By Gavin Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
One is an unassuming but emerging athlete at Pierson High School while the other is an elite field hockey star gifted with superior athleticism. Together, juniors May Evjen and Kasey Gilbride are wreaking havoc on girls basketball courts this season, leading the Lady Whalers in a strong start to the League VIII season.
“Kasey and May and Emily [Hinz] play tremendous defense,” Lady Whalers head coach Kevin Barron said this week. “Kasey gets point guards so nervous because she’s so quick can stay with everybody. And May scores almost all her points off steals. She has been great.”
After cruising to a 42-18 home win over Shelter Island on January 4 in which Evjen led the team on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points and eight steals, the Lady Whalers traveled on Tuesday to play at Southold-Greenport, the defending league champion. Gilbride got her first start of the season and she, Evjen and Hinz helped the Lady Whalers jump out to an early 15-point lead in the first quarter.
But with their entire lineup returning from last year, Southold methodically clawed back into the game and trimmed the lead to eight at halftime before tying the game at the end of the third quarter.
In the end, the Lady Settlers (3-3, 3-1 League VII) pulled away with a 47-41 win that dropped Pierson’s league record to 3-2 and overall mark to 5-6.
“They will definitely be the toughest team we play this year,” Barron said Tuesday night after a long bus ride home from the North Fork. “We were preparing for this game for a week-and-a-half and the girls were ready and pumped and that’s why we came out strong.”
Barron said the team’s trademark pressure defense was a big part of the early success against Southold, but said the aggressive play also led to foul trouble as a result, with Hinz, Bridget Canavan and Sydnee McKie-Senior all having to sit out during crucial stretches of the game.
“Southold was in the bonus almost the entire second half because we were being so aggressive on defense, which is partially my fault as the coach,” Barron said. “They hit 23 foul shots, so half of their points.”
More big games await this week starting at home on Tuesday, January 15 against Stony Brook and against Port Jefferson on January 25, also at home.
“We’ve been having trouble coming out fast, and today we came out very fast,” Barron said on Tuesday. “We told the girls that if we can do that against Port Jeff and Southold again later in the season, we can beat anyone. We just have to play the full 32 minutes.”