The East Hampton boys basketball team got a few steps closer to defending its League VI title last week after a pair of big wins. The Bonackers beat Shoreham/Wading River (4-6, 8-6) 70-45 in Shoreham on January 20 before flying past Westhampton Beach (1-9, 3-11) 87-51 at home on Thursday.
The Bonackers (9-1, 12-2) have been the top team in League VI throughout the season, with their only league loss coming against second-place Elwood/John Glenn (8-2, 10-5) in the second meeting between the teams on January 16.
As of Monday, East Hampton had just four games left on its league schedule, but maintaining its top standing won’t be an easy task. The Bonackers must visit fourth-place Bayport/Blue Point (7-3, 11-4) on Thursday, January 29, for a 6:15 p.m. game, and after they host last-place Mt. Sinai on February 3, at 6 p.m., they will visit third-place Amityville (7-3, 10-3) on February 5, at 4:30 p.m. East Hampton will close out the regular season at home against Miller Place (3-7, 6-9) on February 10, at 6 p.m.
Despite the many dominant wins his team has enjoyed this season, veteran East Hampton head coach Ed Petrie said he isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We just have to keep improving,” he said, after describing the details of his team’s latest pair of blowout victories. “We have two consecutive Thursday games that will be extremely important as far as league placement is concerned. Bayport and Amityville will be on the road, and those are two key games for us.”
If the Bonackers can duplicate the efforts they put forth against both teams at home earlier in the season, they should be in good shape. On January 6, the Bonackers beat Bayport/Blue Point 56-35 and on January 10, they beat the Warriors 78-62 at home.
In their most recent wins, the Bonackers took control in the first half and never let their opponents close the gap. Against Shoreham/Wading River, a steady dose of center Hayden Ward and guard Jerome Russell led to a 26-6 first-quarter advantage for East Hampton. Russell scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half, connecting on five three-pointers, while Ward had 11 of his game-high 25 points in the first half. Ward finished with 11 rebounds, while Russell had seven rebounds and three steals. He connected on six of 10 three-point attempts and as a team, the Bonackers shot 44 percent from the floor.
Jarred Bowe also chipped in 10 points for East Hampton.
“They broke the game open and from that point on, we were able to play pretty much everybody,” Petrie said.
The overpowering effort was more than just the fine offensive play of Ward and Russell, according to Petrie.
“It was a combination of things,” he said. “We were more patient with the ball than we’ve been, so we got better shots. Our defense was solid all the way through. The entire team played nice team defense.”
The Hurricanes didn’t fall behind against East Hampton quite as early as the Wildcats did, thanks to the play of guard Michael Corrigan, who finished with a game-high 31 points. Corrigan was on fire from three-point range, hitting three of his eight three’s for the game in the first quarter and keeping his team within striking distance with just a six-point deficit. But in the second quarter, the Bonackers outscored Westhampton Beach 25-7 to take control of the game for good. Corrigan continued to score throughout the game, but the next highest scorer on his team had just six points.
Ward led the Bonackers with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell finished with 18 points. Bowe and Tyler Brenneman led the team with four assists each and the Bonackers shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor.
The Bonackers were supposed to square off against defending Class AA Suffolk County champion Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday in East Hampton, but the game was cancelled due to conflicts with the SAT exams. The game will take place this Saturday in East Hampton at 11:45 a.m.