By Gavin Menu
The Suffolk County basketball playoffs begin this week with the Pierson boys and girls basketball teams competing in the Class C brackets, where winning a championship could be a steep climb for both teams.
The boys closed out the regular season with a 67-47 win over Shelter Island on Saturday to earn an automatic berth in the playoffs with a 5-5 record in League VIII, which Greenport won with a record of 9-1. The Whalers will be the fourth seed and will play a Class C semifinal at Greenport on Thursday, February 16, at 4:30 p.m. Port Jefferson, which is the two-seed, will host third-seeded Stony Brook in the other Class C semifinal on Friday, with the winners meeting at Suffolk Community College in Selden on Sunday, February 19, at 5 p.m. for the county championship.
The girls, who lost their regular-season finale, 64-30, to Port Jefferson on Saturday, will face Southold/Greenport in a Class C outbracket game at home on Thursday, February 16, at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the Suffolk final to play Port Jefferson on Saturday at Riverhead High School at 5 p.m.
“Who is planning on the double-dip, who is going to both games?” asked Pierson Athletic Director Eric Bramoff, who purposely moved Thursday’s girls game to 7 p.m. so that Whalers fans could get back from Greenport in time for tip-off.
Lee Scores Big on Senior Night
The Pierson boys needed a win on Saturday to automatically qualify for the playoffs and cruised to victory with winless Shelter Island in town for the Whalers’ senior night celebration. Sean Sloane, Spencer Chase, Angelo Toscano, Jack Brown, Sam Anderson and Aidan Crowley all played their final home game at Pierson. It was also the final home game for team manager and senior Collier Lee, who suited up for the game and hit two three-pointers during an electrifying stretch of the fourth quarter.
“It was a very special moment,” Bramoff said later. “He was very excited to get his uniform and when he got in the game, he did not disappoint. A big thank you to all the seniors for making the night a special one.”
Lee entered the game in the fourth quarter and broke free in the corner off a pick from Toscano. He did not hesitate and launched a shot at the basket, which he banked in for his first points as a varsity player.
The Whalers on Friday will face a tough challenge against Greenport, which won its two meetings with Pierson this year by an average of 30 points per game.
“They’re a very good team, we respect them, but I don’t think we’re fearful of anybody,” Pierson head coach Hank Katz said. “The kids will be ready to play.”
Girls Hope to Bounce Back
The Pierson/Bridgehampton girls team struggled to score Saturday with Port Jeff senior Courtney Lewis outscoring the entire Lady Whalers team, 39-30, on her way to eclipsing 2,000 points for her career. Port Jeff finished the League VII schedule tied with Mattituck with identical 15-1 records.
“They were a little more pumped up, it was their senior day and they were playing for a league championship,” Pierson head coach Kevin Barron said later. “We had no defense, no offense, it was our worst game of the year.”
Nia Dawson led the Lady Whalers with 12 points and Celia Barranco and Katie Kneeland had six points apiece. Barron believes his team’s balance is what sets it apart from the competition, with all five starters able to score in bunches.
Pierson split two regular-season meetings with Southold/Greenport this year, and most recently lost a nailbiter, 69-65, on January 27. Southold guard Madison Tabor, a 1,000-point scorer for her career, had 25 in that game and set the tone all night for the Lady Settlers.
“They were really hot that night and were hitting every shot,” Barron said. “We have a lot of good players in our league, and it seems every team has one standout player who does the bulk of the scoring, except for us. We spread around the scoring, and I think that’s what makes us so dangerous.”