The time is now.
With a solid foundation of five seniors returning, a sophomore that boasts almost two years of varsity experience, and a team now chock full of depth, the sky is the limit for the Pierson/Bridgehampton girls basketball team, which went 13-8 and lost in the Class C Long Island Championship to East Rockaway last season. How far the Lady Whalers will go this season is simply up to them, says head coach Kevin Barron.
“This is our foundation of girls right here. I expect to be back in the Long Island Championship and see a different result,” he said. “I can definitely see us going beyond that point, but it’s a matter of these girls seeing themselves do it. The girls have to step up and so far we’re seeing that.”
Nia Dawson, a Bridgehampton student, leads the strong group of seniors who are returning, along with Isabel Peters, Lily Kot, Alyssa Kneeland and Lottie Evans. Katie Kneeland is now a sophomore and has almost two years of varsity experience, after being called up from junior varsity for the team’s playoff run two years ago, then starting every game last season. The returning group should soften the blow of losing Erica Selyukova to graduation.
What Barron has found early on this season, though, is that he has depth on the bench, something the team has lacked, he said, in recent years. Three juniors—Shannon Sloane, Annabelle Schroeder and Cassie Arbia—and three sophomores—Hollie Schleicher, Paige Schaefer and Celia Barranco—currently make up the bench that Barron is excited to have.
Pierson will play in League VII this season, a mixed classification league that has Class B, C and D teams. Babylon, Center Moriches, Mattituck and Mercy are all B schools, while Port Jefferson, Southold/Greenport and Stony Brook are C schools along with Pierson. Smithtown Christian is the lone D school.
If all things work out as planned, Barron thinks this season will play out much like last season, with his Lady Whalers meeting up with Port Jeff in the county final. Babylon, Center Moriches and Mattituck will give the Lady Whalers competitive league games and will be good tune-ups for Pierson’s postseason run.
Pierson hosts its first non-league game of the season on Thursday against Miller Place at 5 p.m. League play gets under way on Tuesday, December 6, at Mattituck. Tip-off is slated for 6:15 p.m.
The Hank Katz era is officially under way for the Pierson boys basketball team.
After Dan White resigned during the offseason—and took over the boys basketball program at neighboring East Hampton—Katz is now at the helm after coaching Pierson’s boys junior varsity team the past two seasons. He takes over a team that is just a year removed from reaching the Suffolk County Class C final, which it lost to Stony Brook.
While losing four seniors—Stephen Musnicki, James Schleicher, Andrew James and Rojuan Patterson—to graduation will hurt initially, the Whalers have a strong returning core. Seniors Spencer Chase, Sean Sloane and Angelo Toscano all appear to be front-runners for a starting spot, with junior returnee Will Martin and junior Sam Warne, who is making the jump to varsity this season with his head coach Katz.
Also returning are seniors Sam Anderson and Jack Brown. Brothers Henry (a freshman) and Tom Brooks (a junior) will be first-year varsity players, along with Beau Stafford, senior Aidan Crowley and junior Drew Fischer.
Pierson will continue to play in League VIII this season, along with Greenport, Southold and Stony Brook—all fellow Class C schools—and D schools Bridgehampton and Shelter Island. Katz expects to compete with Bridgehampton and Stony Brook in league play. A rematch against Stony Brook for the county title could very well be in the cards for Pierson.
“My expectations are to compete night in and night out,” Katz said. “I don’t really focus on how many wins we’ll have, or if we’ll make the playoffs, I just want the kids to play hard. I think we’ll put a competitive team on the floor every night.”
The Whalers open their season on Friday, December 9, in a non-league game at Port Jefferson at 4:30 p.m. They will then compete in the SYS Holiday Tournament with Center Moriches, The Dalton School and Southampton. Pierson opens the tournament against Center Moriches on Friday, December 16, at 6 p.m. The Whalers’ first league game isn’t until January 11 when they play at Southold at 6:15 p.m.