For two quarters, it was just like old times — Pierson and Stony Brook going head-to-head for boys basketball small-school supremacy. But this was no Class C championship game, and Stony Brook is longer a true rival since the school now competes outside of Section XI as a private school.
But still, the Bears and the Whalers sparked up the old rivalry for an early-season, non-league meeting on December 13 and the Whalers jumped out of the gate fast on their home court to lead the game late in the first half. The team soon grew flustered, however, and committed a series of turnovers that led to a five-point deficit at halftime. Pierson scratched only 10 points together in the entire second half, and lost, 46-26.
“We’re still figuring things out, figuring out our rotation,” Pierson head coach Hank Katz said. “Every defensive possession is huge for us because our scoring is not going to come in bunches.”
The Whalers bounced back with consecutive blowout victories, the first coming in a 60-34 triumph at the Ross School on Friday, December 14, which they followed with a 52-33 win over Port Jefferson back at home on Saturday.
Junior Henry Brooks led the team in both games, scoring 30 points against Ross and 22 against Port Jeff. Senior Cooper Schiavoni provided a much-needed second option for the Whalers, and combined for 29 points in the two victories.
“Most teams are going to attempt to shut down Henry, and we are working on trying to overcome how these teams play defense,” Katz said. “Once we get through Shelter Island,” he added about a game played Wednesday after press time, “we have a good week of practice and we’ll practice right through the holidays and get ready for a heavy league schedule.”
After graduating a strong senior class last year, including 1,000-point scorer Will Martin, the Whalers returned this season with a largely rebuilt roster and many players moving up from junior varsity. The result has been a mixed bag, but Katz has enjoyed watching the development of players like Harry Cowen, Peter Schaefer, Richard Barranco and Habtamu Coulter, among others.
“This last week, on both ends of the floor, they’ve shows us some good signs,” Katz said about the newcomers. “Once they understand the system and they can react quicker and just play, it will get that much better.”
Pierson, which improved to 3-3 following the win over Port Jeff, will travel to Mattituck for a non-league game on Thursday, December 27, at 11:45 a.m. and will play at Babylon on January 3 for their last non-league game of the season. A home game with Southold on January 5 will be followed by the team’s annual trip to the Beehive for a meeting with rival Bridgehampton on Tuesday, January 8.