Jaden Ottati was just itching to get open. And while it took over 24 minutes, when he finally did, his shots were sailing.
After a third quarter were Greenport outscored Hampton Bays 16-9 to close the gap 48-37, the Baymens’ senior guard nailed back-to-back three-pointers, scoring three in just over a minute, to give Hampton Bays a much-needed cushion in a 69-58 nonleague win over Greenport January 4.
“I was looking to get my shots up earlier but I couldn’t get any off,” said Ottati, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, and scored all four of his shots from beyond the arc in the final stanza. “I finally just got open, felt confident, took my shots, and luckily they went in.”
Greenport started and ended the third quarter on 7-0 runs. Senior Josh Santacroce, who finished with a game-high 20 points and rivaled Ottati with his six threes, followed his own layup with a three-point swish, his third to that point, to give the game its score at the end of the quarter. Sophomore Ev Corwin Jr. (10 points) stole a pass soon after, but the ball was tossed out of bounds in the final seconds.
“We talked at halftime about how we could play a sloppy 16 minutes and still win, but that’s not what we wanted to do,” Hampton Bays head coach Pete Meehan said. “We lost a little bit of energy and a little bit of fire, but it’s been a long two weeks of vacation.”
Senior forward Jonathan Salas said while his team finishes the nonleague season 9-1, capping it with a four-game win streak, playing comfortable after being up at halftime is exactly what his team cannot afford to do during the league portion of the season.
“Sometimes when we have a big lead, finish the half up, we go into the second half a little too relaxed,” said Salas, who finished the game with 13 points on five field goals and a three-pointer. “It’s something we have to fix immediately.”
He was relieved Ottati come through and set the tone late to ensure the victory.
“Any time I see a teammate doing something great — making back-to-back threes, going perfect at the free-throw line, making multiple layups — I get excited for them,” he said. “It’s a big part of the game. I think it makes this whole experience more exciting.”
With as many close games as Hampton Bays had in the early season, Meehan was also glad to be able to take a breath down the stretch.
“Jaden’s a weapon,” the coach said. “He hit nine threes in a game earlier this season. We were having a hard time getting one to go down, so that gave us a little bit of breathing room, took the edge off.”
But he also knows he has something in each one of his players. Each guy has taken the “hero” role in a nonleague game.
Senior guard Lucas Brown, who finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, ended the first half with 16. He went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Jake McNamara, who added 12 points, racked up six in each half. Senior guard Aaron Butters also hit a shot from three-point range. The Baymen were deceptive with their passes early, dominant in the paint, finished their layups, drew fouls, and remained patient, leaving space to find the open man.
“We know we need to work on our defense down the stretch. We weren’t as intense, were throwing the ball straight to the defenders, and let them get back into it,” Brown said. “We played sloppy — it just wasn’t good — but we’ve also grown together, and we’re going to use this lesson, because there’s a lot of teams we want to play and beat, and I think our team is good enough.”
He knows it’ll take some more intensity to face Hampton Bays’ tough League VII opponents this week.
“We have Southampton [(6-2) at home January 7 at 5:45 PM] and Mattituck [10-0 January 10 on the road], so it’ll be a tough week, but I’m excited,” Ottati said. “We work well together, move the ball well. We just can’t lose our momentum.”