J.P. Harding scored 37 points in an 80-62 win over Port Jefferson on Tuesday to become the 16th Bridgehampton basketball player to score 1,000 career points. He reached the milestone three minutes into the second half and joined his father, also J.P. Harding, as the only father-son combination in school history to score 1,000 points apiece.
“It means a lot to me that my dad played here, even under the same coach,” Harding said, referring to his former coach, Carl Johnson, who coached the Bees for 27 years until he retired prior to last season. “That’s why I wear [my dad’s] number because I always want to make him proud every time I step on the court.”
Harding’s father, who also went by Javon in high school and was nicknamed “Jake” during his playing days in the mid to late 1990s, was one of the top players in Suffolk County during his junior year in 1995. But he suffered a knee injury during his senior season that ended his career as the Bees, led by sophomore phenom Maurice Manning, went on to win their first of three state championships in a row. Manning’s son, Charles, led Bridgehampton to a state championship in 2015, but played just that one season with the Killer Bees. Current head coach Ron White was also on the state-title teams of the 90s, and his son, Elijah, is a member of the team today.
It’s safe to say the roots of the Bridgehampton basketball family tree run deep.
“The team is like a family every year and we all look out for each other and I couldn’t ask for more than that,” Harding said this week. “The game of basketball has meant everything to me ever since I started playing organized when I was a little kid. Basketball was the only sport I ever played through the whole year. My biggest mentors were coach Nick Thomas and coach Carl. Coach Nick coached me in AAU from a young age and I learned a lot from him. He taught me the basics and the importance of staying humble.”
Thomas, of course, was a point guard for the Killer Bees in the 90s and now coaches at Center Moriches, where his son came up and played for him. There are countless other family connections that tie the great Bridgehampton teams together, but none of the father-son combinations were able to match the career scoring of the Hardings, whose names will now be listed together on a banner inside the Beehive.
Also on the list of 1,000-point scorers from Bridgehampton are Bill DePetris (1956), Carl Yastrzemski (1957), Lenny Hopson (1971), Gordon Johnson (1974), Wayne Hopson (1971), Julian Johnson (1986), Troy Bowe (1987), Duane White (1989), Robert Hopson (1990), Joe Niles (1991), Maurice Manning (1998), Caanan Campbell (2012) and John Lamison and Tylik Furman, teammates of Harding’s who both reached the career mark in 2016.
“Scoring 1,000 points was a long-term goal of mine when I started playing varsity for Bridgehampton my freshman year,” Harding said. “I even wrote it down and it feels great to set a goal like that, and to finally accomplish it means a lot.”
Prior to Tuesday’s win, the Killer Bees (2-3) had dropped three games in a row including two over the weekend at the Kendall Madison Tip-Off Classic in East Hampton. The Bees lost the opener on Friday, 101-66, against a strong Southampton team, and returned on Saturday but suffered a 71-57 loss to Mattituck.
Bridgehampton played both games without senior forward Jonny DeGroot, who injured his knee in the team’s win over Babylon, but is expected back at some point this season.
“I think we have what it takes to be competitive, but I think we’ve got to be a little bit more mature, and we’ve got to believe a bit more,” coach White said after the game against Mattituck. “You’re hoping that you lose a couple and you make the mistakes now and you get your bumps and bruises now so that by the end of February and March you’re in top shape and ready to go.”
Harding and Nae’Jon Ward scored 24 points apiece against Southampton, but much of that came in the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand. Harding had 27 points against Mattituck and with his 37-poing scoring burst against Port Jeff on Tuesday is averaging nearly 25 points per game.
Bridgehampton has two road games this week at Southold on Friday, December 14, at 5 p.m. and at Smithtown Christian on Monday at 6:15 p.m.