It was a long bus ride and an even longer journey this season to the Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton, where the Bridgehampton basketball team fell to Marathon, 66-60, in the Class D New York State Regional Final on Sunday night.
With many of their fans left behind because of the distance and timing of the game, the Killer Bees ran up against a disciplined team out of the Cortland area and let the game slip away in the third quarter. The game was tied at halftime, but Marathon outscored the Bees, 22-16, in the third quarter and led 51-45 going into the fourth, where the teams played even through the final buzzer.
“I knew they were a very disciplined team,” Bridgehampton coach Ron White said later about Marathon. “They work the ball very efficiently and they take the shots they want. And they did just that.”
Marathon advanced to the state final four to be played back in Binghamton this weekend, March 16 and 17. Joining them from Class D will be Harrisville, from Section 10, Panama, from Section 6, and Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville, from Section 2. Bridgehampton ended its season with a record of 15-10.
Marathon went into the game ranked lower than Bridgehampton by New York Sportswriters, but it was junior guard Diego Castellot who made the difference down the stretch to finish with 28 points for the Olympians. He also scored the final seven points in the decisive third quarter, which ultimately put his team over the top.
“I think we needed to do a little more on defense,” White said. “I commend the coaching staff and that team for being a well-oiled machine. It’s one of those unorthodox kinds of offenses and it’s important for us to play a sound defense throughout the entire possession.”
Bridgehampton point guard Naéjon Ward, who will return to lead next year’s team along with fellow juniors Elijah White and Will Walker, hit a three at the start of the fourth quarter to pull the Bees within three. That lead was trimmed to a single point at 58-57 when J.P. Harding hit one of two foul shots with 3:26 remaining. A quick 5-0 run by the Olympians followed that put the game out of reach.
Harding finished with 28 points and 19 rebounds as he closed out a decorated career with more than 1,000 career points. He will graduate this spring along with Jonny DeGroot, Nat Depasquale and Jahqur Carr.
“It’s been an honor to have the privilege to coach those guys,” White said about the senior class. “Even looking at throwback pictures, it was awesome and gratifying to see such growth in their mentality.
“That’s why sports is one of the greatest things in the world,” he continued. “It allows you to learn and experience emotions that you don’t get anywhere else. Across the board, the travel up there, having team meals together, creating more camaraderie with the team, I think it was something very memorable for them.”
White and Ward finished with 13 points apiece on Sunday, and both should be back to make another run next season. White said Bridgehampton’s youth program, including players in fifth through eighth grades, is extremely strong at the moment.
“I think these young men understood over time that you’re dealing with a very rich history of hard-nosed winning basketball and I think they did everything they could to honor that,” White said. “We’re building, and at the end of the day you never know who you will have from one year to the next.
“I tell the kids all the time, ‘It’s not what you’re dealt, it’s what you do with what you’re dealt that matters. We saw some growth and some belief and some togetherness this season. It was a great sight to see.”