In 2012, when John Baumiller took over as head coach of the boys basketball team at Westhampton Beach, he was practically starting from square one. Three years later, with an appearance in the county semifinals along the way, Baumiller feels he is once again starting from scratch, due to serious injuries to key seniors, who would have been leaders on the team this season. And a quick look at the roster would affirm that.
With seniors Emmanuel Clarke, Rashaed Mitchell and Collin Carrieri all lost for the season, Baumiller and the Hurricanes are left with very little varsity experience. Even two of the three seniors on the team now, Eric Caldwell and Nick Lafrese, didn’t have any varsity experience coming in to this season.
That inexperience has led to an 0-3 start to the season after three losses last week. The Canes lost, 66-57, at home to Sayville on December 8, lost 47-38 at Rocky Point on Thursday, December 10, and then lost a non-league game, 60-46, at home to Bridgehampton (League VIII) on Saturday.
In two of the team’s three losses, nerves got the best of the Canes, according to their coach. Against Sayville, they trailed 18-5 in the first quarter, and against Bridgehampton, they trailed 19-8 after the first. In both games, though, the team turned things around in the second half.
A positive coming out of the losses is that the team is doing much better offensively than it did last season, something Baumiller expected this season. In the loss to Sayville, Lafrese (15 points), sophomore Jake Gaudiello (18) and senior Bryce Phillips (14) each scored in double figures. Then in the loss to Bridgehampton, Gaudiello (11), Phillips (10), junior Griffin Schulz (10) and sophomore Nolan Quinlan (10) each scored in double figures. Quinlan scored 10 points and hauled in 10 rebounds all in the second half of Saturday’s game, which caught the eye of Baumiller.
“When a sophomore can step up and score 10 points and grab 10 rebounds in a half, and he already stands 6’5, I think he has to get more playing time. He earned it,” he said.
The Canes should get the experience they need relatively quickly since they’re in the midst of seven games in 14 days. “It’s not that they have losing attitudes, they’re just all new, they’re all green, so they come out a little tentative,” Baumiller said. “It takes a while to teach them. Hopefully, as the year goes on, they get better. By Christmas, this team will be much, much better.”
Westhampton Beach hosted Harborfields on Tuesday and will play at Amityville on Thursday, December 17, at 4 p.m. The Canes will play a non-league game at Miller Place (League VI) on Saturday, December 19, at 1 p.m.
The Lady Hurricanes (1-1 League V, 2-2 overall) won their first League V game of the season, 44-30, at Rocky Point on Thursday, December 10, after suffering a 60-52 loss at Sayville two days earlier.
A stout and aggressive defense has led to an increase in offense this season, which was the case in both games last week. The Lady Canes had 20 steals, 23 rebounds, 14 assists, and five blocked shots in the win over Rocky Point. After a slow first quarter that ended in a 9-9 tie, Westhampton Beach went on an 11-3 run in the second to take a 20-12 lead at halftime, never looking back.
Westhampton Beach head coach Katie Peters said that while it may have looked like it was an easy win, it wasn’t. “This was not our best game,” she said. “The lesson we were able to take home from this game is the mental piece of showing up ready to play from the start.
“With that being said, this was our fourth game on the road, which is both mentally and physically challenging for any team,” Peters continued. “This group of girls has shown resiliency and mental toughness day in and day out.”
The Lady Canes showed that resiliency and toughness in the loss to Sayville. Down six to start the fourth quarter, they came back and took a 52-50 lead with less than 1:30 remaining in the game, but on the ensuing drive, the Lady Canes were called for a back-court violation, and turned the ball over. The Lady Golden Flashes hit a go-ahead three with 1:18 left and held on.
The 52 points was a season-high for Westhampton Beach and is the most points the team has scored in a single game the past few seasons. Peters attributed it, again, to defense. The Lady Canes had 13 steals, 13 assists and 31 rebounds, and it also helped that eighth-grader Isabelle Smith scored a career-high 22 points, shooting 8 for 14 from the field. Senior Shea Casey scored 16 points.
“We talk often about the importance of the little things on the court and how these translate to the big things,” Peters said. “Each girl boxed out, hit the open player and looked for their own shot. Our girls are really starting to gel on the court, which is enabling us to run-and-gun a bit.”
Westhampton Beach played at Harborfields on Tuesday and will host Amityville on Thursday, December 17, at 4 p.m. The Lady Canes host Miller Place (League VI) in a non-league game on Monday, December 21, at 4 p.m.