Players immersed in Friday night’s game between Pierson and Mattituck had no way of knowing that the chase for this year’s League VII girls basketball title was about to get a lot more interesting.
While Mattituck prevailed, 45-43, in a game that was riddled by turnovers and struggling offenses on both ends of the floor, it was back on the North Fork where a combined team from Greenport and Southold took down previously unbeaten Port Jefferson, 43-40, to give hope to those chasing the Lady Royals this season.
“We got some help,” Pierson head coach Woody Kneeland said later. “We were upset because we thought we had lost our chance at winning the league, and then we got it right back.”
Port Jefferson knocked off Mattituck, 52-39, on Monday and the Lady Whalers took down Center Moriches, 56-24, leaving Pierson and Mattituck tied behind Port Jeff with two losses apiece.
Chastin Giles had 17 points in the win over Center Moriches, Grace Perello had 13 and Gylia Dryden had a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds.
Pierson hosted Hampton Bays on Wednesday night after press time and will play a non-league game against former rival, Stony Brook, this Friday, January 17, at 4:30 p.m.
A big game with Port Jefferson looms on Tuesday, January 21, at Pierson High School at 4:30 p.m. and a rematch with Mattituck is scheduled for the last game of the regular season on February 5.
The main storyline on Friday against Mattituck centered on Giles and her inability to stay out of foul trouble. Pierson’s leading scorer and playmaker had three personal fouls in the first half and four at the midway point of the third quarter, meaning she had to sit for nearly six minutes of action.
The game was tied at 20 when Giles went to the bench with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter and Mattituck took advantage right away, jumping out to a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter
Turnovers also played a major role in the game, with Pierson committing a season high 31.
“You can’t beat anyone in the league with 31 turnovers,” Kneeland said. “We played terrible on offense and we lost by two. You have two less turnovers, and we win the game. It was ridiculous and it’s unacceptable.”
Still, the Lady Whalers had a chance to win down the stretch. Senior forward Kathryn Powell came off the bench to score four quick points and Giles, who returned with 4:23 left in the game, scored on back-to-back plays to bring Pierson within five at 41-36.
Dryden completed a three-point play with 22 seconds remaining to pull the Lady Whalers within three, but Mattituck’s Aaliyah Shorter hit a foul shot on the next possession to put her team up four. A last-chance layup by Dryden, who finished with 14 points, was not enough in the end.
“I see us getting to where we want to be, but I was hoping it would be a little faster than it has been,” Kneeland said. “I’m trying to create that confidence for them. I believe in every kid on that team.
“We’ll get back on track this week and then we have Port Jeff again,” he added. “They’re a good team and hopefully we can find our confidence again.”