After two non-league games, it’s clear to Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson what his boys basketball team will need to do to be successful this season: rebound and take care of the ball.
The Killer Bees faced a pair of tough opponents in their first two games of the year, falling 60-36 at Westhampton Beach (League VI) on December 2 before losing 76-17 at League VII powerhouse Wyandanch on Saturday.
In both games, a lack of a presence on the boards and too many turnovers prevented the Killer Bees from getting into any kind of flow on offense. Johnson took the blame for the loss to Westhampton Beach, saying his team simply wasn’t ready for its first game of the season.
“It was my fault for scheduling a game so early,” he said. “I definitely have to take the blame for that loss. We just weren’t prepared after eight days of practice. No one should be prepared for a game after eight days of practice. The kids did some good things, but we have to learn how to rebound and take care of the ball. Those are our biggest problems right now.”
The Hurricanes did not have a significant size advantage over Bridgehampton but still managed to control the game in the rebounding department.
“They weren’t bigger than us, but they were definitely the more aggressive of the two teams,” Johnson said. “Our kids just didn’t respond to how aggressive Westhampton was.”
Johnson said that his young team is still struggling to find its identity, particularly on the offensive end. Point guard Ansley Wyche is a veteran and is expected to lead the team, along with forward Cesar Banados, but Johnson said it may take them a little time to embrace that role.
“Either Ansley or Cesar has to step up and run the show,” Johnson said. “They’ve been reluctant to do it so far.”
Wyche did play well in the second half against the Canes and finished with a career-high 19 points. But Wyche and his team got off to such a slow start—falling behind 16-0 to start the game—that they could not recover.
Against Wyandanch, the Bees simply did not have the manpower or athleticism to match up. The Warriors threw a full-court press defense at the Bees for the entire game and had success with that plan for all four quarters, leading to easy baskets. With a bench full of reliable players, the Warriors were also fresh for the entire game, which gave them the firepower to run the aggressive defense.
“They’re better than I anticipated them being,” Johnson said of Wyandanch. “They run nine to 10 players deep, so they have fresh bodies coming in every two or three minutes. They played a relentless full court man-to-man pressure—they don’t give up and they don’t let up. Everything hinges on their defense.”
Bridgehampton should be on a more level playing field in terms of competition when it opens the League VIII season at home against Pierson on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Like the Bees, the Whalers are searching for an identity on offense and are lacking in depth. But Johnson said his team will still be focusing on the problems that were an issue in the non-league losses.
“For us to get prepared for that will be good,” Johnson said. “I know that Pierson doesn’t have the athletes that Westhampton or Wyandanch has, so I think we’re at the level where we’re capable of handling those kids. It’s just a matter of rebounding and taking care of the ball. Those will be the key things going into that game.”
Bridgehampton will continue its league schedule at home against Mercy on December 19 at 5 p.m. before facing two more tough non-league opponents. The Bees will visit Amityville (League VI) on December 29 at noon and will travel to Nassau County for a game against East Rockaway on January 3 at 1 p.m.