With abundant talent last season, the Pierson/Bridgehampton girls basketball team expected to at least reach the Suffolk County Class C Championship. Needing to defeat Stony Brook to accomplish that goal, the Lady Whalers had that opportunity slip away in an upset loss to the Lady Bears.
This season, with the majority of the team back as seniors, Pierson plans on taking care of some unfinished business. Being the only Class C team in Suffolk County this season, the Lady Whalers could see themselves in the Long Island Championship, or better yet, a Southeast Regional semifinal game, as long as they have a successful record.
“They realize they have a big opportunity this year,” Pierson head coach Kevin Barron said. “And with 10 seniors, most of them have been playing together for a long time.”
Phoebe Arkinson, Olivia Aupperlee, Celia Barranco, Carly Browngardt, Aniya and Autumn Coffey, Aziza El, Katie Kneeland, Paige Schaefer and Monasia Street will help lead the team this season as a large group of seniors. Juniors Chastin Giles and Mahlia Hemby and freshman Sofia Mancino round out the rest of the roster. Giles, Barranco, El and Kneeland all started in many, if not all, of the games last season and should continue to do so this winter. Kneeland did suffer a recent injury and will miss some time in the beginning of the season so Barron said her minutes will be up for grabs. He likes what he’s seen so far from the team’s youngest player in Mancino.
“We might have a lot of different starting lineups depending on the personnel and the opponents,” Barron said. “I really like this team so far. It’s going to come together eventually. I think it’s going to be a slow process, but I think these girls realize this year is their shot if they’re going to do something.”
Pierson will play in League VI with a majority of larger Class B teams, including Babylon, Center Moriches, Hampton Bays, Port Jefferson, last year’s county champion Mattituck, Southold/Greenport and Southampton. Smithtown Christian, a Class D school, also plays in the league.
The Lady Whalers open the season this Thursday, November 29, at Westhampton Beach in a non-league game at 4:30 p.m. and will play another non-league game at Sayville on Monday, December 3, at 4:30 p.m.
Like their female counterparts, the Pierson boys basketball team was ousted in the first round of the playoffs last season. They were missing their top scorer, Will Martin (a 1,000-points scorer), in that game, and they’ll be without him going forward, along with Tom Brooks, E.J. Burke and Sam Warne, after they all graduated.
That leaves this season’s team fairly young, with just two seniors, Cooper Schiavoni and first-year varsity player Johnny Mascali. Henry Brooks, Pierce Summers, Harry Cowen and Nick Egbert are all juniors who are returning, while juniors Peter Schaefer and Matt Hall and sophomore Habtamu Coulter are up from the junior varsity. Schiavoni and Brooks are the only two players who played some meaningful minutes last season, but head coach Hank Katz is expecting a postseason berth this season nonetheless.
“We’re getting better every day. We’re going to take it game to game and not look too far in front of us, but that’s our goal, to make the playoffs,” he said. “We have a lot of new material that we’re giving them but they’re working hard every day and they’re certainly going to compete hard day in and day out.”
Pierson is one of three Class C teams in Suffolk this season, along with Greenport, who reached the state Final Four last season, and Southold. The Whalers will play in League VII this season with rival Bridgehampton, Ross, Shelter Island and Smithtown Christian, all Class D teams.
Pierson starts the season this Saturday, December 1, at Shelter Island at 12:30 p.m. in what is a non-league game even though the two teams play in the same league. The Whalers’ first home game is December 13 against Stony Brook at 5 p.m. in a non-league game and the day after is their first league game at Ross at 5:45 p.m.