CLINTON >> Both teams playing in Friday night’s Shoreline Conference championship have lived and died by the three-point shot all season long.
East Hampton made five of them in the second quarter to build a nine-point halftime lead. But Westbrook made sure they didn’t die by the long-range threes in the second half.
The Knights answered with five threes of their own in the third quarter to build a comfortable lead, one they never relinquished. Top seed Westbrook defeated No. 2 East Hampton 63-49 for their first conference championship before a sold-out 850 at The Morgan School.
“We get a banner on the wall and that’s pretty sweet,” Westbrook coach Jeff Beeman said. “It’s important for the school, you saw the fan base we have. We have a tiny little school, but they all come out and everybody and their brother is here at the game tonight. I don’t know if I get to take this (the trophy) home or not, but I’m going to keep it for the weekend, that’s for damn sure.”
Senior guard Liam Bell (15 points) made the first two threes he looked at to start the second half for Westbrook.
“I knew I had to come out and give us a spark,” Bell said. “I knew I had to do something just to get us going, get them fired up. We knew if we stopped the three, we’d be all right and that’s exactly what we did, we stopped them from shooting threes.”
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For Beeman, who coached former Boston College standout Joe Trapani at Hand over a decade ago, it’s simple what Bell has meant to him and the program. “He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached, by far,” he said.
Westbrook (21-2) scored the first 13 points of the second half — and East Hampton coach Parker Strong had already used two timeouts to try and stem the tide.
“One play affects the next one if you let it,” Strong said. “They kept feeding off it themselves and they started bringing more energy on defense.”
Said Beeman: “They understood what had to happen. We’ve have had our issues but they got it together and started playing well.”
The run ended up being 27-2, giving Westbrook an insurmountable 49-33 lead.
The Bellringers (18-5) got as close as 10 points late in the fourth quarter as they tried to trap the Knights to force turnovers. Tom Close led the way with 16 points for East Hampton, which should return all five starters next season in a quest for its first Shoreline title.
“That was not really fun, no fun being on the other end of it. Hopefully, they remember that as they work in the off-season and get better,” Strong said.
For Westbrook, the top seed in the upcoming Class S state tournament, it’s a chance to celebrate many years in the making.
“That’s my best friend right there (Bell), we have been playing together for so long,” said fellow senior co-captain Cory Muckle, who led all scorers with 18 points. “I would not want to do this with another player. This is so special to us. (The seniors) have been playing together for so long, since we were in kindergarten playing rec ball.”
WESTBROOK 63, EAST HAMPTON 49
East Hampton 14 17 5 13 – 49
Westbrook 12 10 27 14 – 63
EAST HAMPTON (49)
Tom Close 5 3-6 16, Zach Webber 4 1-2 12, Sean Vick 1 0-0 2, Nic DiStefano 5 0-0 13, Colin Baker 2 0-0 6, Joey Caruso 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 4-8 49
Phil Hartzell 0 0-0 0, Cory Muckle 7 0-0 18, Liam Bell 4 4-4 15, Austin Herzy 4 0-0 9, Dave Amendola 3 0-0 6, Jack Hayes 3 0-0 7, Max Morris 4 0-0 8. Totals: 25 4-4 63
3-point goals: East Hampton 11 (Close 3, Webber 3, DiStefano 3, Baker 2); Westbrook 9 (Muckle 4, Bell 3, Herzy 1, Hayes 1); Records: East Hampton 18-5; Westbrook 21-2