NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- A day that began with a long bus ride in a snowstorm ended in a flood of tears for Bridgehampton.
The Killer Bees, who left their tiny East End community at 12:30 p.m. and rode nearly 2½ hours through steady, wet snow, came within a fraction of a second of conquering Westchester County and taking another long bus trip -- to the state semifinals at Glens Falls next weekend.
Instead, they suffered a stinging defeat Friday when Rajien Griffin swished a straightaway three-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining to give Martin Luther King of Hastings-on-Hudson a dramatic 44-42 victory in the state Class D Southeast Regional boys basketball final at New Rochelle High School.
"We had instructed the guys to foul and not give up a three-point shot," Bridgehampton coach Carl Johnson said. "We had a foul to give."
After a missed free throw, MLK called timeout with 15.7 seconds remaining and the Killer Bees leading 42-41. Bridgehampton applied defensive pressure on the perimeter but did not foul Griffin quickly enough.
He fought through a screen to get off a three from the top of the key. It hit the back of the rim, and the long rebound caromed off a Bridgehampton player and bounced right back to Griffin in the same spot beyond the arc. "I saw there were two seconds on the clock. I had to shoot," Griffin said. "When it left my hand, I had a very good feeling."
Griffin, who scored a game-high 22 points, was mobbed by his teammates and wrestled to the floor in a wild but premature celebration. The officials conferred and put four-tenths of a second back on the clock. But from its own end line, Bridgehampton's desperation full-court pass did not connect.
"What more can you say? Our kids fought back, but the ball wound up in the hands of their best player," Johnson said.
The Killer Bees trailed 35-28 entering the fourth quarter, stifled by an aggressive 2-3 zone and a distinct height disadvantage. But Jerome Walker's third three-pointer of the game tied it at 36 with 4:52 left.
Anajae Lamb's free throw gave Bridgehampton its first lead since early in the first quarter, and Jason Hopson (14 points) hit a three from the wing with 3:15 left to put Bridgehampton on top 40-38. But Griffin hit a free throw and Justin Gales converted an offensive rebound to put MLK in front 41-40.
Then Josh Lamison's putback with 56.2 seconds left gave Bridgehampton a lead it held until the final second.
"We played our hearts out," Johnson said. "It wasn't in the cards. At some point they'll realize what a great season we had."
But Friday, the only reality was a crushing defeat that left several players openly weeping, one with his jersey pulled over his face. The players were consoled by family and friends -- part of a contingent of nearly 100 strong that took a fan bus to the game.
"It was a pressure situation, but hey, they're kids," Johnson said. "It will take a while, but they'll get over it."