Spirit Night Packs the House at Pierson

Pierson senior Paige Schaefer runs onto the court during player introductions on Spirit Night on Friday. Michael Heller photos

The good news and bright smiles just kept on coming.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Pierson High School on Friday night, the varsity boys and girls basketball teams put on a show with a pair of victories in front of an adoring home crowd.

There were also performances by the middle and high school choruses, the robotics club and a newly formed joint competitive cheerleading team between Pierson and Bridgehampton. There was a parade of young talent on the court so large that it could only point to a bright future ahead for basketball-crazed Sag Harbor.

And finally there was the sharp-shooting senior forward with dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer who learned after the game that she had been accepted to one of her top colleges of choice.

Spirit Night 2019, it turned out, was downright dreamy.

“It’s so exciting,” said Pierson senior Katie Kneeland, who scored 24 points to lead the Lady Whalers to a 61-38 win over Port Jefferson. Kneeland found out afterwards that she had been accepted to the University of Maryland, which has one of the top aerospace engineering programs in the country.

“I have a job at the East Hampton airport,” she said. “I really love aviation and I also love math and science, so I thought I could put it all together and there you go, perfect job.”

Chastin Giles drives to the hoop against Port Jefferson on Friday.

As a result of Friday’s win, the Lady Whalers improved to 11-0 atop the League VI standings and, after facing Babylon on Tuesday, have just four more games remaining in the regular season.

A February 7 date at home against Mattituck will likely determine whether the Lady Whalers share the league title with the Tuckers or win it outright.

“We focus on one game at a time, and then eventually you play so many games you end up getting to that point without even realizing you’re there already,” Kneeland said about the long grind of a basketball season. “Barron always tells us don’t even think about the Mattituck game.”

Sofia Mancino glides to the hoop on Spirit Night.

Barron, of course, is Pierson head coach Kevin Barron, whose team on Friday came out somewhat slow in front of an energized home crowd that included hundreds of children in grades K-5 who participate in Sag Harbor Youth Hoop. Pierson led by just four after the first quarter, but pushed the lead to 12 at halftime. Five different players scored points in the second half as the Lady Whalers cruised to the finish.

“It was a bit sloppy at times but then times we picked it up,” Barron said. “There were a lot of turnovers but we turned it around.”

Junior point guard Chastin Giles finished with 16 points and 11 assists, many of which came off of dazzling no-look passes through traffic. Senior Celia Barranco returned to the lineup after missing five games because of illness and scored 10 points.

“I think the overall offense is improving and a lot of those baskets are directly related to Chastin’s passing. She’s like a general out there,” Barron said. “[Katie and Chastin] have great chemistry and the other three on the court are feeding off that chemistry as well. The offense is really starting to click.”

Carly Browngardt grabbed key rebounds and scored six points while freshman guard Sofia Mancino had five. Giles said she feels an obligation to set up her teammates and put them in position to score. Her ability to find Kneeland cutting through traffic could be the key to a deep run in the postseason.

“Everybody is working hard at practice and everybody is ready to step up, coming off the bench and ready to play,” Giles said. “This was a game I was looking forward to the whole season.”

The Lady Whalers will play at Southampton on Thursday, January 31, at 6:15 p.m. and will return home for a game against Smithtown Christian on February 2.

Pierson’s Henry Brooks drives for two of his 28 points against the Ross School on Friday.

Boys Run Through Ross

Pierson junior Henry Brooks scored 28 points in the nightcap to lead the Whalers in a 67-41 victory that was over almost before it even began. Ross jumped out quickly to a 5-0 lead, but Pierson followed with a full-court trapping defense that led to a 28-2 run.

The Whalers led by 27 points at halftime and the game was never in doubt.

Nine different players scored for Pierson in the game, including Cooper Schiavoni, the team’s lone senior, who had nine points. Peter Schaefer and Wilson Bennett scored eight points apiece, and Richard Barranco had six.

“We were able to play a lot of kids today, and we were fortunate enough to do that,” Pierson head coach Hank Katz said as the gym emptied out from a raucous day of activity. “Every kid comes to practice every day and works hard, so it’s nice when we have a chance to get them some minutes.”

The Whalers improved to 5-3 in League VII and with four games remaining in the regular season they need just one more victory to secure a spot in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs, where top-seeded Greenport is expected to loom large.

“We’re in a spot where we’re not trying to overlook any opponents,” Schiavoni said at the end of his last Spirit Night at Pierson. “we went in here with the same mentality as we will Monday night – we look at every game the same.”

On Friday, February 1, the Whalers will welcome rival Bridgehampton to town for a 6:15 p.m. game, followed by a trip to Smithtown Christian on February 4. The regular season will conclude with a home game against Greenport on Wednesday, February 6, at 6:15 p.m.