December 20, 2006
Hoop Legends Vie For First Place
The two teams combined have 16 high school state basketball titles and eight junior college national championships on their collective resumes (all with Bridgehampton High School and Suffolk Community College, respectively). Both teams had unblemished records in the Southampton Youth Services (SYS) Men's League. Something had to give at the SYS facility last Wednesday night, and it did.
What did not give is anyone's reputation. State and national championships are not won by accident. Bad habits die hard, but so do good ones. What made these players great in high school and college lingers on long after their glory days have faded.
So it did not surprise anyone that when The Champs (sponsored by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate and the Hamptons Antique Gallery) fell behind 12-0 to the Southampton Press, they did not give up. Led by Maurice Manning, Ronald White, Daryl Fishburne and Juwon Crews of Bridgehampton, Gary Cowell of Sag Harbor, Semaj White of Southampton, and Nick Tuts and Chris Messenger of East Hampton, The Champs not only erased the deficit, by halftime they had taken the lead, 35-34.
Ronnie White opened the second half on fire for The Champs, scoring on a nifty drive to the hoop, a three-pointer, and a jump shot off the dribble from 17 feet. White's 10-foot pull-up jumper gave The Champs an eight-point lead, 51-43.
But The Press players are no slouches! Led by Tamien and Clarence Trent of Center Moriches, Nick Thomas and Carl Johnson of Bridgehampton, Darrin Miller of Southampton, and Willie McFarland of East Hampton, The Press took the lead with six minutes left in the game, 62-61.
White drained two free throws to keep The Champs within striking distance at 68-65. When Tuts canned a put-back, they were within one point. But with Tamien Trent, Thomas and Miller flawless from the free-throw line at crunch time, The Press prevailed, 74-67.
Trent (23 points), Miller (21), McFarland (12) and Thomas (7) led The Press in scoring. Thomas, ever the floor general, conjured up visions of how he religiously fed the ball to superstar Maurice Manning at Bridgehampton High so the Killer Bees could accomplish their goal of winning one state championship after another.
Leading scorers for The Champs were White (19) Fishburne (11), Cowell and Manning (9), Tuts (8) and Messenger (6). It should be noted that although Manning has always been an efficient scoring machine, he has also always been an unselfish player who loves to make his teammates better.
"It was a great game to be a part of," White said. "After speaking with my team, we all realize that we let the game slip away when we started the game flat. That's not like us. I personally guarantee a rematch. There's no sense of urgency, but we'll be prepared."