With Hiccups, Bees Win Class D Regional Semifinal
Despite frequent offensive hiccups, Bridgehampton’s Killer Bees ate Livingston Manor’s dreams at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood Monday night, ultimately prevailing 50-48 in a state Class D regional semifinal that seemed in the early going as if it would go the Rockland County champion’s way.
While not particularly well played, the game was gripping throughout and, insofar as Bees’ fans were concerned, transporting in the end, thanks to a steal — his fifth that night — and coast-to-coast layup by J.P. Harding with 14 seconds left to play.
Harding’s big steal and basket put Bridgehampton ahead 49-45, but there was more to come as the Wildcats’ senior guard, Allan Ward, who was to finish with a game-high 19 points, drained a 3 from the right wing, bringing the visitors to within 1 point, and rekindling their fans’ hopes, with two seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Harding’s inbounds pass went to Elijah White, one of the Bees’ guards (the other, Nae’ Jon Ward, had had to go to the bench with 38 seconds left), and White was immediately fouled.
White, who shot well from the free-throw line going down the stretch, missed the first try, but made the second, for what was to prove the final margin of victory.
With 1.7 seconds left, the Wildcats’ inbounds pass went to Patrick DiBartolo at midcourt, but Harding was there to deflect the desperation heave, assuring Ron White’s young team a well-deserved celebration.
They’ll now go on to play the Martin Luther King Jr.-Newfield Central winner in a regional final at Center Moriches High School tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“We need to get into a better offensive flow,” Harding said when interviewed afterward by reporters. The Bees committed somewhat fewer turnovers than they had in their 67-41 loss to Greenport in the county C-D game about two weeks ago. Some of the irresoluteness can be attributed to nerves, and some to the fact that White could not find a team to scrimmage during the long layoff, but still, 18 (this writer’s count) is too many.
White said that, all told, he was proud of his charges, however, crediting them with the fortitude they showed in digging themselves out of that early 17-6 hole.
The roller-coaster ride, then, began with a big dip in the first period, which ended with Livingston Manor up 17-11, and proceeded to rise in the second as the Bees, thanks to baskets by Harding, Will Walker (who had come off the bench), and White, capping a fast break, wrested the lead from the Rockland team, at 18-17.
The Wildcats fought back, though, capitalizing on Bridgehampton turnovers and bad choices, to a 26-26 stalemate at the half — a 3-pointer by Ward bringing about the tie.
The third quarter too was a standoff, with each team scoring 11 points — a steal and a layup by Harding with a half-minute to go presaging his game-winning dash.
It was 37-37 going into the fourth. Two made free throws by White put the Bees up by 2, after which Juniper Brown picked Ward’s pocket for 39-39 — the first of four times during the endgame that the score was knotted.
Jonny De Groot, the 6-foot-1-inch junior forward, whom White has been begging to shoot, did so to great effect with a minute and a half left, following misses by White and Harding — a banked-in basket that treated Bridgehampton to the lead again, at 47-45.
In crunch time, it was Livingston Manor’s turn to make turnovers, none of the three more crucial, of course, than the steal Harding made in the lane with 14 seconds left.
Asked what he had told his players in the game’s final moments, White said he’d told them that it was their game, and that rather than fretting about the outcome they should concentrate on execution.
Do that, he told them, and the win would come, which it did.
Harding and White each scored 14 points, Ward, 9, De Groot, 6, Walker, 5, and Nate DePasquale, 2. Ward hit three 3-pointers, and Walker and White one each.