In the back of every Bridgehampton player’s mind is a little voice telling him that the goal is to upset Greenport. The Killer Bees had a chance to level the score, going into the January 4 matchup with a 2-1 League VII record to the Porters’ perfect 3-0, but a high-scoring second half with a monster 25-point fourth quarter helped Greenport pull away unscathed with an 80-61 victory.
“We all played our hearts out, but I think we wanted to win the game so much that we just couldn’t settle down and play with more composure,” Bridgehampton senior J.P. Harding said. “We played more to the crowd than we did together as a team.”
Both squads have a handful of weapons, making it hard for either team to contain the threats. But that didn’t stop Bridgehampton from racing up and down the court, using a 2-3 defense to pressure in hopes of turning the ball over and converting those into easy points.
Harding used that to his advantage early, and made it look easy racking up the first eight points for the Killer Bees and 14 of his team-high 22 in the first half.
“I felt fired up and ready to go from the start — ready to execute,” Harding said. “I think on defense, we stepped up and were very aggressive, but there were times our conditioning caught up to us and we didn’t get back on defense in time, which allowed them to get their own easy layups in transition.”
By halftime, Bridgehampton was down 33-24 following an 11-3 Greenport scoring spurt, but managed to even things at 37-all on a bucket by Jonathan DeGroot, who returned from a knee injury. The field goal capped a six-point burst, but the threat ended there.
Ahkee Anderson, who led all players with 28 points, supplied eight of them during a 10-2 Greenport run on a pair of putbacks, and a pair of jump-shots, making it 47-39. He also added 10 assists. Jaxan Swann (23 points) scored seven of the next 11 consecutive Porters points, including a buzzer-beater to end the third and three-pointer to start the fourth.
“Every time we left the huddle, we talked about playing together, and kept that in perspective,” Swann said. “We know we can rely on anybody at any time in any given game.”
Swann’s older brother Jude, at 6-4, dominated the boards, chipping in 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Josh Santacroce and Zach Riggins added six points apiece.
Nae’Jon Ward was a force from behind the arc in the second half. He finished with 18 points for Bridgehampton and four threes. Elijah White racked up 14 points and DeGroot rounded out the scoring with six.
“There’s a lot of tough guys on that team,” Ward said. “One of our strategies was for us to be able to get them into foul trouble, and on the offensive end, coach really wanted us to slow the game down and really run our sets.”
The team ran its sets early, but the Porters’ aggressive second half set a new pace of play to help them pull out their seventh straight win.
“I like it,” Anderson said through a huge grin of remaining undefeated. “That was our toughest competition, but I’ll go to war with these guys. We showed a lot of poise, even when it got close. We played with a lot of energy and locked down on defense — our style is hectic, but that’s how we like to play.”