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Postseason Ends in Heartbreak for Pierson Basketball Team

February 16, 2018

On Wednesday evening the girls’ basketball team upset 2nd-seeded Pierson in the semifinals of the Class C tournament, 47-44. Here is the recap of the game from Gavin Menu of the Sag Harbor Express.

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What began as a lovefest for the Pierson Whalers — a Valentine’s Day doubleheader to celebrate the boys and girls basketball teams and their quest to advance in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs — ended in heartbreak Wednesday night as fans clad in scarlet and white filtered out of the high school gym in a collective state of shock.

In the early game the Lady Whalers let an eight-point fourth-quarter lead slip away in an outbracket playoff game against visiting Stony Brook, which slipped away with a 47-44 victory that ended Pierson’s season at least one game short of its planned destination, the Suffolk County Class C Championship game, which now will be contested between the Bears and top-ranked Mercy on Monday at Suffolk County Community College in Selden.

The silver lining for the girls program is that head coach Kevin Barron can expect to see a large part of this year’s team return next season. Only three seniors — Shannon Sloane, Cassie Arbia and Lizzie Lesser — will graduate this spring.

The team received a boost this season when sophomore guard Chastin Giles left Mercy to attend Pierson, where she led the team in scoring and handled the bulk of the ball handling duties. Giles had 21 points on Wednesday, but she struggled to get off a good shot during the final two minutes. Ironically, it was Sag Harbor native Niamh Scanlon, playing varsity as a seventh grader, who made the go-ahead basket for Stony Brook off an offensive rebound with 41 seconds remaining.

“I talked to the girls about consistency,” Barron said following a postgame conversation with his players. “We just had no chemistry tonight on offense. They played well enough to beat us, which is a difficult thing to do when you’re away in a playoff game.”

Pierson beat Stony Brook by 24 a week before Wednesday’s playoff game and entered the postseason having played in the last four county championship games, winning three in row prior to last season’s loss to Port Jefferson. But the Bears on Wednesday showed resiliency all night. They lost forward Danielle Graves to an ankle injury early in the game and star point guard Beth Felix, who finished with a game-high 24 points, played the entire second half with four fouls.

Stony Brook’s defense was stingy as well as the Bears closed the game on a 10-1 run over the final minute and 45 seconds.

“We were having a problem passing and cutting, which is a big problem because a lot of us were getting face guarded,” said junior Katie Kneeland, who fouled out of the game with 2:43 remaining. “And if you’re face guarded you can’t really get the ball so you have to use those screens to get around the defense and go for the layup.”

“They were playing really far up,” Giles added about Stony Brook. “I tried to drive more, but I couldn’t finish every layup. They were playing really far up, so it was hard to get the ball out to everybody.”

After Giles pushed Pierson’s lead back to six with 1:45 left in the game, Felix connected on a long-range three-pointer and a pair of free throws to quickly cut the margin to a single point. Scanlon’s putback put the Bears up 44-43, and moments later Felix rebounded a missed three by Giles, was fouled, and hit both her free throws to put Stony Brook up by three. Celia Barranco hit a foul shot with 13.7 seconds on the clock, but it was the last offense Pierson was able to muster during the frenzied closing moments.

“It just wasn’t our night,” Barron said afterward. “I told the girls ‘You have to learn from this loss, you have to let it sink in for a while because this one should hurt.’”

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