Ian Barrett goes up for two of his 16 points against Greenport on Tuesday.
By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
By Gavin Menu
Here we go again, Whalers fans.
The Pierson boys basketball team will play rival Stony Brook for the second consecutive year with the Suffolk County Class C Championship on the line after the Whalers knocked off visiting Greenport, 63-41, in an outbracket game on Tuesday night.
Although Stony Brook is the top-seeded Class C team in the county, it will be the Whalers defending their crown tonight, February 14, at Westhampton Beach High School at 6:30 p.m. The Whalers won the title last year on a last second three-pointer by then-sophomore Forrest Loesch, who gave Pierson a 34-32 victory and its first county title in 18 years.
Stony Brook this season has steamrolled the League VIII competition and took an undefeated record into Pierson’s home gym for the regular season finale on February 7. Stony Brook rested three of its regular starters and the Whalers won, 57-45, to spoil the Bears’ perfect season. In the teams’ other meeting this year, Stony Brook won a nail biter, 51-50, back on January 15.
“Hopefully this time we will be up four with a minute left,” Pierson head coach Dan White said on Tuesday when asked whether he could handle another miraculous finish with so much on the line. “I can’t do that again.”
The Bears boast a powerful front line that could pose rebounding problems for the Whalers, who lack any significant height and struggled at times Tuesday night to secure defensive rebounds against Greenport.
Stony Brook got out to a fast start against Pierson in the teams’ first meeting this year and barely held on after a frantic charge by Pierson led by Forrest Loesch and his 23 points fell just short. Pierson outscored the Bears, 36,27, in the fourth quarter but could not overcome a slow start in which they fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter.
Pierson on Tuesday was looking to avenge a loss to the Porters late last month and came out determined with 19 first-quarter points, 12 of which came from the hot hand of senior Jake Bennett, who finished the game with 18 points while also holding Greenport star Gavin Dibble to just five points in the second half and 11 overall. Bennett also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals in one of his best overall games of the season.
“Jake Bennett with another tremendous job tonight,” White said. “He not only held Dibble back from scoring, but he didn’t even allow him to get the ball a lot of the time, so they could not set up their offense.”
Ian Barrett had 16 points for the Whalers in his best game of the season since coming back from injury and senior forward Patrick Sloane chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds as he, Bennett, Joey Butts, Aiden Kirrane and Liam Doyle played the last home game of their Pierson careers.
Senior Jackson Marienfeld had to sit out the game after receiving two technical fouls in the regular-season finale against Stony Brook, but he will be back in the line-up for tonight’s rematch with the Bears.
Loesch, who led the team in scoring this season, scored just seven points against Greenport. Butts had six assists in the game but also struggled shooting and finished with just three points, although he received nothing but praise from his head coach after the game had ended.
“I cannot find a better defender on the ball and he’s smart out there,” White said when asked about Butts, who was an All-League selection as a junior last year. “I love that kid and I’ll stick with him no matter what.”
Timmy Stevens led Greenport with 17 points and helped spark a second-half comeback when he and Dibble connected on back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Pierson lead to 34-29 early in the third quarter.
At that point, Sloane and sophomore Robbie Evjen began pounding the defensive glass, grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets on the offensive end. Pierson quickly grew a four-point lead to 15 with an 11-0 run in the third quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.
“I thought we did a much better job in the half court offense, and allowing 41 points is always solid,” White said. “We’re back on track.”