East Hampton boys basketball coach Bill McKee knows his team can score. That’s why, going into this season, he’s been preaching the importance of playing strong defense as the key to a successful season.
So far, his team seems to be heeding that message.
The Bonackers were stout defensively in two wins on their home court to open the season, beating Mattituck, 71-52, on Friday night before shutting down Pierson, 65-35, the following day in the second annual Kendall Madison Tip-Off Classic. Both East Hampton and Bridgehampton went 2-0 in the round robin tournament.
The Bonackers got off to a great start in the win over Pierson, with senior forward Brandon Johnson setting the tone in a 20-8 first quarter for his team. Johnson scored six of his eight points in the first quarter, and grabbed three offensive rebounds on the first possession. He finished the game with 16 rebounds and six blocks, making it tough for the Whalers to get anything going inside the paint.
East Hampton’s standout guards Brandon Kennedy-Gay and Kyle McKee led the team in scoring, with Kennedy-Gay garnering 21 points, while McKee had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Jack Reese added seven rebounds.
“I thought our kids really worked hard,” McKee said. “Going into the season, I thought the key was going to be how well we played on defense, and in the first two games I thought we played very good defense.”
East Hampton was strong early on in the win over Mattituck as well, taking advantage of the fact that Mattituck did not start several of its usual starters for team disciplinary reasons. The Bonackers led 16-6 after the first quarter, and 13 of those 16 points came from McKee and Kennedy-Gay. Kennedy-Gay finished with 25 points, including five three-pointers, along with six assists and five steals. McKee had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. As a team, the Bonackers had 21 assists. Forward Regis O’Neil had a nice game, with eight points, while Reese, playing in his first varsity game, had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Kendall Madison Tip-Off Classic raises money for the Kendall Madison Foundation, which provides scholarships and financial support to student-athletes in East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. Kendall Madison was a three-sport athlete at East Hampton, who played football and basketball and ran track, and also went on to play football at the University of Connecticut. Madison died in 1995 at the age of 21.
East Hampton was scheduled to start the League VI season at Miller Place on Thursday and will play in a non-league game at Center Moriches on Saturday.