Up And Down Start For Lady Whalers Hoops

Pierson junior Grace Perello dribbling out of trouble against Center Moriches.

Stifling defense and slashing guard play from Grace Perello, Brook Esposito, Sofia Mancino and, of course, senior Chastin Giles led the Pierson/Bridgehampton girls basketball team to a 35-0 start and a 66-15 win over Center Moriches at home on Friday, making it the first varsity win for head coach John “Woody” Kneeland.

The level of competition jumped up significantly on Monday, however, as the Lady Whalers dropped a non-league game at Sayville, 57-38, to fall to 1-3 on the young season. Pierson lost its season opener, 35-23, to Eastport-South Manor and dropped a non-league game to Westhampton Beach, 54-36, on December 4.

“These teams, especially Sayville and Westhampton, are good teams — they are going to be fighting for the ‘A’ championship,” said Kneeland, who was the junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant under Kevin Barron for the last eight years. “We make these games so hard to prepare us for our league.”

The first League VII game of the year was against Center Moriches, and the Lady Red Devils rarely got off a shot with Pierson’s guards disrupting the passing lanes for the entire first half. Kneeland, after the game, said that turning defense into offense would be his team’s top priority this season, especially with an abundance of speed and athleticism in the lineup.

“I have 10 kids and seven guards. It’s very difficult to press us, and we, on the other hand, can press really well,” he said. “We’re one of the fastest teams on the East End.”

Giles is the spark that runs Pierson’s engine and she led the team with 21 points in the win over Center Moriches and had 17 against Sayville in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.

“We just ran out of gas,” Kneeland said, noting that his team has not had a chance to practice much so far this season.

Grace Perello, a junior, has played well in the early going and had 12 points against Center Moriches. Sofia Mancino scored eight, and Gylia Dryden, the team’s top frontcourt player, finished with seven.

Pierson played at Hampton Bays on Wednesday after press time to begin an extended road trip that leads to Port Jefferson on December 16 and Babylon on December 18. Their next home game is scheduled for December 21 at noon against Southampton.

And Kneeland is hoping to have his lineup running at full speed in no time.

“My approach is team first, it’s always been that way,” he said. “Chemistry in basketball means everything. I call these kids our basketball family, and that’s what we’re building here. If we can build that, then we hope we get that reward in the end.”