With a new league comes a new set of challenges for Westhampton’s boys basketball team. But the Hurricanes have one thing on their mind: prove doubters wrong.
Westhampton, which won its first league title in 18 years last season, lost four of its five starters to graduation, and its fifth to Florida.
“They feel that nobody’s given them a chance, so they want to show they’re better than everyone else thinks they are,” said head coach John Baumiller of his returnees. “They come in every day trying hard, working hard. They’re bummed out if they make a mistake. I don’t think anyone expects us to do well, but we do.”
Seniors Alec Small (25 points), Riley MacDonald (21 points), Colby Bloxon, and Brian Mensch return to lead the previously 22-3 team against new League V challengers like Wyandanch, Mt. Sinai, and Amityville, which topped the Hurricanes 83-66 in the Suffolk County championship before going all the way to the state semifinal.
Baumiller said what he loves about his players is their unselfishness.
“They’re willing to give up the ball, always looking for the open man,” he said. “We execute our offenses very well — we shoot threes. I like their hustle. They play very good defense, they’re smart, and they’re determined.”
Westhampton will once again be squaring off against East Hampton (10-10 last season). The Bonackers are bringing back four starters after losing three seniors.
Malachi Miller (230 points), Bladimir Rodriguez (179 points), Turner Foster (167 points), Jeremy Vizcaino (96 points), and Max Proctor (90 points) return with big numbers, including a combined 109 three-pointers.
“We’re not one-dimensional,” said head coach Dan White. “I think those five will all lead in some way. They are all good kids who work hard and love to play basketball in an unselfish way. All have improved and all have solid potential to have a great year.”
White said he’s hoping his team can be more consistent with its defensive effort and execution.
“There were too many games last year where we had a bad two to four minutes simply because of a lack of focus and execution on defense,” he said. “I think we will be competitive if we rebound effectively and play for each other.”
Hampton Bays drops to Class C in a new League VI, which head coach Pete Meehan said is a better fit for his five returning players. The Baymen lost five seniors to graduation last year.
“They’re a good group of kids, high-character kids,” he said. “We’re guard-oriented — we don’t have a lot of size, we don’t have a lot of depth, but we’re going to compete. We’re going to have to defend and rebound, that’s where our focus has been, but with four guards we handle the ball well, and I think we’re a dangerous team from the perimeter. We can shoot.”
Returning is senior point guard Antonio Scotto (256 points), a five-foot-eleven four-year starter. Senior Matt Dean (six-foot-four) will bring the needed height and will be joined by six-foot junior Jaden Ottati (116 points). Also returning are Lucas Brown (177 points), a five-foot-eleven junior who’s with the team for his second season, and junior Steven Mora, a five-foot-nine junior varsity player who is making the jump into the starting lineup this year.
“They’re excited to get started,” Meehan said. “It should be a competitive year. I don’t project wins or playoffs — they come into the gym every day and their purpose is to get better. My goal is for us to be as good as we can be at the end of the year.”
League VI will see some changes not just with the loss of Amityville, but with the return of Elwood-John Glenn, the only Class A team in a sea of Class Bs. New additions are Babylon, Mattituck, Port Jefferson, and defending Long Island Class B champion Center Moriches.
Southampton, like Westhampton, was knocked out of the postseason by Amityville, falling in the first round. The Mariners lost Elijah Wingfield, but return seniors in twins Marcus and Marquise Trent and Kristian Wheeler, and juniors Dakoda Smith, Lucas Bontempo, Sincere Faggins, James Malone, and Artemi Gavalas. Marquise Trent totaled 230 points last season; his brother racked up 171. Smith scored 79.
While the boys won’t have to worry about Amityville, Micah Snowden, who helped lead Southampton to its first Class A title in 2017, and averaged over 20 points per game last year, transferred to Center Moriches.
“That’s a big hit — you expect to lose kids to graduation, but you don’t expect to lose kids transferring to other districts, especially a rival district,” head coach Herm Lamison said. “Regardless of that I feel good, optimistic about what we can achieve with these kids.”
Sophomore Steven Kraszewski and freshman Lebron Napier will help round out the roster.
“He has the potential to be a special talent,” Lamison said of Napier. “They’ve all been working hard, and we’ll see how it comes together on the court.”
Southampton in recent years has had several players averaging double-digit point totals, which the coach said could also be the case this year, making it hard for opponents to scout his team. The team is balanced with inside shooters and those able to hit from beyond the arc as well.
“On any given night any kid could be our highest scorer,” Lamison said. “Defense and rebounding are staples we preach learning every day. If we can get after it with the effort, we should be in pretty good shape.”