Hampton Bays Varsity Boys Basketball Tops Bridgehampton in Arthur J. Jones Home Opener
Photo MICHAEL O'CONNOR
Hampton Bays boys basketball head coach Noah Brown knew of Arthur Jones, the fact that he graduated from Hampton Bays and had died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It wasn’t until he saw a post on Instagram where a photo of Jones had him playing basketball for the Baymen circa 1982, the year he graduated, and it was at that point that Brown decided to dig a little deeper.
Eventually he came to find out that Jones had turned a successful high school playing career on the basketball court into a scholarship to Hamilton College, where he continued to play and graduate from in 1986, eventually landing a job with Carr Futures at the World Trade Center. Not long after his death, the Arthur J. Jones Scholarship Fund was established to honor Jones, and since 2002, more than $300,000 in scholarships have been awarded to Hampton Bays graduates.
After doing his research, Brown decided to approach Hampton Bays Superintendent Lars Clemensen and athletic director John Foster about ways of honoring Jones even further, which culminated with the opening ceremony at the season opener for the Hampton Bays boys basketball team Wednesday night when it hosted Bridgehampton.
For starters, each home opener for the boys basketball program, starting Wednesday night and going forward, will be known as the Arthur J. Jones Hampton Bays Boys Basketball Home Opener. Additionally, the school district retired Jones’s number 54, honoring him with his name and number on a sign that was unveiled Wednesday night underneath the main scoreboard, which was donated some years ago by the Arthur Jones Memorial Scholarship Fund. The district also presented a pair of framed replica jerseys of Jones to his family that was in attendance on Wednesday night.
“I just thought it was appropriate, that we needed to honor him,” Brown said. “I presented it to the foundation, the superintendent and the A.D. and they ran with it. I can’t take sole responsibility for it. It was a great ceremony.”
After the ceremony, the game got underway, and from the opening tip-off, it went, more or less, as expected, as the game’s first flurry of points were a microcosm of how each team plans to play this season. Hampton Bays senior Kazmin Johnson won the opening tip, and the Baymen quickly got the ball to junior Patrick Donahue, who was racing down the wing and scored on a layup for the game's first two points. Johnson then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and laid the ball in for another two points to give the Baymen a quick 4-0 lead.
Not to be deterred, though, Bridgehampton came right back and got a pair of threes from their sharpshooting twins, seniors Scott and Kris Vinski, respectively, giving the Killer Bees a 6-4 lead. Johnson answered right back with a 6-0 run of his own to give Hampton Bays a 10-8 lead, one it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game in what was an 81-70 final in favor of the Baymen.
Johnson, who could have easily topped 40 points had he made a couple more of his shots, finished with a game-high 29 points. He said the opening ceremony was certainly a motivating factor for him and his teammates, and on a personal level, his family is friends with the Jones family.
“We didn’t want to lose in front of their whole family here,” he said after the win. “We had to do it for them.
“It’s good to get a win for Mr. Jones,” added Donahue, who after missing most of the first half due to foul trouble, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Thanks in large part to Donahue’s play in the second half, Hampton Bays led by as many as 16 points with three minutes remaining in the game, but as Bridgehampton did throughout the game, it didn’t go down quietly. Mikhail Feaster, a junior, hit a three to cut the Baymen’s lead to single digits, 76-67, with 1:09 remaining in the game, then Scott Vinski added another three not long after that. But senior Bayman Gianni Scotto made a pair of free throws, then Donahue scored the game’s final three points to stretch the lead back to double digits by the game’s final buzzer.
Bridgehampton was led by freshman Jai Feaster who came off the bench to score 19 points. His classmate, Alex Davis, led all starters with 17, 11 of which were scored in the fourth quarter, and Scott Vinski finished with 15 points.
Bridgehampton head coach Ron White said he needs to see more consistency from his team going forward, but that overall, considering everything — which included facing a team with a sizable height advantage and being a considerably larger school — it wasn’t a bad first game.
“Defense, we fell asleep in the second half. That really hurt us,” he said. “We can’t afford that. We’re trying to play and be competitive, we have to stop falling asleep.
“We’re right there,” White added. “Shots weren’t falling in certain cases. We’re getting to the rim, we’re getting continuity in moving the ball, so overall, I think for the first game, a rowdy crowd, ‘A’ school, we’re happy. But we understand that we could do something, we just have to keep putting it together consistently.”
Although his team came out with the victory, which is key, it was rather a mixed bag for Brown as well.
“We have three starters who are studs, Kazmin, Donahue and [Isaiah] Lattanzio who have played for me for three years at the varsity level — we should be more composed,” he said. “At the end we’re throwing the ball around so I’m a little disappointed in that. Loved the fact that we fought back, battled hard. Second half took the lead. We had a size advantage. At the end day we took care of business so there's mixed emotions there. We’ve been playing year round so there shouldn't be rust. I don’t care if it’s the first game.”
Johnson said that even though he and his teammates have been playing together for the most part throughout the year, they still get opening-night jitters and that possibly had an effect on the game. He said they’ll clean that up going forward.
“I think we could definitely turn down the turnovers a little bit, especially at the end of the game when they were pressing us a little bit,” he said. “First half we were fine. I think we were speeding up the game a little bit when we should have been slowing it down at the end.”
To that end, Brown gave credit to Bridgehampton, which he thinks is going to be a formidable team this season.
“Bridgehampton actually gave us some matchup problems. They forced us into man,” he explained. “Scott Vinski, when he can spread the floor and hit threes, that opens it up for the guards to penetrate and dish, so they’re going to have a great season. It was a little bit of a matchup problem. It wasn’t a traditional half court set.”
To learn more about the AJJ Scholarship Fund and to support its work, visit ajjscholarshipfund.org.