On this day nine years ago, the boys’ basketball team made Valentine’s Day a little sweeter with a 57-27 thrashing of Pierson in the Suffolk County Championship. Here is a pair of recaps from the East Hampton Press and Sag Harbor Express.
Poor Second Half Leads to Defeat for Whalers in County Class C Final
Cailin Reilly — East Hampton Press
With time winding down in the first half, it looked like the Pierson boys’ basketball team was going to give top seed Stony Brook a serious run for its money in the Suffolk County Class C Championship game at Westhampton Beach High School on Thursday, February 14.
Unfortunately for the Whalers, that was not the case in the second half.
Pierson managed to score only five second half points—and just one in the third quarter—as the Bears were able to exact revenge on the defending champion Whalers, winning 57-27. Last year, Pierson’s Forrest Loesch hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat the Bears and give Pierson its first county title in decades.
Pierson, seeded second, advanced to the championship game this year with a 63-41 win over Greenport on February 12. The top-seeded Bears had a first-round bye.
After falling behind, 7-15, in the first quarter, Pierson battled back in the second, outscoring Stony Brook, 15-11, to cut the halftime deficit to 22-26. But the Whalers simply could not buy a basket in the second half, and Stony Brook cruised to the win.
Only four Pierson players scored, led by Loesch with 16 points. Jake Bennett had seven points, and Ian Barrett and Joey Butts each had two.
Stony Brook was led by Andrew Daniel, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Marco Maskayan had 13 points and eight assists. Brandon Odom added 11 points.
It was a disappointing finish to what was overall another successful season for the Whalers. They finished the season second in League VIII behind the Bears, and handed the Bears their only loss in the regular season, in the season finale, although the Stony Brook coach rested most of his starters for that game. Pierson was 11-3 in league, 11-7 overall.
Doomed by Second Half Collapse
Gavin Menu – Sag Harbor Express
Pierson forward Forrest Loesch, who a year ago hit a shot at the buzzer to beat Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class C Championship game, cut right to the chase in a rematch of the Class C final last Thursday, February 14 with a torrid scoring pace that had the Bears clinging to a 26-22 lead at halftime.
And then, in the blink of an eye, the wheels fell off for the Whalers.
Stony Brook (15-3) outscored Pierson 31-5 in the second half, including a 15-1 run to start the third quarter, and got revenge in the form of a 57-27 win that gave the Bears this year’s Class C title.
The Whalers saw their season come to a disappointing end with an overall record of 12-8.
“We were thinking about this game since last summer,” Stony Brook head coach Mike Hickey said. “Pierson is a terrific team. Normally when you play someone in the playoffs, I would go and scout the team. We didn’t have to do that with them. We know them very well so it just came down to execution.”
Junior big man Andrew Daniel led the Bears with 15 points and 13 rebounds while senior Marco Masakayan had 13 points and eight assists.
With the win, Stony Brook advanced to the Long Island Class C Championship game on March 5. Pierson, meanwhile, will look to the offseason and the return of both Loesch and starting point guard Ian Barrett. Loesch led Pierson with 16 points against Stony Brook, but only had three in the second half. Barrett was held to just two points and Pierson as a team shot 2-for-26 in the second half.
“At halftime I walked into the locker room feeling pretty good,” Pierson head coach Dan White said. “But you have to be able to make more than two buckets. Obviously Stony Brook’s defense was good, but it wasn’t 2-for-26 good. We missed a lot of shots that we normally would make, and what ends up happening is, it’s like a disease. Instead of just playing Stony Brook, you’re playing the rim.”
Senior Jake Bennett, playing in the final game of an outstanding season, scored seven points and fouled out with 4:27 remaining.
“I feel bad for them because they had very high expectations,” White said when asked about the senior class. “With regard to the seniors, they restored Pierson basketball. They went 21-7 in the league, went to back-to-back county finals and won one of them, so they were successful.”
White said all his players improved individually from last season, but that the team as a whole was not as strong as last year, mostly because of two injuries suffered by Joey Butts and Barrett. White said that Butts broke his arm last summer and as a result has little feeling in three of his fingers. The senior guard, who was All-League as a junior, struggled shooting the ball this season and finished with just two points in last week’s championship game.
Barrett hurt his knee early this year and sat out half the season while the rest of the team continued on without their floor leader. Eventually Barrett returned to the line-up, but an offense that once excelled with him as the point guard never fully came back up to speed.
“We were very dependent on Ian Barrett last year,” White said. “But when you’re out for two months, not only was he not getting better, but we became a different team. Between Joey’s injury and Ian’s injury, we weren’t as good as we were last year.”
Speaking on Tuesday after having several days to reflect on the season, White said his biggest challenge going into the off-season will be to develop some defensive talent to replace the graduating seniors, especially Bennett, who White said was the best defender in League VIII this year. Pierson’s junior varsity team was undefeated in league play this season so the school does have some up-and-coming talent to match with Barrett, Loesch and the rest of the returning players from this year’s team.
“I think we’ll be better offensively because Ian and Forrest can have big years next year,” White said. “But we are light years worse defensively. When you lose Jake, Joey, Patrick and Jackson, all of who could shut down a big man or a guard on any given night, they’re going to be hard to replace. And that’s up to me this off-season.”
The Bears went on to beat Pierson in the next three Suffolk County Championships on their way to a Class C record of five as they became the most dominant team in Suffolk County small school basketball.