The Bridgehampton boys basketball team played its final game in its famed gym, The Beehive, on February 5 against Shelter Island to a standing-room only crowd that included family, friends and fans of the team, as well as prominent alumni.
Carl Johnson, one of those alumni and who has won state titles with the school both as a player and coach, was the last to speak at the ceremony that opened up the evening and honored three departing senior cheerleaders in Jaden Campbell, Alanah Johnson and Kim Rojas.
Johnson, who will be inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame next month and is a well respected member of the Bridgehampton community, received standing ovations both when he took the stage and when he walked off it.
“I’m sure most of the opponents, like Shelter Island here, and Longwood, Riverhead, Southampton, come to this gym and say, ‘Oh yeah, we in trouble,’” he said with a smile. “This is a very different gym. Most of the opponents don’t know how to brace themselves for the fall of hitting the wall, the stage. Cheerleaders cheering with their pompoms in their face. This gym can speak to a lot of great stories. It’s going to be really truly missed.”
Johnson said he went back into the record books to see what the program had accomplished in its years in The Hive. It includes a Federation title, nine state titles, six Class B county titles, 25 Class D county titles and 33 league titles.
“That’s some tradition,” Johnson said. But he made sure to point out that wasn’t trying to put any pressure on the young Killer Bee team that was about to take the floor.
“I think they’re winners in their own,” he said. “It’s not always about the banner that you put on the wall, it’s about the character that you have inside of you. And I’m sure they’re going to carry that on, and I’m sure they’re going to win titles in the new gym.
“We’re going to move on, start a new tradition with this current team, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the future,” Johnson said as he concluded his speech.
Then the game finally tipped off, and fittingly, the Bees got on the board first when freshman Scott Vinski drained a shot from the corner.
The Bees finished the season without any seniors. They had four freshmen and a pair of juniors, just six players, for most of the season. Due to how young the team was, many thought the Bees shouldn’t have even played a varsity season. In fact, there was talk this past summer of the team just playing a junior varsity season. But the team got through the rigors of the varsity campaign, and according to its head coach, Ron White, it’s so much better off because of it, despite, with their 70-40 loss in the finale, finishing 0-14 overall.
“The win and loss category doesn’t suggest it, but if you look at the beginning and you look at now, every team is coming up to us and saying you guys are going to be alright, and I’m excited about that,” he said after the game. “You’d better be ready for Bridgehampton, we’re not going to forget this. It was bumps and bruises, and I’m thankful for the fans that stuck with us, supported us throughout the entire threshold, supported the idea of continuing on with a varsity team even though most people probably would have said just have a JV.
“I’m just really proud of those guys,” White said of his players. “I put them through so much as freshmen and sophomores, and they accepted the challenge. I’m just really proud and looking forward to the future.”
Vinski scored 20 of the Bees’ 40 points in the team’s final game and said he loved playing in and witnessing the atmosphere that surrounded the team last week, and is excited for future games to be just like that. He’s also well aware of the history of the team and uses it as motivation to improve his game and help lead the team back to its former glory.
“I love it,” he said about playing for his hometown team. “It’s kind of given me a goal because I want to achieve the same thing that the people behind us achieved … to get on the level with some of the great Bridgehampton players.”
White, who as a player for Bridgehampton helped it win three straight state titles in the 1990s, called it a blessing to be able to be in the position he’s in and close out The Hive. But he’s also excited about the future.
“I’m going to be able to tell my 5-year-old and hopefully his kids,” about this night, he said.
“Like I said, it’s been an amazing run. We’re not done yet, this is just the beginning.”