Tough Non-League Schedule Has Been Preparing Pierson Boys Basketball For Friday Night’s Game Against Rival Southold

Pierson's Wilson Bennett tries a layup during their game against the Center Moriches Red Devils during the 2019 Anthony Parlato Basketball Tournament at Center Moriches High School on Friday night.

The Pierson basketball team will head into this Friday night’s big League VIII game at home against rival Southold having lost its previous four contests.

After suffering a tough non-league loss at Hampton Bays on December 17, the Whalers (2-0 League VIII, 3-5 overall) competed in the Anthony Parlato “Help Someone Today” Memorial Basketball Showcase at Center Moriches High School over the holiday break on December 27 and 28, and then traveled two hours to play East Rockaway in Nassau County on Monday. Pierson lost its first game of the Parlato Showcase to host Center Moriches, 81-50, then lost the consolation game, 48-38, to Sachem North. The Whalers also lost, 62-53, at East Rockaway.

It’s been a tough stretch of non-league games for Pierson, but first-year head coach Will Fujita said that was the plan all along, to challenge his players in preparation for games such as Friday night’s, which is expected to tip off at 6:15 p.m. Fujita, who graduated from Southold and is best friends with Southold head coach Luke Grigonis, is well aware of the rivalry between the two schools.

“I think everything, since the beginning of the season until now, has been preparing us for the season, including Friday night’s game against Southold,” he said. “We know they’re going to be a very formidable opponent all year. It’s us, [Southold] and Greenport as the only Class C teams in the county so we need play strong from beginning. It’s another game for us but I think the guys understand what it means and how big it is that we have the first one at home.”

Fujita said it was a good experience for his players to endure a long bus ride to East Rockaway, a team that, if all goes according to plan, the Whalers would see in the Long Island Championship later this season. But Fujita said his team played sloppy and turned the ball over too much leading to the loss. Wilson Bennett and Henry Brooks each scored 18 points for Pierson.

The Whalers were, by far, the smallest team to compete in the Parlato Showcase, with host Center Moriches, Sachem North and Bayport/Blue Point all competing. The Red Devils, coached by Bridgehampton graduate Nick Thomas, easily won the tournament by defeating Bayport, 98-55. Fujita said despite losing by 30 to Center Moriches it was one of the more competitive games the Red Devils have had all season thus far, and he liked the way his team played against Sachem North, a Class AA school. The Whalers had a lead after the first quarter but James Butler proved why he’s one of the top scorers in the county by scoring nearly half (22) of his team’s points.

“I’ve played a lot of basketball, and I’ve been coaching for a few years now, Center Moriches is one of the best teams in Suffolk County that I’ve seen play in a long time,” he said. “They have eight guys who can start on any other team.

“Nick Thomas wants tough teams to play in that tournament, so I think it was a privilege for him to have invited us.”