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Burke Leads Bears to 6th Straight County Title

February 22, 2011

Pierson/Bridgehampton will be looking for revenge for not only their 40-28 road defeat on February 28 to the Bears but also for last year’s 51-28 loss to Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class “C” semi-finals. The Lady Whalers have come a long way since last year’s playoff loss, and with five seniors leading the way, the Lady Whalers will have one goal in Tuesday’s championship game: win.

~ Sag Harbor Express article from February 20th

In a mostly rosy season for our girls basketball team, Pierson/Bridgehampton was their only thorn.  The loss to the Lady Whalers on January 11th ended a string of 23 consecutive regular season league wins and placed a feeling of uncertainty around their League and County Title streaks.  However, the girls won their next 7 games and on February 8th won the rematch 40-28 in Sag Harbor to clinch their 7th consecutive League Title.  Coming into today’s game the girls knew it would be a battle, but they rode a tremendous performance from Brannon Burke to a 43-29 victory, earning them a 6th straight Class C Championship, the longest streak since Wyandanch claimed 8 from 1981-88.

1st Quarter

The opening frame of this game was eerily similar to the girls’ start against Southold on Saturday.  The offense struggled early, but the defense kept them in it by stopping the Lady Whalers on 10 of their first 11 possessions.  Burke finally broke the ice for both teams with a jumper that bounced around the iron before dropping in.  Pierson scored the next 4 points, but Burke tied the game at 4 on a bucket with under 1 minute remaining. | 4-4

2nd Quarter

The Bears began the 2nd period with a strong possession that ended with a Burke 3-pointer that beat the shot clock buzzer.  Pierson scored on the next possession, but Pappas scored soon after to ignite a 9-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from 7th grader Ariana Odom with 1:45 remaining in the half.  Pierson scored the next 3 points to cut the Bears’ edge to 16-9, but Burke struck back with a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.  The Lady Whalers gained a bit of momentum as they banked in a shot at the buzzer, but the Brook still carried an 8 point advantage into the break.  The story of the 1st half was our defense.  Though our offense awoke in the 2nd frame, we had far too many turnovers and allowed the red and black a number of 2nd chance opportunities.  Our pressure defense and Burke’s 12 points were the reason we held a lead after 2 quarters. | 19-11

3rd Quarter

Natalie Istrati, after sitting out the 1st half as she continues to recover from an injury, strode onto the floor to begin the 3rd period and immediately gave her team a lift.  She scored the Bears’ 1st points of the half and affected both our defense and ability to rebound.  Pierson then retaliated with a 3-pointer to cut our lead to 21-14.  From there both squads traded jabs for the remainder of the quarter as the Whalers fought to get back into the game.  Jess Winston hit 2 free throws, Pierson responded with a bucket, Burke scored 4 in a row, Pierson scored a basket and a free throw, Istrati dropped in a layup and Pierson hit a jumper to make the score 28-21 with under a minute to play.  After a steal by Burke the Bears got another big basket when Winston found Istrati under the hoop for a score with 9 seconds left on the clock.  Istrati was huge, scoring 6 points in the quarter to help the Brook maintain their distance. | 30-21

4th Quarter

The blue and white was in a comfortable position to begin the final frame, but Pierson would not go quietly.  The Whalers opened by hitting 1 of 2 free throws.  Then, after Burke connected on 2 foul shots of her own, Pierson scored the next 4 points, including an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the deficit to 32-26 with 3:48 remaining.  The Brook was desperately in need of a defensive stand and after yielding several shots Burke pulled down a big rebound to stem the tide.  On the ensuing possession Burke hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game, drilling a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining that sank a dagger into Pierson’s heart.  The Lady Whalers still trailed by 8 with 2 minutes left, but an airball and 2 free throws from Burke, that pushed the lead back to 10 with 1:35 left, nailed the coffin lid shut.  The Bears were automatic from the charity stripe as they salted the game away to give them a 17th Championship since 2005 (7 League, 6 County, 3 Long Island and 1 Regional). | 43-29

As Brannon Burke goes, so goes Stony Brook. Burke, one of the top scorers on Long Island, averages 18.5 points per game and is the focal point of the Bears offense.

Burke led the way again Tuesday night for No. 1 Stony Brook, scoring 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and four steals, as the Bears defeated No. 2 Pierson/Bridgehampton, 43-29, in the SuffolkClass C girls basketball finals at St. Joseph’s College.

“It comes with experience. I’ve been playing basketball all year round since I was 10 years old and these are the games where it really shows,” Burke said. “It comes down to being able to handle pressure situations [and] having teammates that really know what they’re doing.”

~ Newsday

Impressions

It was not the prettiest game of the year for the Bears.  We had a number of missed opportunities, turnovers and missed box out assignments, but as we have so many times before at this point in the season, we came up with all of the big plays, giving coach Amy Helm a County Championship in her 1st year as head coach.  It has been a year of questions for the Bears.  Could they do it without coach Keith Singer whose 252 career wins made him the 9th most successful girls basketball coach in Suffolk County history?  Could they do it without All-State point guard Sadie Singer who presided over the previous 5 County Championships?  Could they do it with a shallow bench?  Could they do it with a 7th grader and a converted soccer player in the starting lineup?  Could they do it once Istrati was hindered by an injury?  Would Burke’s back make it through a grueling season?  The answer to all these questions after this evening was a resounding YES.  It was a year of adversity for the girls, but they overcame all the injuries and the doubts, all the while with a target squarely on their backs, to uphold the winning tradition of Stony Brook girls basketball.  Burke was magnificent tonight.  Her 26 points nearly outscored the entire Pierson squad, but it was her toughness down the strecth as she pulled down rebounds, drove to the hoop, got up after being hammered by a foul and connected on 11 of 12 free throws that gave us the edge tonight.  The Bears take the floor this Saturday 2/26 at St. Joseph’s College @ 2:30pm in the Class C/D Championship vs. Shelter Island.  Their next game in the Class C playoffs is March 8 at SUNY Old Westbury @ 5:30pm vs. Friends Academy.

Notes

The win was the 38th Suffolk County Championship in school history… Check out Newsday’s recap of the game here… See highlights of the game in Newsday’s photo gallery…  Check out the highlights of the game at MSGVarsity.com.

Box Score

  • Burke | 26 points/10 rebounds/3 3-pointers
  • Istrati | 6 points
  • Pappas | 4 points/14 rebounds
  • Winston | 4 points
  • Odom | 3 points/1 3-pointer
  • Keara Vancol | 8 rebounds

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