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Bears Swat Bees in Battle of #1 Teams

January 12, 2016
Providence Basketball B 2016

Providence before being fouled at the 1st quarter buzzer.  (PC: Brianna Holochuck)

This afternoon, an electric Swanson Gymnasium played host to an instant classic between two of the best small school teams in New York. The boys’ basketball team, currently ranked #1 in New York State’s Class C, hosted Bridgehampton, the reigning Class D State Champions and #1-ranked Class D team in the state. It was a playoff atmosphere as the packed fan sections traded cheers for most of the game. News 12 and were in the house to cover the game, lending the contest added importance. With first place in League VIII on the line, the Brook prevailed, 46-43, in a thriller.

The Brook served notice early that their three losses against the Killer Bees a season ago were a distant memory as their suffocating defense frustrated their guests. The Bears swatted six shots in the quarter, recorded three steals, and forced a number of turnovers with their press. Luke O’Connor got the Bears on the board first with a tough contested layup, then connected on two free throws for a 4-1 lead. A Bridgie bucket cut the edge to 4-3, but the Bees would muster just one more free throw for the rest of the quarter while the Bears closed the frame on an 8-1 run thanks to a 3-pointer from John Eshirow, a layup from Chester Kayonga, and three free throws from Brandon Providence when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

With a 12-4 lead in hand, the Bears exploded for 23 points in the second frame to take command of the game. Kayonga began the quarter with a trifecta from the left corner and O’Connor followed with a floater in the lane. Bridgehampton connected on 3-of-4 free throw attempts to cut their deficit to 17-8 and appeared poised to claw back into the game when Josh Lamison, one of Suffolk County’s most prolific scorers, picked up his fourth foul with 5:20 left in the quarter. With Lamison on the bench, the Bears engineered an 8-0 surge, capped by Harry Zhu’s 3-pointer. Bridghampton went on a quick 5-2 spurt to close the gap to 27-13, but five straight points from Kayonga on a pretty spin move and layup and a 3-pointer gave the Bears their largest lead of the game, 32-13. The unflappable Bees responded with a 7-0 run to move back within 32-20, but a 3-pointer from O’Connor in the final seconds gave the Blue and White a 35-20 edge at the break.

The Bridgies can never be counted out. Their fluid and potent offense always has the potential to ignite, and the Bees began to swarm as the second half opened. The visitors scored the first 13 points of the third quarter to pull within 35-33 and electrify the strong contingent of fans who traveled out from the South Fork. With the pressure mounting and their backs against the wall, the Bears responded. On the ensuing play, Jyles Etienne scored a tough bank shot and drew the foul, sending Lamison out of the game with his fifth foul. It would prove to be the turning point in the game. Etienne would miss the free throw, but an offensive rebound led to a drive and score by O’Connor to put the Bears back up six in a blink. After a defensive stop, the Brook pushed the lead to eight when Etienne scored a contested layup for a 41-33 lead heading into fourth.

Etienne continued his inspired play with a block to open the final frame, though, to call his play a “block” would do our vertically gifted Bahamian a supreme disservice. The 6′ 5″ junior’s right arm engulfed the layup attempt, as though the ball became part of his hand and forearm. He absorbed it. It was one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see in a high school gymnasium. Etienne followed his rejection with a layup to push the Stony Brook lead to 43-33. The Bees countered with a 3-pointer, but Providence answered with a trifecta of his own to reestablish a 10-point advantage. A five-point spurt by the Bridgies brought them back within 46-41 with two minutes remaining, when the Bear defense made a stand.

Coach Mike Hickey unleashed the press and Etienne came up with a huge steal. The Bears failed to score on their end and a Bridgehampton free throw cut the deficit to 46-42. The Bears came up with two monumental stops, giving them the ball back with just 12.6 seconds remaining. However, instead of holding onto the ball and waiting for the Bees to foul them, the Bears attempted a shot, missed, and then fouled on the defensive end with 2.3 seconds left. The Bees connected on the front end of a 1-and-1 but missed on the second. There was a scrum for the live ball and Bridgehampton was unable to gain control and attempt a game-tying shot, giving the Bears a thrilling victory to move to 7-0 (4-0 in League VIII) and cement their place at the top of the league. The Bears are one of only three undefeated teams left in Suffolk County along with Brentwood and Northport.

O’Connor led all scorers with 14 points while Kayonga was the only other Bear in double-figures with 12. Providence (8), Etienne (6), Zhu (3), and Eshirow (3) gave the Brook a balanced scoring punch.

With the win coach Mike Hickey improves to 21-19 all-time vs. Bridgehampton. The win ends a three-game losing streak to Bridgehampton and gives the Bears their 11th win in their last 15 games vs. the Bees dating back to 2009. Defense proved to be the difference today as the Bears held their East End foes to their second-lowest offensive output of the season. The Bees were averaging 69.1 points per game coming into today’s game and have topped 90 points twice already this season. The Brook also held Lamison (17.2 ppg) to just 6 points, the only time he’s been held to single digits this season.

The Bears take the floor again on Thursday in a league match-up at Greenport (1-6).



Bear Paw Thumbnail

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Roy Williamson permalink
    January 13, 2016 10:55 AM

    That is amazing! In my day, 1986,
    we used to set goals in terms of the number of points we could score against the Bee’s. Beating them never entered our minds! My how times have changed! Congratulations to the team and Mike Hickey!


    • January 13, 2016 11:04 AM

      Roy, the Bees’ teams are like rows of shark teeth; there’s always a dangerous team coming from behind. Any time we can beat them we count it as a big victory. A very quality program. Glad we could give you a shot of pride today!


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