Westhampton forward Andrew Mensch puts back the rebound for two...

Westhampton forward Andrew Mensch puts back the rebound for two points against East Islip guard Gavin Veltman in a Suffolk League IV game, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. Credit: George A Faella

Westhampton’s 11-point advantage from the second quarter was all gone now. East Islip led for the first time since the first quarter, up by one with 3 1/2 minutes left.

But Andrew Mensch went up strong for a layup to give Westhampton back the edge, and the burly 6-2 senior forward/guard went up strong again the next time down and turned it into a three-point play.

The Hurricanes were up by four on their home floor and weren’t turning over the lead again. They were on their way to their sixth straight victory.

Mensch scored 22 points, Jorden Bennett added 14 and Malachi Bullock had 13 in Monday’s 58-55 win.

So Westhampton moved to 10-4 overall and 9-1 in Suffolk IV. It went 7-13 overall last season.

Second-year coach Connor Davis said the players’ mentality in the offseason was “to bring Westhampton basketball back to the days of winning.”

“We tried to establish a culture last year about playing team basketball, trusting in each other, doing all the little things right,” Davis said. “… And so far this season we’ve been able to do those little things. Once we started to rattle off wins a little bit, we started gaining some confidence there.”

This Class AA team is bound for the postseason for the first time in six years.

“It’s nice,” Mensch said. “I haven’t been there yet, so I’m looking forward to it.”

John Talt, who paced East Islip (8-6, 6-4) with 18 points, gave his team a 51-50 lead by putting in his own miss.

Mensch countered with his 5-0 run, and then Bennett put in an offensive rebound to make it 56-50.

“This is really Jorden’s team,” Mensch said. “… So I’m just here to play a role.”

Romeo Soriano nailed a three to cut the margin in half with 24 seconds remaining. But Bennett made a free throw two seconds later and another at the 11-second mark. The lead was 58-53.

The Hurricanes’ lead had been 20-9 early in the second quarter. But East Islip had it down to 31-24 at halftime and had it tied at 43 after three.

“We have a group of guys who are all bought in,” coach Rob Schwender said. “They enjoy each other. We’ve built a great team aspect. I don’t think we would’ve played this game the way it was if we were a month and a half ago. So there’s been vast improvements.”

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