The way the Pierson and Bridgehampton boys basketball teams played Friday night, the game could have gone either way. But it was Harry Cowen’s putback off his own missed foul shot with 1.2 seconds left that tipped the game in favor of Pierson in a 64-63 home-court victory over Bridgehampton.
Pierson played a scrappy, resourceful game. Bridgehampton was fast and physical. Pierson’s lone senior starter was ejected from the game in the third quarter, and two of Bridgehampton’s go-to guys were in foul trouble early. The spectators did their part, too, making enough noise to mirror the vibe of the Killer Bees’ often-oppressive home-court Hive.
Pierson coach Hank Katz said the win felt really good, especially given the Whalers’ 22-point loss to the Killer Bees the last time the two teams got together earlier this year.
“My kids are capable of playing that way,” Katz said. “We’ve had a hard time playing consistently all year. One day it’s up, one day it’s down. But the last quarter we played so hard, so together, as a team. I’m very proud of them tonight and they should be proud of each other because they played a really good team.”
The Whalers knocked off Smithtown Christian, 65-38, on Monday and improved to 10-8 overall and 7-4 in League VII. Bridgehampton cruised past Shelter Island, 78-61, also on Monday and has identical records to Pierson.
Both Pierson and Bridgehampton will enter the Suffolk County playoffs, Pierson in Class C and Bridgehampton in Class D, which are tentatively scheduled to begin on Monday, February 11.
The Whalers will likely play an outbracket game against Southold, while the Killer Bees will wait and see if Shelter Island is granted a spot in the Class D championship game, which at the moment is scheduled for Tuesday, February 12, at Center Moriches High School at 5:30 p.m. The Class C final between Greenport, the top seed, and the winner of the Pierson-Southold game, will be played immediately afterward on the same court.
On Friday, Bridgehampton had a 13-point lead to open the fourth quarter. But the Pierson defense held Bridgehampton to just five points in under three minutes, and Pierson junior Henry Brooks scored 10 of his 30 points while freshman Wilson Bennett added a big layup to pull the Whalers within six at 56-50.
Brooks hit a key three-pointer that closed the gap to 61-60 with 1:23 left in the game. Bridgehampton junior Nae’Jon Ward sank two free throws to put his team up 63-60 with 26 seconds left, but the Killer Bees were shut out after that. Brooks hit two free throws and Cowen’s putback ended the game.
“This one hurts a little bit,” Bridgehampton coach Ron White said after the game.
He acknowledged that Pierson “warmed up down the stretch,” and said there were some questionable calls in the game.
“We let the game get away,” White said. “At the end of the day, we let them in the game. It’s a game of runs and hindsight is 20-20. Maybe there are some adjustments I could have made. It comes down to ball control and knocking down some open shots. There were a couple of guys who didn’t get the calls. But hats off to the coaching staff over there, and a team that fought well. They’re a very scrappy team.”
Questionable calls by the referees – or what he thought was a lack of calls altogether – was what frustrated Pierson senior Cooper Schiavoni. He got called for a technical foul in the second quarter, then in the third was ejected from the game. He was taken to the hospital after hitting his head on that final play and was diagnosed with a slight concussion.
Bennett, a 6’3” power forward who got called up from the junior varsity team three weeks ago, and who finished Friday’s game with 15 points, is clearly part of the future of Pierson’s basketball program. Katz said there’s no doubt he made a difference against Bridgehampton.
“He gets better every day,” Katz said. “He’s been getting more and more confident with each game for us. Offensively, he’s really feeling good about himself, and as long as that continues he’s going to make us a better team.”
Bennett said he tried to drive the ball to the basket more often on Friday. He said he’s been “revved up” ever since being called up from the JV team.
“I was being more aggressive and going at some of their best players,” he said. “It really was fun knowing that if we won this game we’d make a playoff berth.”
Whenever Bridgehampton senior J.P. Harding and junior Elijah White were in the game, Pierson’s defense struggled somewhat to keep up. But they were both in foul trouble early on. Harding finished with 12 points, White finished with 25 and Ward had 11.
The Whalers closed out the regular season with a home game against Greenport on Wednesday night after press time, while the Killer Bees ended their regular season at the Ross School at the same time.