Gurney's Inn
January 24, 2007

Bonac Smothers Golden Flashes

Hoopmania is alive and well in East Hampton, where thousands of Bleacher Creatures pack into Bonac Gym to catch a glimpse of one of Long Island's two undefeated basketball teams.

The Bonackers have won 13 in a row and counting, perhaps the final jewel in the crown the legendary coach Ed Petrie, one of the winningest coaches in New York State history. And the icing on the cake is that his best player is also his grandson — the dynamic fireball Mikey Russell, who just might be the best player in Suffolk County.

Last Thursday, in the East Hampton gym, the Sayville Golden Flashes lived up to their nickname in the early going. Glen Hudson quickly drained two three-pointers for a 6-0 Sayville lead. Mikey Russell nailed a three for Bonac, but Billy O'Conner countered with a beautiful spin move on the baseline and nifty finish to up Sayville's lead to 8-3. Marcus Edwards swished a pretty pull-up jump shot that pulled the locals to within three before a put-back and a fast break score by Sayville forced Bonac to call timeout, trailing 12-5.

Whatever happened in that timeout changed the entire complexion of the game as East Hampton outscored Sayville 15-4 for the remainder of the quarter to take a 20-16 lead. Zach Brenneman and Alex Stipanov cashed in on Russell's outstanding peripheral vision. Edwards scored six straight points to give Bonac its first lead, 15-14. Russell then ended the quarter with a flourish as he swished a three-pointer, stole the ball, and then scored on a pass from Brenneman just before the first quarter buzzer sounded. At that point, the Bleacher Creatures exploded, and the sense in the gym was a familiar one — the team had been cleared for takeoff.

"We didn't make much of an adjustment," Bonac coach Ed Petrie said. "We were playing too passively on defense. We gave Hudson those two uncontested looks that put us in a hole right away. The purpose of our defense is to attack and put pressure on the ball. Once we started doing that, our offense got rolling, too."

And take off they did. The second quarter was a clinic. Russell's give-and-go score with Hayden Ward, Ward's put-back, Russell's assist to Edwards from 18 feet, Edwards' picturesque 12-foot jump shot off a reverse spin move, Brenneman's six-foot floater and Russell's two three-pointers from NBA range put Bonac up 36-19. They trampled the Golden Flashes 26-10 in the second quarter to take a 46-26 halftime lead.

Edwards was sensational in the first half, sinking six of seven shots from the floor, all from the perimeter and off the move. Whenever he received the ball he would immediately face the basket, get in a triple-threat position, and put his defender back on his heels, where all the Golden Flashes remained for the rest of the evening, succumbing to the Bonackers, 84-59.

"We shot well," Petrie commented. "We've also been taking better care of the ball lately, which gives us more shot attempts. Fortunately, we've been converting a good percentage." Bonac shot 53 percent against Sayville and had no turnovers in the first half, a virtually unheard of stat at any level.

Russell led the charge against Sayville with 29 points, nine assists and four steals. Edwards had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Ward chipped in with eight points and seven boards. Brenneman scored 10, and Liam Lee and Pierce Kelley each had seven.

On Tuesday, January 16, the Huntington Blue Devils, who snatched the Suffolk County Class "A" championship from Bonac last season, came to town for a rematch. But without senior twins Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, each of whom quit the team because of lingering injuries, it was no contest as East Hampton routed the depleted Blue Devils, 74-43.

The Bonackers highlighted their overall team play with 21 assists, the most they have had all season. Russell led the way with 10 assists, 19 points and seven steals. Brenneman dished off five assists and scored 12 points. Edwards chipped in with 12 points, connecting on five of seven shots. Hayden Ward scored a career-high 15 points, and sharpshooter Liam Lee racked up 12 points in the fourth quarter alone, nailing two three-pointers in the process. The Bonackers shot 55 percent and had five players score in double figures, a feat they had not accomplished in recent memory.

In response to Liam Lee's recent scoring surge, Petrie said, "He's a capable shooter. In practice he shoots as well as anyone. He's beginning to carry that over into the games. With no varsity experience to speak of he was tentative at first, but now he's definitely heading in the right direction."

Bonac's next game is Friday at Eastport at 6:15 p.m. Next Tuesday the Kings Park Kingsmen come to town for a 6:15 showdown with the first-place Bonackers. When they clashed on January 3, it was a donnybrook, as always. Bonac needed to come from behind to pull the game out of the fire at the final buzzer, 66-63. According to Kings Park coach David Shouler, "It was the best game I've been involved with in years."

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