This game was circled on the schedule long before the league season even began. Pierson at Mattituck — the defending league-champion Tuckers, playing at home, against a resurgent challenger eager to bring the banner back to Sag Harbor.
And on Monday, the Lady Whalers took a giant leap toward reaching that goal with a 47-38 win at Mattituck that put Pierson (8-0) alone atop League VI. Mattituck (7-1) dropped into second place, but will have one more shot at its rival from the South Fork when the teams meet in the final game of the regular season on February 7 at Pierson High School.
“We have that advantage now in the league, but we’ve seen every team once and everyone is going to make adjustments against us,” said Pierson head coach Kevin Barron, whose team has reached the midway point of the league season. “We just have to stay focused. It’s almost as if our record re-sets — we have no wins in the league — and the good teams are going to make adjustments.”
Senior Katie Kneeland led the Lady Whalers with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while junior point guard Chastin Giles provided sparks all night and also finished with 19 points along with eight assists. Giles made two dramatic plays to save the ball from going out of bounds, crashing into the water cooler on the Pierson bench one time and falling into the stands on another. The plays were symbolic of the defensive intensity brought by the Lady Whalers all night.
“We played really great defense in the half court,” Barron said. “It was that kind of game, everyone diving all over the place. They really wanted it.”
Since starting the season 0-3, the Lady Whalers had nine straight wins going into a matchup with Hampton Bays on Wednesday night after press time. Their average margin of victory in the eight games prior to Monday was about 20 points per game, which made the somewhat tight win over Mattituck that much more gratifying.
“The effort that was put into this game was just unbelievable,” Barron said. “And with this group, with the leadership we have, I think it’s going to propel them” into the rest of the season.
Senior forward Celia Barranco missed Monday’s game due to sickness, but the frontcourt of Aziza El, Carly Browngardt and Phoebe Arkinson filled in nicely in her absence. And with Kneeland at the center of everything, Giles and her fellow guards, Sofia Mancino and Paige Schaefer, dominated the perimeter on the defensive end.
“They know the ultimate goal is to get that league title, and to own it,” Barron said. “We don’t want to share it with Mattituck. They just have to realize we have to take it one game at a time.”
The Lady Whalers will play at Center Moriches on Thursday, January 17, at 7 p.m. before returning home for Spirit Night on Friday, January 25, to face Port Jefferson at 4:30 p.m.