When people in Sag Harbor talk about boys basketball rivalries, Bridgehampton is often the first name that comes up. But while the proximity of the schools always makes games between them exciting, those annual battles have been overshadowed in recent years by Pierson’s showdowns with another League VIII team—Stony Brook.
The legitimacy of that rivalry was on display at Pierson High School on December 17, when the Whalers took the latest chapter in the hard-fought games between the teams, winning, 63-55. Combined with a 57-55 loss to Southold, Pierson moved to 3-1 in League VIII play, 3-2 overall.
With the win over Stony Brook, the Whalers avenged their loss to the Bears in last year’s Suffolk County Class C Championship game. A year earlier, Pierson had beaten Stony Brook to win its first county title in decades.
Pierson head coach Dan White said that revenge for last year’s county championship loss wasn’t necessarily on his players’ minds in their most recent battle. Rather, he said, his team is simply always amped to play Stony Brook, no matter the circumstances.
“I think our guys are motivated every time we play Stony Brook, seeing as every year they are our toughest competition in the league,” White said. “Last year did leave a sour taste in our mouth, but we have new players and so did [Stony Brook], so I think the general rivalry is more of a motivator than that loss.”
One player who has been around for plenty of the rivalry games—senior guard Forrest Loesch—certainly played like a man on a mission. He finished with 36 points, 26 of which came in the second half. It was a few points off his career high, but White still called it a monstrous performance.
“Forrest had probably the best performance of his career,” White said. “It was not a career high, but he was a rock out there. There were a few times where it got a little sloppy and he would go get the ball and at least give us a shot opportunity instead of a turnover. He carried us in the fourth as well with his scoring.”
Also impressive in the win was freshman guard Sean Sloane, who had 18 points. Sloane and fellow guard Cooper Marienfeld had to pick up the slack in the back court, as starting point guard Ian Barrett was out with a broken nose, an injury he suffered in an accident during a scrimmage in practice. Barrett was expected to be out for two weeks.
White was happy with the play of Sloane and Marienfeld, and added that forward Robbie Evjen was key in the win as well, even though he didn’t score a lot of points. Pierson also was lights out from beyond the three-point arc, hitting 12 shots from long range.
“Our rebounding was phenomenal in the first half, and we were able to stay out of foul trouble,” White said when asked about keys to the win. “I thought Sean Sloane and Cooper Marienfeld both stepped up with Ian out, and Robbie Evjen was able to handle [Stony Brook’s] big guy by himself, which helped us defensively.”
Pierson enjoyed a double-digit lead for a good portion of the game, and while Stony Brook cut it to eight a few times in the fourth quarter, Pierson responded every time to snuff out any momentum the Bears may have had.
White said the win should go a long way for his team.
“Besides the fact that the win gives us an edge in the league, that game boosts everyone’s confidence,” he said. “I believe we can continue to improve and feel great about our team headed into the break.”
In the loss to Southold, Pierson got another strong effort from Loesch, who finished with 28 points, but he was overshadowed by Southold’s Liam Walker, who had 34 and also hit the winning lay-up with two seconds left in a game that was close throughout. Loesch also had hit a three that tied the game with 13 seconds left. Sloane was Pierson’s only other double-digit scorer, finishing with 11 points.
On the same day as their male counterparts, the Pierson girls basketball team crushed Stony Brook, 49-18, at home. Combined with a 47-43 loss to Southold on Friday, Pierson moved to 3-1 in League VIII play, 4-3 overall.
Stony Brook is weaker this season than it has been in years past, and the Lady Whalers took advantage.
“We pressed early, which Stony Brook had a lot of trouble handling,” Pierson head coach Kevin Barron said. “They could not really break it until late in the second quarter, in which I think we may have become a little tired and their passing became better.”
Barron said he was happy overall with his team’s defensive effort, but said his players still need to adjust to tighter foul calls by the refs this year.
“I thought our defense was pretty good, with the exception of some unnecessary fouling at times,” he said. “We just have to learn to stop the hand checking, which the refs have made a point to call a lot this year, and play defense with our feet. We are a bit overaggressive at times, which gets us in foul trouble.”
Barron said he was impressed with the play of several of his bench players, including Isabel Peters, who finished with nine points, as well as Sol Varela and Sydney Mitchell. “They did a nice job when we found ourselves in foul trouble or some girls needed a rest,” he said. “The ball movement has also improved a tremendous amount since the beginning of the year. It still needs work, but gets a little better each day.”
Eilis Sheil led Pierson with 16 points and seven rebounds, while guard May Evjen had 13 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and four steals.
In the loss to Southold, Sheil was Pierson’s leading scorer again, with 15 points, while Evjen had 11, Bridget Canavan had seven, and Peters had six. Pierson had a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but Southold outscored the Lady Whalers, 12-6, in that frame to get the win. Lady Clipper Cindy VanBourgondien hit a three with less than two minutes left to put her team up, 45-42, and Southold hit two more free throws down the stretch.