Skip to main content

Bonac Boys Impress at Tip-Off Hoops Tourney

Thu, 12/14/2023 - 08:55
East Hampton’s Liam Fowkes, moving with the ball above, was the Kendall Madison Tip-Off tournament’s most valuable player. 
Craig Macnaughton

The East Hampton High School Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were followed on Saturday with the Kendall Madison Tip-Off tournament’s final game, at noon, and, in keeping with the upbeat tenor of the day, East Hampton’s boys basketball team cruised to the championship, easily defeating Mattituck 60-43.

The Bonackers, again overseen by Bill McKee (who came out of coaching retirement when Dan White, after seven years, returned to Pierson in Sag Harbor), were impressive in both games they played in the tournament, moving the ball well and shooting well, almost uncannily well in the first quarter of the championship game.

To get to the final, East Hampton on Friday defeated the Ross School 70-39, a game in which McKee subbed liberally, and the Tuckers outlasted Bridgehampton’s Killer Bees 54-49. The Bees led 18-10 early in the second quarter, but the equally energetic North Forkers came back to tie the count at 26-26 going into the halftime break, after which the lead swung back and forth until Mattituck, which was leading 51-49, pulled away in the last half-minute thanks to Justin Fox’s three-for-four shooting from the free-throw line.

Alex Davis and Jai Feaster, fellow sophomore guards, played well for the Bees, but their efforts — Davis scored 17 points, Feaster 13 — were not quite enough to put Bridgehampton over the top. With Sae’vion Ward, the Bees would have been quite formidable this season, though Ward is reportedly now at William Floyd High School in Mastic. It goes without saying, however, that Bridgehampton’s state Hall of Fame coach, Carl Johnson, will make the best of the hand he’s been dealt.

The Bees-Mattituck matchup was followed by East Hampton-Ross, whose 6-foot-8 German-born center, Henry Tietz, drew immediate attention. A highly ranked junior tennis player, Tietz, who said that his U.T.R. rating was “around 9,” was only recently introduced to basketball. “And while we got our clocks cleaned by East Hampton,” Ross’s coach, Dave Conlon, said, “Henry handled the ball well and scored 19 points.” In Saturday’s 56-40 loss to Bridgehampton in the consolation game, Tietz led the Ravens with 13 points.

Back to the championship game, East Hampton came out strong. It was 17-0 before the Tuckers, with a 3-pointer by Alex Clark, got on the scoreboard. The Bonackers were deadly from long range early on, making good on five of seven attempts. Liam Fowkes, a senior guard, who was later to be named the tournament’s most valuable player, had two of those 3s, Toby Foster had two, and Mike Locascio drained one from downtown in the opening five minutes of play. The period ended with East Hampton ahead 20-5, and with Fowkes having scored 10 of those points.

Inevitably, the Bonackers’ hot hands were to cool somewhat. Mattituck fought back, and had closed the gap to six, at 32-26, by halftime.

In the all-important third, Fowkes laid the ball in when the quarter began and, soon after, converted a 3-point play. After that the Bonackers reasserted themselves with baskets by Cash Muse, East Hampton’s 6-4 center, who made the all-tournament team; Toby Foster; Mason Jefferson, a sophomore guard who came off the bench, and Fowkes, bringing the score to 46-28.

Jefferson, Foster, and Fowkes hit 3-pointers in the final moments of the third period, which ended with East Hampton firmly in the driver’s seat, at 55-31. Fowkes, with another 10-point period — he finished with 21 points for the game — again provided the spark. Foster scored 16 points, and Muse seven, with five rebounds.

The game was effectively over when the fourth quarter began, which prompted McKee  to empty his bench. Jefferson, Colin Kelly, Josh Williams, Marbin Mateo, Juan Palacios, and Brian Garces all saw action in those final eight minutes.

“We’re going to surprise some people,” East Hampton’s coach said afterward, as he reviewed the stats — the chief one being 10 3-pointers — with his younger brother, Joe, and Thomas Nelson, in his office. “They play well together, and we’ve got so many shooters. Liam had 10 points in the first quarter, and 10 in the third. . . . Wow! I can’t stress enough how well they’ve been working together. They’re very unselfish, they’re always looking for the open man. There are no egos out there. . . . They’re all hustle. They work their tails off.”

Defensively, McKee said his charges played a man-for-man defense in the first half, and a 3-2 zone in the second, “to take away Mattituck’s penetration.”

East Hampton is classified as an AA school, and is playing this winter in League IV, though Section XI’s website didn’t list it as among the League IV schools as of Sunday. East Hampton’s league season was to have begun with back-to-back games this week, one yesterday at Westhampton Beach, and one at home today with Hauppauge.

“We’ll have played four games by Christmas, which is unusual — I don’t ever remember that happening,” said McKee, who in the past has used Christmas break practices to get the team ready for the league campaign.

In Sunday’s Newsday, Davis, who “helped lead Bridgehampton to a county title last year,” was listed among the county’s top 100 players, as were Luke Seltzer and Charlie McLean of Pierson.

Others to make the Tip-Off tourney’s all-tournament team, besides Fowkes and Muse, were Bridgehampton’s Jai Feaster, Mattituck’s Alex Clark, and Tietz of Ross.

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.