By Gavin Menu
Will Martin is well versed in the history of high school sports on the East End and is aware of the love affair Sag Harbor has had with basketball, in particular, an affection that was on full display inside a jam-packed Pierson High School gymnasium on Friday for Sprit Night.
With his home gym literally bursting at the doors for most of the night, Martin wrote some history of his own and became just the ninth player in school history, among both boys and girls, to score 1,000 points in their career.
With a raucous student section and a large slice of the community out for the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation’s annual Spirit Night celebration, and with his closest friends chanting “one more point, one more point” from the student section, Martin hit a free throw with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter to reach the milestone. He sat for the remainder of the game, but the damage had already been done as he torched the visiting Ross School for 33 points — along with seven assists — in a 77-44 victory that morphed into a school-wide celebration with the entire Pierson roster getting in on the party.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my teammates,” Martin said after spending a half hour mobbed at center court by friends and family. “It feels really good and it’s really special that it happened on Spirit Night.”
Pierson athletic director Eric Bramoff presented Martin with a commemorative basketball that he turned over to his grandparents, Stanley and Carolyn, who were seated courtside, as they have since Martin was in elementary school. Also present, of course, was his father, Rob, a 1990 graduate of Pierson, a former basketball player and a current assistant coach for the Whalers.
“Probably the best part is my dad’s not on the list,” Martin joked, mentioning a friendly, but seemingly competitive, rivalry he shares with his father over who had the best basketball career at Pierson. “I think this gives me a little leverage.”
Rob, who for many years helped run the youth hoop program in Sag Harbor, agreed with his son but also used the opportunity to get in a dig of his own.
“I think it probably does solidify it,” Rob admitted later, smiling widely at center court. “I didn’t realize he knew how to get an assist, though.”
Rob’s uncle, Bob Jacobs, is also on the list of players who scored 1,000 points during their careers at Pierson. The other names, which are listed on a courtside banner, are Bob Vacca, Darnell Coffey, Phil Carney, Owen Baker, Tyler Ratcliffe and Travis Graves, along with Robyn Bramoff and Kate Browngardt, arguably the two best girls basketball players in school history.
“Coming into the season, I didn’t give it much attention, but as it got closer people started asking how close I was, so I’m glad it happened tonight,” Martin said.
“He’s a good kid, he’s put in a lot of work and he deserves it,” Rob added. “And he’s definitely aware of the history here.”
It was clear from the opening tip that the game, itself, would not be competitive as Martin scored early and often and the Whalers jumped out to an 18-2 first-quarter lead. With 13 points in the first quarter, and 23 at the half, the only concern Whaler fans had at Spirit Night was that an early blowout would lead Pierson head coach Hank Katz to pull his starters.
But with Ben Bijur (17 points) and James Meng (11 points) playing well for Ross, the starters stayed in the game long enough for Martin to score his 33rd point, which gave him 65 in his last two games. For the season, Martin is averaging just a hair under 25 points per game, fourth best in Suffolk County.
“We’re very lucky to have him,” said Katz, who did not mention Martin’s point pursuit during his pre-game comments. “We didn’t say a word about point total, even though we all knew about it. Truthfully he never passed so well as he did tonight. His leadership is also huge and, defensively, he becomes a very big part of what we try to do, stepping into passing lanes and getting easy transition baskets.”
On Monday, the Whalers (5-1 in League VII) began a string of six league games in 12 days to close out the regular season before the Suffolk County Class C playoffs begin later this month. Pierson played at Shelter Island on Monday, and hosted Greenport on Wednesday after press time. After traveling to Southold for a game on Friday, February 2, the Whalers will host Bridgehampton on Monday with the opening tip scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We feel like we can dictate things the rest of the way, but we have to play together,” Katz said, acknowledging that Greenport, which on Monday stood atop the league standings with an unbeaten record, is the clear favorite in Class C at the moment. “Not any one player is going to get it done for us. We have to play well as a team.”
Looking ahead now that his personal milestone is behind him, Martin, who seemed eager to return his focus solely on the business of winning basketball games, agreed.
“Now we have to focus on Greenport,” he said. “We think we’ll see them in the championship game so we have to be ready.”