Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2007

Bonac Whips Southampton for Sixth Straight Win

Independent / James J. Mackin The East Hampton Bonackers are off to an undefeated start but had their hands full against Southampton and Troy Pender, going to the hole. (click for larger version)
Whenever two longtime local rivals go at it fans have learned to expect the unexpected. In the case of Southampton and East Hampton, the rivalry goes long and deep, though in recent years the teams have played in separate leagues.

Last Wednesday the Bonackers traveled to Southampton for a non-league showdown with the rival Mariners. The consensus was East Hampton, a legitimate threat for the County title, would have little trouble dispatching the Mariners in a rebuilding mode. Indeed, less than two minutes into the game, Bonac was up 10-2. The players were all smiles until the Mariners' coach, Herm Lamison, called time out and made some adjustments that held East Hampton without a field goal until the end of the first quarter.

By halftime, Southampton was squarely camped in Upset City, down by a scant six points.

Eventually Mikey Russell, Bonac's big-time point guard who played unselfishly throughout, adjusted to the box-and-one defense that had been stifling him and scored 23 points while dishing off six assists. Hayden Ward was huge on the boards with 14 rebounds. Jerome Russell played an excellent all-around game with 10 points and four assists. Bonac opened a 20-plus point lead and coasted the rest of the way home.

Zach Brenneman also had four assists, and Bonac cruised to victory, 71-60. Troy Pender (23) and Nick Epley (15) were the leading scorers for the Mariners.

Although Suffolk County scoring champion Chris Barber of the Wyandanch Warriors outscored Mikey Russell of East Hampton, 41-34 in their much-anticipated showdown in Bonac's gym on December 23, in every respect Russell proved the far-superior player.

Given the long-range shooting exhibition Barber put on in the second quarter, eyewitnesses need only remember the moment and shake their heads in amazement. Not since Wally Szczerbiak of Cold Spring Harbor buried Center Moriches with four players hanging all over him on every bomb from distance had anyone seen anything like it in the annals of Suffolk County hoop history. Twenty-three points in one quarter — 18 of them on three-pointers hoisted from well beyond NBA range — cannot be dismissed as luck.

"He was not lucky," East Hampton coach Ed Petrie said, this coming from a basketball connoisseur who has seen it all in his 60 years as a coach and a world-class player. "He was shooting off the move and off balance from eight feet behind the three-point circle with defensive pressure in his face on every shot. When he drove to the basket, he finished off the play with extraordinary shots that demonstrated uncanny body control. I can't dismiss what I saw as luck because he does that regularly." A few hours after Petrie made his assertion, Barber scored 52 points in a 97-94 loss to Gompers of the Bronx.

But over in the other corner, it was Russell carrying the knockout punch.

Barber made only 12 of his 40 ill-advised shots against East Hampton, and never passed to a teammate in the entire second half! He had no assists, missed several free throws and played scant defense.

Russell, meanwhile, was not only scoring at will, but zinging pinpoint passes to open teammates. He also took a turn shutting down Barber during the crucial second half.

In addition to his 34 points, Russell had seven assists and five steals. Marcus Edwards added 23 with 15 rebounds.

Bonac had 18 steals, six by Jerome Russell, to go along with his five assists. Sophomore Hayden Ward had 10 rebounds in less than half a game. Barber's one-man show, however remarkable, was not nearly enough to offset East Hampton's team effort.

When asked to compare the two players, East Hampton assistant coach Billy McKee said it all. "Last year Barber won Newsday Suffolk County Player of the Year, and Mikey won the Player of the Year award that is voted on by the coaches. Obviously the coaches understand the game better than the reporters."

Bonac besting the Sayville Golden Flashes at Sayville on December 19, 73-52. Mikey Russell was 4-6 from three-point range, scored 23 points and had five steals. Edwards had 14 points, five steals and eight rebounds. Brenneman had his best all-around game with 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Jerome Russell chipped in with eight points.

Two nights later Bonac hosted the Eastport-South Manor Sharks and drilled them, 81-55. Mikey Russell had 30 points (18 on three-pointers) and 10 assists. Edwards had 23 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. Alex Stipanov had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists, and Brenneman, one of the toughest defenders on the team, had three blocked shots.

Tonight the Bonackers travel to Kings Park for a 6:15 showdown with their league nemesis, and on Friday they host Islip at 6:15 p.m.

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