It took a last-ditch effort against a local rival, but the Pierson boys basketball team is heading back to the playoffs.
With his team trailing by a single point in its home game on February 1, with just seconds remaining in regulation, Harry Cowen was on the free-throw line to, at the very least, tie the game and send it to overtime against Bridgehampton. Cowen missed his attempt, but after the ball caromed off the rim and was tipped a few times, he found it in his hands and laid it off the glass to give the Whalers the 64-63 victory with 1.2 seconds left. The Killer Bees could do nothing but a last minute heave which went for naught, and the home Pierson crowd was sent into a frenzy, with teammates mobbing Cowen at half court.
Bridgehampton led Pierson, 51-38, going into the fourth quarter, but Pierson’s Henry Brooks, who scored 10 of his 30 points in the fourth, nailed a three-pointer to inch his team closer to the Bees’ lead at 61-60 with 1:23 remaining. Bridgehampton’s Nae’Jon Ward made a pair of free throws to extend his team’s lead back to three with 26 seconds remaining but that would be all the Bees would score the rest of the game. Brooks made a pair of free throws, then Cowen came up with his heroics.
Pierson head coach Hank Katz said, while nothing is official just yet, the win on Friday will most likely net his team the third and final seed in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs, which would put the Whalers on the road at Southold in the first round, tentatively set for Monday, February 11, at 5 p.m. The winner of that game would play Greenport for the county championship at Center Moriches High School the very next night at 7:30 p.m. The Whalers (6-4 League VII, 9-8 overall) lost both of their games to Southold this season by a total of six points and had leads in both games only to see them slip away, so if the two teams were to face one another again in the playoffs it would figure to be a competitive game.
But Katz was still excited about his team’s win on Friday night, and gave all the credit to his players for turning around what was a 22-point loss in Bridgehampton in the first meeting of the season between the teams on January 8.
“They’re a really good team, but we made some key stops in key moments,” he said. “We were moving the ball well on offense and consistently made good decisions down the stretch. They played with urgency and really wanted to win. They always play hard but they really laid it all on the line the last five minutes of the game and the ball bounced our way. Of course we’ve also lost a few games playing like that this year.”
Wilson Bennett, who made his varsity debut when the Whalers played in Bridgehampton, scored 15 points and Nick Egbert scored seven points.
Bridgehampton (6-4 League VII, 9-8 overall) was led by J.P. Harding and Elijah White who clamped down on Pierson’s offense when they were in the game but both were in foul trouble, especially early on. White finished with 25 points, Harding had 12, and Ward scored 11. Johnny DeGroot scored six points and did his job on the boards and also had a few blocks.
Bridgehampton head coach Ron White said the loss was plain and simple. “Coaches were outcoached, players were outplayed,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job coaching and getting the team mentally prepared to execute.”
Bridgehampton defeated Shelter Island, 78-61, on Monday night, led by Harding’s 34 points and 30 rebounds, but the game was basically meaningless in terms of the standings. The Bees will move on to the playoffs and will most likely see the same Shelter Island team in the Suffolk County Class D Championship, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, February 12, at Center Moriches High School at 5:30 p.m., preceding the Class C Championship. The Indians, since they have a losing league record, will have to petition Section XI in order to get into the playoffs, but White feels that they have the resume to get in, including a 65-62 win over the Bees earlier in the season.
Whichever team wins the county championship will move on to the Long Island Championship, the first for Class D in what is thought to be decades. Academy Charter School in Hempstead is the only Class D school in Nassau and is awaiting to see who it will play. White said he scouted the team this past weekend and came away impressed.
“They’re a tough, scrappy team. They’ve got some shooters. They can play some zone in the middle and they can press,” he explained. “It’s really important that we take care of now though. Shelter Island is not a given and I have to make sure that we’re not taking anything for granted and make sure we all bring our ‘A’ game.”