 6:15 p.m. Class D rival Shelter Island comes to town for a 6 p.m. game on Tuesday, January 10.