DANIEL De MATO PHOTO | Junior Riley Willumsen blows by a Killer Bees defender for a layup in the Indians loss to Bridgehampton last Thursday.
Too much defense. And too much Bridgehampton Killer Bee killer instinct. Add a touch of inspirational revenge. Those are the components that ended the Shelter Island boys’ varsity basketball team’s season.
The exciting, back-and-forth Class D Suffolk County championship game against the Bridgehampton Killer Bees was played on the floor of Westhampton Beach High School’s gym on Valentine’s Day. The Indians played Bridgehampton tight and tough, leading at the half and only down 4 points at the end of the third quarter. But the Island boys couldn’t keep pace in the fourth quarter, dropping the valiantly fought game 53-40.
Preparations for the playoff contest included a hearty pre-game meal prepared by Rebecca Mundy, wife of Coach Michael Mundy at the Mundy’s residence. The home cooking added to the team’s sky-high energy going into a second game against the Bees in two weeks. That first game is in the record books as an historic upset, when the Indians defeated Bridgehampton for the first time in four decades of play. That win meant two things: the Indians would not be taken lightly, and the Bees had an extra helping of motivation going into the championship game.
Played on the neutral Westhampton Beach floor, the Island boys walked into what was, for them, a massive gym with bleachers on both sides packed with Shelter Island and Bridgehampton fans, friends, teachers, and parents who had made the trip. Some Island fans arrived via a special spectator bus. Both teams had their cheerleaders on hand to pump up the players and the crowd.
Before the game, Coach Mundy and assistant coach Jim Colligan went over strategy with their players, but also talked about having the right mind set. Coach Mundy told his team to play their hardest and remember they had beaten the Killer Bees just two weeks before. Coach Colligan added that the team should treat this game like any other game, to stay loose and not be nervous. The Indians took the advice and hit the floor with confidence and determination.
The first quarter wasn’t a huge offensive performance for either team, as they couldn’t get some of their shots to fall. Senior forward Hunter Starzee provided excellent rebounding and a quick bucket at 7:02. Both teams then entered a shooting slump. Bridgehampton would get the majority of their points on the inside and the Indians would struggle until 3:59 when junior guard Matthew BeltCappellino connected on a trey to make it 9-5 Bees, but both teams would only score a combined 5 points after that in the first quarter. Shelter Island’s last first-quarter hoop came from senior center Chandler Olinkiewicz with 1:17 left to go.
The Indians showed that they wouldn’t back down and that they were going to be tough, when with 39 seconds left to go in the quarter, junior guard/forward Nathan Mundy took a charge that ignited the Shelter Island bench and crowd. The end of the first quarter would have the Killer Bees leading 12-7.
The second quarter was all about being scrappy, with both teams forcing their opponents into bad decisions with the ball. Despite this, the Indians benefited. They scored 12 points during the quarter to the Bees four, causing a momentum shift in favor of Shelter Island. At the 5:06 mark, Mundy completed a three-point play off a finger roll to make it 12-10 Bridgehampton. Neither team would score for a while, but with 3:42 left in the second, junior point guard Riley Willumsen converted on a fast-break lay-up, tying the game at 12 and forcing the Bees’ coach, Carl Johnson, to call a time out.
Starzee banged in a 17-foot deuce at 2:57 to give the Indians their first lead and bring Shelter Island fans to their feet. A clutch BeltCappellino free throw, Mundy basket, and aggressive Indian defense would make the halftime score 19-16 Shelter Island.
The third quarter started off well for Shelter Island, but Bridgehampton would rally at the end of the quarter, mostly due to hard-fought rebounding. One of the biggest shots came from Indians senior forward Myles Clark, drilling a trifecta at 5:50 to make it 24-18 Indians. Although Clark had the hot hand, he received little playing time because of foul trouble. Senior forward Wyatt Brigham would fill in for him and do a good job on defense and on the boards. Shelter Island would lose this lead, even though they continued to score and convert on free throws.
The reason for the Bees surge? They realized they weren’t doing what they do best, which is dump the ball down low to forward Josh Lamison and let him go to work. Lamison, point guard Tylik Furman, and forward Jason Hopson all provided excellent shooting, rebounding, and passing, which even the strong Indians’ defense couldn’t stop. The end of the third would have Bridgehampton leading the Indians 34-30.
The Killer Bees brought their defense to the next level and totally shut down the Shelter Island offense in the fourth quarter. But the Indians’ offense came alive late in the fourth when Willumsen and Mundy hit free throws, and Billy Boeklen, one of two freshmen junior varsity players moved up for this game, buried a three. Later, a Clark lay-up and a free throw from senior forward Mitchell Clark would end the scoring for Shelter Island. The final tally was 53-40 Bridgehampton, making them well-deserved Class D Suffolk County Champions because Shelter Island made them earn it.
The scoring for Shelter Island was: Mundy (13), Willumsen (6), Starzee (6), Myles Clark (5), BeltCappellino (4), Boeklen (3), Olinkiewicz (2), and Mitchell Clark (1).
The leading scorers for the Killer Bees were Lamison (16) and Furman (15).
Shelter Island players and coaches held their heads high for a season they — and all those who supported them — will remember with pride.