December 27, 2006

Bonac Brings John Glenn Back To Earth

East Hampton residents went bananas over the boys' high school basketball team, and half the town showed up for this epic classic. Bob Vacca reports.

You had to be there to believe it.

In a semi-final Class A basketball playoff game last Thursday night on the Knights' home court, John Glenn blasted off to a 14-4 lead that seriously grounded our own East Hampton Bonackers in the first quarter.

An untrained eye would have assumed the Knights were on their way to the 76 points they scored in their eight-point victory over the Bonackers in the first game of the year. Or maybe in the minds of these Knights, John Glenn was already orbiting Stony Brook University for its much-anticipated Class A County Championship showdown with perennial champs, the Amityville Warriors.

The Knights had superior height and athleticism. They distributed the ball and scored with the flash of the Harlem Magicians. They disrupted East Hampton's offense with a combination "triangle and two" defense that stifled high-scoring Marcus Edwards the entire game (five points) and League V sophomore scoring champion Mikey Russell (23 points, six rebounds) in the first quarter.

But what John Glenn did not have in its arsenal was Secret Weapon, Chris Tracey, who shed his role as a reserve to enter the game in the first quarter and never come out again. Tracey tallied 10 points on three bombs from a distance and a crucial free throw at Crunch Time.

In a fourth quarter scene out of a Hollywood Rudy-like movie script, Tracey, one of the smallest players on the court, played the biggest, grabbing five rebounds in a forest of tall trees under the boards. On one occasion, when Tracey was swarmed on the baseline after snaring a rebound, he alertly called timeout before the Knights could trap him.

"Chris was in the game because he can shoot," Bonac coach Ed Petrie explained. "Their defense was focused on stopping Marcus [Edwards] and Mikey, and we needed someone to take advantage of the open shots on the perimeter. Chris showed he is quite capable of doing that."

The first quarter ended auspiciously for East Hampton, with Edwards sinking one of two free throws. Zach Brenneman, who nailed the Bonackers' first field goal on a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line, rebounded the missed foul shot and canned it to pull Bonac to within seven, 14-7.

Russell pulled up and drained a three-pointer from NBA range to close the gap to 14-10 early in the second. C. J. Allen (14 points) countered with a three-pointer of his own from the top of the key that appeared to nullify Russell's. Before East Hampton's faithful had returned its gaze from the scoreboard, Russell had already banged in another trey from 28 feet to make the score 17-13, Glenn.

Then, Brenneman (14 points and 10 boards) grabbed a rebound and tossed it over his head from eight feet without looking at the basket, inexplicably banking the ball in to bring Bonac to within two, 17-15. Judging from the regularity with which Glenn's coach, Steve Robbins, kept substituting, one had to wonder if the depth of the Knights' bench would ultimately wear the Bonackers' shorter rotation down. But with Tracey and Michael Tuths (five rebounds) spelling the starters for extended minutes, and with Edwards, Russell and Brenneman playing the entire game full tilt without ever getting winded, the Bonackers remained primed and ready to bring sky-high John Glenn back to earth before this game was over.

"What I had to impress upon the team when Glenn jumped out to a 10-point lead is the game had just begun," Petrie said. "Mikey and Zach had come from 18 points down to beat Kings Park last year. They knew from experience there was no reason to panic."

The Bonackers outscored Glenn 18-12 in the second quarter, culminating with an assist from Tracey to Brenneman for a trey from deep in the right corner to pull Bonac within one point at halftime, 26-25.

The two teams traded punch for punch in the third, with Tracey draining two more treys and Russell hitting a jump shot off the move to give East Hampton its first lead of the game, 42-41. The lead was short-lived as Trevor Costow nailed a trey to put Glenn up by two at the quarter's end, 45-43.

The locals saved their best for Crunch Time. They opened the fourth quarter with Russell connecting on a pretty breakaway pass to Brenneman to tie the score at 45. Russell then drove to the hole, was fouled, and sunk both free throws. Edwards hit Tuths, who made a strong move for a score in transition to put East Hampton up 49-45. Russell then hit a pretty floater for a six-point spread, 51-45. That's when Tracey soared above the sequoias for a rebound and immediately called timeout.

"I believe in saving our timeouts in the first half so we are free to call them in that situation if we need them at the end of the game," Petrie said. A classic example came not long after Tracey called timeout, when Edwards dove headlong on the floor for a loose ball, corralled it, and immediately called another timeout to retain possession.

"The difference in the game," Bonac assistant coach Billy Mckee said, "is we held them to 22 points less than the last time we played them, and 15 less offensive rebounds."

East Hampton plays Huntington tonight at 9 p.m. at Stony Brook University for the Suffolk County Class A Championship and a shot at the overall Suffolk County Title (all classes), as well as a berth in the state tournament in its own class.

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