Killer Bees’ Season Ends in Regional Final

Bridgehampton point guard Nae'Jon Ward tosses up a layup to a tough defense against Newfield in the New York State Class D Southeast Regional Championship game at Center Moriches High School on Friday, 3/9/18. Michael Heller photos

A season filled with promise — and its fair share of uncertainty — came to a close Friday night at Center Moriches High School, where the Bridgehampton boys basketball team, which has made its name over the years in the state basketball tournament, exited the postseason with a 61-44 loss to Newfield Central from Section IV.

With its victory, which was rarely in doubt, Newfield claimed the New York Southeast Regional Class D championship and advanced to this weekend’s state final four in Binghamton.

J.P. Harding struggles to shoot against Newfield on Friday.

The silver lining for Bridgehampton, which lost its first six games of the season and finished 9-12, is that its entire roster is expected to return next season.

Junior J.P. Harding led the Bees with 18 points, but 10 of those came in the fourth quarter with his team already trailing by 20. Elijah White was the only real factor in the first half, scoring eight of his 12 points before the break, at which point Bridgehampton trailed by 13.

Joshua Wood had 22 points to lead Newfield (22-2) and Jacob Humble added 15.

“We’re going to learn from this,” White, who is coach Ron White’s son, said as the gym emptied out on Friday. “This is going to be the fire in our stomach that’s pushing us through the offseason, the preseason, and with everything we do moving forward.”

Bridgehampton point guard Nae’Jon Ward, a sophomore who rejoined the Bees early this season after a brief stint at Southampton High School, was scoreless in the first half but came out more aggressive in the third quarter and drilled a pair of long-range three pointers to pull his team within seven at 25-18. The Trojans, who will face undefeated Moriah in a state semifinal on Friday, essentially slammed the door with a 21-6 run to close out the third quarter.

“Young team,” first-year coach White pointed out about this year’s Killer Bees, whose starting five on Friday included two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. “But it was certainly a winnable game. Already I’m thinking of things I could have done different. But you live and learn. I’m so proud of these kids. They fought hard. We’re going to take a week or two off and then we’ll get right back to grinding.”

The Trojans (22-2) hit five three-pointers in the second half to take a 31-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter. They emptied their bench and Bridgehampton closed the game with a 14-0 run.

“We were getting the shots up, we just didn’t put them down,” White said. “And when you don’t put them down in the beginning of the game, as a young team, you start overthinking things. I think they started panicking a slight bit. Those things take the wind out of your sail a little bit.”

Newfield and Moriah will be joined at this weekend’s Class D final four in Binghamton by Buffalo East and Harrisville. It’s a destination the Killer Bees know well, having won the program’s ninth state championship in 2015, and one they hope to return to next season.

“I still don’t feel like we’ve played our best game yet,” Elijah White said. “Maybe that’s due to immaturity, but we still haven’t played like we’re capable of.

“But I always had faith in us,” he added. “I thought we were going to make it to states. We worked hard all season and we fought as hard as we could today. We didn’t execute properly but we fought hard and we’ll be back next year.”

Elijah White heads to the hoop.