By Gavin Menu
Separated by just four miles of turnpike, students from the Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton school districts share programs and sports teams and generally know each other by first names. But when it comes to boys basketball, the Whalers and Killer Bees are archrivals.
Playing in front of a raucous home crowd on Spirit Night, Pierson withstood a courageous effort from a depleted Bridgehampton team Friday night, winning 58-44 to improve to a perfect 6-0 atop the League VIII standings.
Junior forward Forrest Loesch continued his torrid scoring pace, leading the Whalers with 25 points, his season best. Jackson Marienfeld came off the bench to score 11 points while playing strong defense against Bridgehampton’s best player, Jason Hopson, who finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter after the game was already out of reach.
Pierson senior Jake Bennett finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds despite being limited by foul trouble.
The win sets up a showdown for first place at unbeaten Stony Brook on Tuesday, a game that has long been circled on the Whalers’ calendar.
The Killer Bees, who had to forfeit their previous game against Shelter Island because their roster was depleted by sickness and academic struggles, fell to 2-4 in league play as a result of the loss.
“I’m very proud to be part of a Bridgehampton-Pierson game,” said Whalers head coach Dan White, who has transformed the program since arriving from upstate New York in 2010. “Four years ago I didn’t even know where Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor were.”
The game was physical and intense from the opening tip-off and as a result two key players for Pierson, Bennett and Patrick Sloane, got into early foul trouble and sat for long stretches of the opening half. The Killer Bees were forced to play the last two minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half without their tenacious freshman forward Josh Lamison, who was tossed from the game after he threw Bennett to floor when the two players got tangled up fighting for a rebound.
“That was a tough call because both kids locked arms and the ref just saw the end of the play,” said Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson, who was extremely upset following the call, which occurred with 2:43 remaining in the second quarter.
Bridgehampton’s remaining players, which included just five regulars, bounced back in the wake of the ejection and trimmed the lead to 27-22 going into halftime following five straight points by freshman point guard Tylik Furman, who finished the game with 14.
What hurt the Killer Bees in the end was their foul shooting. The team as a whole went 8-for-26 from the line and missed 13 foul shots in the first half alone. But still, they kept the game somewhat close, even as they wore down against Pierson’s deep bench.
“I’m so proud of them and the way they hung in there,” Johnson said after the game had ended and he had a chance to speak with his players in the locker room. “Now we have to grow from it. We’ve been talking all week about character. Do we feel sorry for ourselves or do we come back and work harder?”
Loesch, who is averaging 21 points per game in league play, dominated the second quarter with 11 points and started the third with three gliding layups through traffic to push Pierson’s lead to 12 at 39-27. Midway through the third Hopson and Sloane were called for double-technical fouls, giving them four fouls apiece, and Johnson was called for a technical from the bench during the ensuing melee. Joey Butts hit the two foul shots and Loesch scored again to cap a 20-9 third quarter that put the game out of reach.
“We were out of sync early, but we were patient and our defense was our backbone, allowing just 44 points is pretty good, “ said White, who had already turned his attention to the upcoming game with Stony Brook. “I told them at halftime that we’d be in trouble against Stony Brook if we played like that.”
White said he enjoyed the electric atmosphere and said the physical and intense play is expected in that kind of environment.
“But we have to focus our intensity on what matters,” he added.