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Whalers Sink

February 17, 2015
A trifecta of championship wins over Pierson defined by defense

A trifecta of championship wins over Pierson defined by defense

The following was written by Jack Graves for the East Hampton Star.

In the end, Dan White, who coaches Pierson High School’s boys basketball team, thought it was Stony Brook’s senior guards who made the difference in the final minutes of the county Class C championship game Monday, a hotly contested game that Stony Brook won by a score of 44-39.

“I thought we were there — we were up by 6 early in the fourth,” White said with a sigh, “but their press took some of our momentum away . . . and [as for the guards] you’ve got to make the plays late, not look for others to make them.”

Robbie Evjen, the Whalers’ 6-foot-3-inch senior center, gave it his all, finishing with a game-high 20 points and, according to his coach, “15 to 20 rebounds,” but he couldn’t quite get it done.

The anchor of the Whalers’ offense and defense had to come out after picking up his second foul late in the second quarter, and the Bears immediately took advantage by going on a 9-3 run. By the time Evjen re-entered the fray, about six minutes later, the Brooksters were leading 16-13. Moments later, after Evjen had missed a “gimme” underneath, they quickly tacked on 6 more points as the result of back-to-back 3-pointers by their senior sparkplug, Rob Colarusso, extending the margin to 22-13.

At the half, Pierson trailed 26-21, but, with Evjen leading the way — and not picking up any more fouls — came back in the third, a period during which Colarusso, who was to lead the winners with 17 points, went cold, failing to convert any of his seven attempts.

Assisted by Ben Kushner (Pierson’s second-leading scorer, who was shut down by Stony Brook’s defense that day), Evjen made a 3-point play as the third began, and soon after evened things at 26-26 with a nice move to the basket.

“He’s a helluva player,” White was to say later. “I knew he had the matchup advantage — he has a great first step. . . . I just realized,” he said, with another sigh, “that I won’t have him anymore.”

After Luke O’Connor, a left-handed junior guard who came off the bench, had made a 3, Evjen fed Stephen Musnicki for 29-28, and after the Bears’ other senior guard, Luke Meyer, had missed at the other end, Evjen drew a foul from Chester Kayonga, and made good on both free throws, the second of which treated the Whalers to a 30-29 lead. He was to shoot 8-for-9 from the foul line that day.

The quarter ended with a basket by Evjen — after having grabbed the rebound of his own miss — and a long 2 by Musnicki, again with Evjen assisting. Evjen kicked the lead up to 6 with two minutes gone in the fourth, but after that Stony Brook, with its guards in the van, launched the run that would win it the county Class C title.

When Evjen committed his fourth foul in contesting a rebound with a minute and a half left, Stony Brook’s fans, whose team led then 40-38 as the result of a falling-down 3 by the aforementioned O’Connor, stood and cheered.

A rare basket by Stony Brook’s biggest man, Jyles Etienne, to whom Meyer had alertly passed the ball from the baseline before it sailed out of bounds, increased the Bears’ lead to 4, prompting White to call a timeout.

When play resumed, Andrew James, who had theretofore hit twice from long range, missed a 3-point attempt from the left corner, after which Stony Brook’s guards dribbled about, taking time off the clock. Two free throws by Colarusso with 11 seconds to go put the game and the championship out of the Whalers’ reach.

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