Talk about a belated birthday gift.
Hampton Bays’ Chris Rydberg, whose 18th birthday was Monday, hit the game-winning three-pointer off an assist from Edison Blakaj with less than three seconds left to lift the Hampton Bays boys basketball team over Southampton 70-69 on Tuesday night at home.
“I don’t have words to explain what just happened,” Rydberg said following the game. “I just don’t. It hasn’t hit me yet. Edison gave me the pass with three seconds left. Once I got the ball I knew I had to take the shot because I couldn’t get a pass off and I knew we were down two so I stepped back, shot it. Right when I let it go I knew it was going in.”
After Rydberg made the basket, teammates and fans poured onto the court toward Rydberg to celebrate the victory, which, according to many, is the first Hampton Bays has ever had against rival Southampton.
“That’s what the history buffs tell me,” Hampton Bays head coach Pete Meehan said after the game. “And I’ve often been asked, ‘When’s the last time Hampton Bays beat Southampton?’ and the answer to that now is 15 minutes ago.”
Rydberg, who went one for 11 from the field in the Baymen’s 53-50 win over West Islip on Friday, hadn’t hit a basket until the deciding shot on Tuesday night.
“He’s struggled,” Meehan said. “He’s fighting a hand injury, basically playing one handed for us. But they don’t come any better than Chris Rydberg. He’s just so coachable and upbeat and the same exact kid walks through the door every day.
“He can shoot,” Meehan continued. “That wasn’t a fluke that the ball went in the basket. We just don’t encourage him to stand out there, we need him inside. But the fact that he hit a three-pointer isn’t a big shot. He’s got a good touch and some soft hands. If you’re going to score just three points, I guess he did it the right way.”
Southampton head coach Herm Lamison gave credit to Rydberg for hitting a tough shot, but said his team shouldn’t have put itself in that position in the first place.
“I just thought that if we had played better it wouldn’t have come down to that last shot,” he said. “I’m not taking anything away from Hampton Bays. They played well, they played a great game, but I blame a lot of it on us and more on us than anything else.”
It was the first game of the season for the Mariners, who have several new players on varsity this year, but Lamison said that neither factor was a good enough excuse for the loss.
“It’s the first time we’re playing together and we’re going to use it to get better,” he said. “You’ve got to come ready to play regardless if it’s your first game or your fifth. I thought we had some lapses with our intensity during the game and we didn’t really do some things consistently that we’re capable of doing. It’s not going to make us bitter, it’s going to make us better.”
Bruno Cavallo led Hampton Bays with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists and his four consecutive free throws late in the fourth quarter helped keep the Baymen in the game. Cameron Booth had 20 points with three assists, while Davi Assis had 13 points and five rebounds. Southampton’s D’Angelo Smith led all scorers with 27 points while Kyren Miller had 15 and Lester Pettaway had 10.
Hampton Bays was scheduled to visit Port Jefferson on Monday and was to play Smithtown East in a non-league game on Tuesday. The Baymen will visit Patchogue-Medford for a non-league game on January 2 at noon.
Mariners Fall to Babylon
Southampton fell to 0-2 in League VII after with a 58-46 home loss to Babylon on Saturday. Babylon jumped on the Mariners early, taking a 19-9 first quarter lead and held a 27-22 halftime lead. Miller and Sean Johnson both finished with 12 points to lead the Mariners while Smith had 10 points. Babylon’s Keith Smith led all scorers with 22 points while teammate J.P. Pate added 16 points and 10 assists.
The Mariners visited East Hampton for a non-league game on Tuesday and will take on Riverhead in a tournament at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue on Saturday, December 27, at 8 p.m. They will get back to League VII action when they visit Port Jefferson on January 6 at 6:15 p.m.