The Pierson girls basketball team does not have a superstar. Some might consider that a weakness. Not the Lady Whalers.
In fact, they believe that the lack of a star player is precisely what has made them so successful this season—and after Tuesday night, it would be hard to argue with them.
With eight or more points from five different players, the Lady Whalers prevailed in a 54-49 nail-biter over Southold to win the Suffolk County Class C Championship. It’s the first county title for Pierson since 2000, and the school’s first-ever Class C title, as the Lady Whalers were a Class D team in 2000.
Pierson will play for the Long Island Championship at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue on March 4 at 4 p.m. Before that, Pierson will battle Class B champ Hampton Bays in the county B/C title game, which is not an elimination game, on Saturday at St. Joe’s at 6 p.m. The winner will play the county ‘A’ champ at Farmingdale State College on Monday at 5 p.m. in the Small Schools Championship.
Pierson showed its balance and versatility on Tuesday, as well as poise and composure late in the game. Despite losing starting point guard May Evjen, who fouled out with 4:51 left in the third quarter with Southold leading 47-41, the Lady Whalers found a way to win. And they did it by getting a little something from everyone. Freshman guard Isabel Peters earned praise from head coach Kevin Barron for doing a great job running the offense after Evjen went out. Gilbride drove to the basket and either scored or hit free throws on several occasions. And forwards Bridget Canavan and Erica Selyukova controlled the paint.
With 2:09 left, Gilbride scored two points on a drive to the basket and was fouled, making it 49-49 after she missed the free throw. Peters then was fouled and made one shot, putting her team up, 50-49. With less than a minute left, Selyukova had a nice block on defense, then delivered a perfect outlet pass up the court to Canavan, who scored a layup, making it 52-49 with eight seconds left. Selyukova hit a pair of free throws to provide the final margin.
Selyukova, a sophomore, finished with 12 points and 18 rebounds, while Gilbride added 13 points, six of which came in the fourth quarter. Evjen had nine before fouling out, while Canavan had eight points and eight rebounds and Peters added eight points. Ashley Nill finished with four points.
After the game, Gilbride spoke about her team’s versatility and how it’s a strength. “We don’t have one main player,” she said. “Everyone is pretty much equal. You ask our opponents, and they always say they never know who to defend, because everyone is a threat.”
The team’s other strength, she said, is even harder for opposing coaches to plan for.
“I think our bond as a team [is a strength],” she said. “We know when one person is down, we have to pick them up. I think the connection we have as a team is one of our biggest threats.”