This afternoon, the boys’ basketball team etched its name into the history books by winning a fourth consecutive Class C County Championship in a 51-44 victory over Pierson. The victory was a historic one for the Bears who became the first team in Class C history to win four straight County titles, breaking a tie with Wyandanch’s run from 1981 to 1983. They are also only the sixth team in the 98-year history of Suffolk County basketball to accomplish a run of at least four straight County crowns joining 1984-87 Bridgehampton, 1989-93 Bridgehampton, 1995-98 Bridgehampton, 2000-05 Amityville, and 2005-2010 Greenport.
The victory came at the expense of a Pierson squad that has seen their County title hopes dashed for a fourth straight season at the hands of the Bears who previously topped the Whalers in 2013 (57-27), 2014 (62-36), and 2015 (44-39). The Blue and White took both regular season match-ups vs. Pierson this year, but the margins of 50-36 and 63-49 are deceiving. In the first meeting, the Bears benefitted from a poor shooting day by the Whalers to win the league opener in Sag Harbor. In the most recent face-off on February 2, the Bears trailed after three quarters before outscoring Pierson 19-2 over the final eight minutes. The Bears knew that beating the Whalers for a third time this season, and for an eighth time in a row, would not be an easy feat.
The Whalers opened up the scoring with a layup from Sean Sloane before Mac Bohuny tied the game with a layup of his own. After a Pierson free throw, Luke O’Connor scored five straight points on a layup and a 3-pointer to give the Brook an early 7-3 edge. Pierson rallied with a five-point spurt, punctuated by an old fashioned 3-point play to grab the lead, only to lose it on the next possession thanks to a Brandon Providence floater. Bohuny extended the lead with another drive and score, but Pierson responded with a 7-0 run to take a 15-11 edge in the final minute of the quarter. Bohuny gave the Bears a lift before the buzzer with an old fashioned 3-point play to pull the Bears within 14-15 after one. Bohuny gave the Brook a huge offensive lift early on, scoring seven of his team’s 14 points in the opening quarter.
Jyles Etienne put the Bears back in the lead, 16-15, after Harry Zhu opened the quarter with a steal. One of the game’s watershed moments occurred at the 4:56 mark when Pierson’s Sloane, who had been shredding the Bear defense to that point, picked up his third foul, forcing him from the game. Bohuny followed with a trifecta to push the Bear advantage to 19-15, but the Whalers, despite their leading scorer being sidelined, responded with a 7-3 run to tie the game at 22-22. Pierson took a slight edge with a free throw before O’Connor tied the game with a free throw of his own after being fouled as time expired as the teams went into the half deadlocked at 23-23.
Coach Mike Hickey’s message to his team at halftime was all about defense, particularly in transition where the undersized Whalers negated the Bears’ height and athleticism by pushing the tempo.
A game that had already seen four ties and four lead changes remained perched on a knife’s edge. The Bears only mustered eight points in the frame, but their championship defense once again reared its head to hold the potent Whalers to just seven points in the third quarter. The Brook forced Pierson into a shot clock violation on one possession and closed out well on perimeter shooters, but it was their interior defense that was the difference. The Bears blocked five shots in the frame, including two that Bohuny and Etienne sent careening off of the backboard, igniting the Blue Fan Group. Midway through the quarter the Whalers broke a 27-27 tie with a 3-pointer, but back-to-back scores from Chester Kayonga gave the Brook a narrow 31-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bears continued to impose their will defensively as the fourth quarter dawned. On the Whalers’ first possession Etienne recorded his sixth block before the Bears forced another shot clock violation. O’Connor and Kayonga followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, sandwiched around a Bohuny steal, that gave the Blue and White a 37-30 lead at the 6:15 mark. Another Kayonga bucket and a Providence free throw capped a decisive 13-0 run that seized control of the game for the Bears and left them ahead 40-30. A Pierson score cut their deficit to eight, but a layup from Bohuny kept the margin at 10. Pierson responded with a 3-pointer, but Kayonga splashed a 3-pointer of his own on the ensuing possession that would prove to be the dagger for the Whalers. From there the Bears salted the game away with free throws while the Pierson crowd voiced its frustration over another loss to the Bears by chanting, “You recruit!” With the win, the non-recruited, NYSPHSAA-eligible Bears secured the Suffolk Class C title for a fourth straight season, and for a fifth time in the last seven years.
Bohuny led the Bears with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kayonga (12), Providence (9), O’Connor (9), Etienne (4 points/16 rebounds), and Zhu (3) provided a balance scoring attack for the Brook.
The Bears will continue their postseason run on Tuesday at Suffolk County Community College–Brentwood @ 5:00pm in the C/D Championship vs. Bridgehampton. Win or lose they will continue on in the Class C State playoffs in the Long Island Championship vs. East Rockaway on Tuesday, March 1 at Suffolk County Community College–Selden @ 5:30pm.