By Andrew Rudansky
With a trip to the Suffolk County Class C championship game on the line, the Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers shined, beating the visiting Port Jefferson Lady Royals (6-6), 37-30, in the first round of the girls’ varsity basketball playoffs.
The game took place on Friday, February 17 at 5 p.m., part of a string of Section XI playoff games held at the Pierson High School gym. The game also marked the Lady Whalers’ seventh straight appearance in the Class C post season.
The Lady Whalers featured a more physical offense than their opponent, built off of post play on the inside by sophomore forward Bridget Canavan and junior guard Rachel Saidman.
This season the Pierson/Bridgehampton team averaged 31.7 points per game (ppg) in the regular season while allowing 36.4 points per game. The Lady Whalers did fair better in league VIII play, averaging 35.2 ppg, while allowing only 30 ppg.
In Friday’s win the team used this aggressive style of play to charge the lane, scoring easy layups and getting to the penalty line for free shots.
The first half started as a back-and-forth defensive slugfest, neither team allowing the other to lead by more than a few points. Pierson/Bridgehampton struggled to find their shot in the half, missing wide open jumpers and failing to convert on offensive rebounds. Luckily for the home team, their competitors were fairing just as poorly.
The Pierson Lady Whalers went to the locker room at the half with a 20-13 lead after they held the Lady Royals to just 2 points in the second quarter.
Coming out of the locker room, Port Jefferson scored 4 unanswered points and were looking like they were just getting streaky. This came to a grinding halt when the Lady Whalers answered with a dominant 10 point run of their own. The run was led by senior guard Sariah Cafiero, who finished with a team leading 8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals and 1 assist.
From there the Lady Whalers led by 10 or more for most of the second half, showing that their late season struggles were a thing of the past.
Saidman finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal. Junior guard Emily Hinz had a strong game as well with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal. Canavan and forward Julia Schiavoni both led the team with 8 rebounds each in the game.
The Pierson/Bridgehampton squad made several defensive mistakes in the game, handing out a flurry of poor fouls and putting the Port Jefferson team in the bonus early in the fourth quarter. However, even at the line the Lady Royals failed to produce, going 5-14 in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Whalers finished the regular season in third place with a record of 7-5 in League VIII, stumbling into the playoffs after they lost their last two league games.
This playoff win on Friday helped make up for the Lady Whalers’ disappointing performance in the team’s Senior Game, the last regular season home game, against the Stony Brook Bears on Monday, Feb. 13.
The team will face off against the undefeated first seed playoff team, the Southold Lady Settlers, on a neutral site at St. Josephs College in Patchogue. The game, played for the Suffolk County Class C title, will be held on Monday, February 20 at 8 p.m.