By Gavin Menu
Will Martin lit up rival Stony Brook for 36 points in front of a packed house at Pierson High School Friday night as the Whalers escaped with a 63-62 victory over the perennial League VIII and Suffolk County Class C champion Bears.
Martin was fearless in the first half and matched the entire Stony Brook team with 21 points as Pierson took a 16-point lead into the break. Martin continuously charged full court to the basket and took on the Bears’ 6-foot-6-inch behemoth, Jyles Etienne, a state champion high jumper from the Bahamas who in the past has wreaked havoc on the Whalers’ attack. Etienne on Friday fouled out with 2:33 remaining on a drive by Martin, who then hit a pair of foul shots for his final two points of the game. Sean Sloane, Tom Brooks and Angelo Toscano hit pressure-packed free throws during the final two minutes to ice one of the biggest and most exciting regular season victories for Pierson in years.
“We had a lot of people here tonight and this was a game we had been preparing for,” said Martin, who finished 10-for-15 from the foul line and hit four shots from behind the three-point line.
Pierson’s first-year head coach, Hank Katz, now has a signature win in what seemed like the first boys basketball game at home in forever. The Whalers last played in their own gym on December 21, a 63-46 win over Mercy. With the win over Stony Brook, Pierson improved to 4-5 overall (2-0 in League VIII) as they now prepare for the grind of the league season and a possible push toward the playoffs.
“Everybody really cares for each other on this team,” Katz said after the game on Friday. “They pick each other up continuously. It’s been so much fun to be around these kids.”
Stony Brook methodically chipped away at the Pierson lead in the second half and pulled to within three at 55-52 with 3:20 remaining in the game. Moments later Martin once again raced at the basket, where Etienne picked up his fifth and final foul and had to sit for the remainder of the game. Heeding their coach’s plea for composure, the Whalers iced the game from the foul line, with Martin leading the way.
“He’s phenomenal,” Katz said about Martin, who is averaging nearly 26 points per game this season. “He’s really become a dominant player on both ends of the floor.”
With Katz on board with an entirely new system, the Whalers started the season with some shaky performances until a win over Mattituck before the holiday break and a 55-51 victory over Southold on January 11 set the stage for Friday night’s showdown with Stony Brook.
“We came out with a lot of intensity tonight,” Katz said. “Stony Brook is a really good team and we knew it wasn’t over. We got a little frazzled in the last couple minutes but we were able to keep each other up and hit some big foul shots down the stretch.”
Girls Fall to Mattituck
In equally dramatic fashion, the Pierson/Bridgehampton girls fell to Mattituck, 52-50, in a heartbreaker at home on Thursday, January 12. The Lady Tuckers, who remained perfect in League VII with an 8-0 record, held a narrow lead throughout the game until Nia Dawson hit a free throw late in the third quarter to tie the game at 36. Mattituck pulled away again early in the fourth, but again the Lady Whalers clawed back and sophomore Katie Kneeland hit a three to tie the game at 50 apiece with just under a minute to play.
Pierson had possession late but senior Isabel Peters was unable to convert on a runner in the lane, which turned into a fast break in the other direction. Mattituck’s Corrine Reda hit a basket with five seconds remaining to provide the game’s final margin as the Lady Whalers dropped to 6-3 in league play, and 10-3 overall.
Dawson finished with 20 points, Peters had 12 and Kneeland added 11. Sophomore Celia Barranco, who had a strong game in the paint in terms of defense and rebounding, finished with six points.
The Lady Whalers played once again without senior guard Lily Kot, who is out with a concussion. Senior Lottie Evans and sophomore Hollie Schleicher also missed the game due to injury.
Junior forward Liz Dwyer finished with a game-high 26 points to lead Mattituck.