Youth Drives Latest Win for Whalers

Pierson's Cooper Schiavoni works his way past Elijah White during Pierson's win on Monday. Michael Heller photo

With a key piece of the current star power sitting injured on the bench, the future of the Pierson boys basketball program took center stage in a runaway victory over Bridgehampton on Monday night.

Before a spirited home crowd, sophomore Henry Brooks and junior Cooper Schiavoni sparked Pierson down the stretch and led the Whalers to a 74-61 win and a season sweep of the Killer Bees. Brooks was particularly lethal, hitting seven threes on the way to a career-high 27 points. Schiavoni hit a three at the end of the third quarter and added seven more in a decisive fourth that proved the Whalers can win without their senior leader, Will Martin, who sat out his second consecutive game with a right knee injury suffered against Greenport on January 31.

“We just had to come out with the same mentality. No matter who is on the court, we just want to win,” Brooks said afterward. “We only won by two at their place, so we wanted to come out and show them who we are without Will.”

Martin was scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday, and Pierson head coach Hank Katz said they would know late this week if he would be able to play again this season.

Schiavoni normally plays a more supporting role, while Martin and the Brooks brothers, Henry and Tom, handle the bulk of the scoring load. But on Monday, Schiavoni turned defense into offense and was a calming influence on his teammates during a frantic second half.

“We worked well as a team tonight,” Schiavoni said later. “We played well on defense all game, and if we work well on defense, we’re going to get our looks on offense. That’s the way we try to play.”

Schiavoni grew up two doors down from the Brooks family and said he has been playing basketball with Tom and Henry since they were little kids. “We’re basically brothers,” he added.

Pierson’s Henry Brooks looks to get past Elijah White on Monday night. Michael Heller photo

Tom Brooks also played well on Monday and scored 17 points while handling the bulk of the point guard duties. Tom Brooks, Martin, Sam Warne and E.J. Burke make up a strong senior class, but without Martin and his 25 point-average in the lineup, everyone had to step up against Bridgehampton.

“E.J. is a monster,” Katz said about his senior forward, who scored 12 points on Monday and grabbed several key rebounds down the stretch. “We’re a couple rebounds away from that game not going the right way. He can end a game with his toughness alone.”

J.P. Harding led Bridgehampton with 25 points and Nae’Jon Ward, the Killer Bees point guard who recently returned to Bridgehampton after starting the year at Southampton High School, had 14.

Pierson (7-3 in League VII) led by nine at halftime and pushed its lead to 13 early in the third quarter until a quick 9-0 run by the Killer Bees made things close again. Ward traded threes with the Brooks brothers to keep things tight, and a 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter brought Bridgehampton within two, at 53-51, with six minutes remaining.

The Brooks brothers responded, each hitting long-range bombs that, coupled with the play of Burke down low, pushed the Whalers’ lead back to 10. Schiavoni all but closed out the game with seven points during a three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.

Pierson senior Will Martin watched from the bench Monday with an injured right knee.

“They understand the game, they know what’s expected of them and they do a great job,” Katz said when asked about the play of his young guards. “I trust their roles.”

Pierson fell, 94-64, to first-place Greenport on January 31, the day Martin injured his right knee. With Martin out of the lineup and Schiavoni out sick, the Whalers also lost to Southold on February 2, 63-58, before rebounding with the win on Monday.

Pierson faced Smithtown Christian on Wednesday after press time, and will close out the regular season at the Ross School on Friday, starting at 6:15 p.m. The Suffolk County Class C playoffs are tentatively set to begin on Thursday, February 15, with a four-team bracket led by Greenport, the overwhelming favorite to win the county championship.

Bridgehampton, which dropped to 7-3 and into a tie for second place with Pierson, hosted Shelter Island on Wednesday and will play its final regular-season game at Greenport on Friday.

It has not been decided whether the Killer Bees will even play a county championship game since both Smithtown Christian and Shelter Island, the only other Class D schools in Suffolk County, will finish the season well below .500. If either team is granted an exemption to compete in the playoffs, the Suffolk final would take place on Sunday, February 18, at Suffolk County Community College in Selden. Otherwise, the Bees would play in the overall Suffolk tournament before the New York State Class D tournament begins with a regional semifinal on March 5 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

J.P. Harding shoots over Pierson’s Henry Brooks.