After being vigorously outplayed in the first half, the Pierson Whalers boys basketball team lost 50-29 to Stony Brook at home on January 14, but it recaptured the thrill of victory in Smithtown Friday with a 52-49 win over Smithtown Christian.
Pierson senior guard Casey Crowley missed a buzzer shot and the Whalers ended the first period down 20-6 against Stony Brook. The team continued to suffer through the half, only catching one beautiful two-point layup as the clock ran out. The Whalers’ fate was sealed, but the team soldiered on and managed to match the Bears in scoring in the third and fourth quarters.
Crowley led the team with eight points, followed by junior Joe Dowling’s seven points and Jake Weingartner with six points.
On Friday, Tyler Gilbride sealed the win against Smithtown Christian by nailing a tie-breaking three-pointer with 1:30 remaining. The Whalers held on for the victory, despite Smithtown Christian nearly tying it up again on a three-point attempt with 15 seconds to go.
Pierson had a 10-point lead early in the third quarter, but at the end of the period, the score was tied 36-36. Head coach Fred Marienfeld said the Whalers dropped behind by four points in the fourth quarter, but his team “scored a couple of buckets and pulled it out.”
Besides the game-winning shot, Gilbride scored 13 points and had six assists. Dowling led the Whalers against Smithtown Christian with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“It wasn’t the prettiest thing going, but we got the job done,” Marienfeld said, noting that the game was sloppy on both sides.
On January 12, the Whalers lost 84-36 in Greenport against their toughest opponent to date. To add insult to injury, Marienfeld was out on suspension for using foul language while admonishing his team in the locker room at Mercy on January 6.
On Monday, he acknowledged that his language was less than stellar and said he’s cleaned it up since his four-day suspension. Marienfeld said he was frustrated with the Whalers’ performance against Mercy and his reaction caused him to miss two practices and the Greenport game.
Pierson was scheduled to face its biggest rival, the Bridgehampton Killer Bees for the second time this season on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Sag Harbor. Both teams are 4-3 in League VIII, but the Whalers defeated the Bees 62-59 in overtime in Bridgehampton on December 16. Marienfeld said his team should be optimistic with a previous win and home court advantage, but Dowling sprained his ankle during practice on Sunday and will not be able to play against the Bees.
“Take him out of the mix and we’ve got some scrambling to do,” Marienfeld said, noting that Dowling scored 22 points and 18 rebounds against Bridgehampton in December. The junior is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and often carries games for Pierson.
“This week is going to be a big week for us to see how we do without Joe,” Marienfeld said.
He explained that he’s asked his team to step up to the challenge and make up for its missing man.
Bridgehampton was not aware of the injury on Monday, according to Marienfeld, but he said he expected the Bees to react on Tuesday by applying heavy pressure to Crowley “because big Joe is not in the middle.”
It’s unclear whether Dowling will be able to play any more games this season, which could hurt the Whalers’ chances of making the playoffs.
“At full strength, I like my chances” to make the postseason, Marienfeld said, but without Dowling, Pierson may not be able to defeat all the teams it beat before. “We had close games with Joe in there,” he said, explaining that some past wins could have gone either way.
The Whalers will play their next round of seven games over the next four weeks, beginning with Bridgehampton and followed by a visit to Shelter Island at 5:45 p.m. on Friday and a home game against Mercy at 6:15 p.m. on January 30. Pierson needs to win three more games to make the playoffs.
Following a 57-38 loss in Stony Brook on January 14, the team’s first defeat in League VIII play, Pierson’s girls basketball team is 3-1 in League VIII and 6-4 overall. The Lady Whalers remain one game away from clinching a postseason berth and prospects are good.
Stony Brook tried to shut down Pierson point leader and senior guard Katie Osiecki by playing her man-to-man, but Lady Whalers head coach Dennis Case said his team’s shooting was what hurt the most.
“We played well, but our shooting was cold,” he said.
On the other hand, the Lady Bears were in top form, scoring nine three-pointers and nailing shot after shot, according to Case. Stony Brook’s junior forward Danielle Spiliotis sank four three-pointers and led her team with 26 points, more than double Osiecki’s 12 points.
“They were lights out,” Case said. “They’re really good.”
Behind Osiecki, Lady Whalers senior Gabrielle Arondel finished with 10 points and senior Ala Pinckney scored eight points.
Pierson continues its charge toward the playoffs with a home game against Shelter Island, 2-2 and 5-5 overall, at 5:45 p.m. on Friday.
“If we win that game, we’re in the playoffs,” Case said, noting that “anything can happen,” but he’s confident the Lady Whalers will prevail. “I think we’re better,” he said.
Following the Shelter Island game, Pierson is scheduled to play three more games, including visits to Mercy on January 30 and Southold on February 5. The Lady Whalers will get their rematch against the Lady Bears on February 9. “We have to be focused the rest of the way, and I think we will be,” Case said.
If Stony Brook wins both its scheduled games against Southold and Pierson defeats Southold next month, Case said it’s probable that the playoffs could consist of one game–the Lady Whalers versus the Lady Bears.