Not having its top offensive weapon was going to catch up to the Pierson boys basketball team at some point.
It happened at the worst time.
The Whalers, without leading scorer Will Martin—who tore his ACL in a home loss to Greenport on January 31—lost their Suffolk County Class C playoff game on Valentine's Day, 43-32, at home to Port Jefferson. It was the lowest offensive output for Pierson this season, the previous low being 33 points in a non-league game with Class B powerhouse Center Moriches back on December 6.
Pierson head coach Hank Katz didn’t want to blame the loss on Martin’s absence, and to his point, the Whalers did win three of their final four games without him, even scoring 81 points against Smithtown Christian a week earlier on February 7. But without Martin, who scored his 1,000th career point in a win over Ross on January 26 and finished with 1,051 career points, it was clear the Whalers did not have that go-to scorer they needed. They only scored a single point in the second quarter and just eight in the third.
Port Jeff lost to top seed Greenport in the county final on Friday. The Porters, as expected, routed Stony Brook, 71-41, to win the county championship on Sunday.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. We’re not a bad team without Will we’re just a different team,” Katz said. “You have to give credit to Port Jeff. They took us out of our rhythm. We played as hard as we could, as we have been. It was a great effort, they just outplayed us.”
E.J. Burke, a senior, and sophomore Henry Brooks led Pierson with 10 points each. Senior Tom Brooks scored eight points.
Martin is part of an athletic group of seniors graduating this spring, along with Burke, Tom Brooks and Sam Warne.
“They meant everything to the program. Their senior leadership—the younger ones really looked up to them,” Katz said. “But I do believe we have a good nucleus coming up. We’ll be a younger team, but those seniors have always been our foundation.”
Cooper Schiavoni, who Katz lauded for making an improvement to his entire game this season, will be the team’s lone senior next season, and along with Henry Brooks, who will be a junior, and a strong core of players coming up from the junior varsity, Katz is confident the team can continue to be successful going forward.
“There were ups and downs this season, more ups than downs,” he said. “We have a tremendous bunch of kids who played for each other and were great to be around. It was really great coaching them because they really are great kids, all of them.”