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 Whalers have come a long way since last year’s playoff loss, and with five seniors leading the way, the 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 Whalers on January 11 ended a string of 23 consecutive regular season league wins and placed a feeling of uncertainty around their League and County Championship streaks. However, the girls won their next seven games and on February 8 won the rematch, 40-28, in Sag Harbor to clinch their seventh 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 sixth straight Class C Championship, the longest streak since Wyandanch claimed eight from 1981-88.
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 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 four points, but Burke tied the game at 4-4 on a bucket with under a minute remaining. | 4-4
The Bears began the second 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 three points to cut the Bears’ edge to 16-9, but Burke struck back with a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. The Whalers gained a bit of momentum as they banked in a shot at the buzzer, but the Brook still carried an eight-point advantage into the break. The story of the first half was our defense. Though our offense awoke in the second frame, we had far too many turnovers and allowed the red and black a number of second chance opportunities. Our pressure defense and Burke’s 12 points were the reason we held a lead after two quarters. | 19-11
Natalie Istrati, after sitting out the first half as she continues to recover from an injury, strode onto the floor to begin the third period and immediately gave her team a lift. She scored the Bears’ first 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 two free throws, Pierson responded with a bucket, Burke scored four 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
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 one of two free throws. Then, after Burke connected on two foul shots of her own, Pierson scored the next four 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 Whalers still trailed by eight with two minutes left, but an airball and two free throws from Burke, that pushed the lead back to 10 with 1:35 left, nailed the coffin 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 one 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 Suffolk Class 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.”
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 first 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 five County Championships? 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 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.