By Jacob Sisson
It has been a tough season thus far for the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers boys’ basketball team, having endured four losses in their first four games of the 2010-2011 season. The Whalers ended 2010 0-1 in Suffolk County league eight play and 0-4 overall, having dropped their only league matchup to Southold, as well as two non-league matchups to East Hampton and one to Hampton Bays. Despite the tough start to the season, Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Dan White is still optimistic about his team’s chances at a playoff berth. Making the playoffs this year will be quite the accomplishment for the first-year coach, after the Whalers finished the 2009-2010 season with a 2-16 record. “When you go 2-16 the previous year and then all of a sudden you’re in a position to win games, it’s a totally different mentality. We’re trying to get through that and when we do, we can do some damage.” “Our goals are still intact. Our goal has been to make the playoffs and that’s still the goal. We’re better right now than where we started. We have proved we can play with good teams. The team still has their goal and they still believe in it.” Pierson/Bridgehampton’s season started with a pair of tough games against East Hampton (3-5, 0-2), and it was clear that while the wins didn’t come, the Whalers were finding their identity as a team. The Whalers kept the scoreline manageable at 44-33 in the teams’ first meeting, then pushed into overtime in their second, dropping the second contest 53-51. The second East Hampton game on December 12 provided coach White with his first real insight into what the Whalers need to do to run with the league’s elite. “In that East Hampton game, the guys got out to a lead and started to think: ‘oh my gosh, we can win this!’ But then, all of a sudden, they get nervous. Instead of trying to keep all the doors open, they get nervous. They’ve got to understand that when you’re in a position to win, you have to really put the nail in the coffin, but that’s a learning experience.” White does know that there are things the Whalers are doing well and things the Whalers can work on to improve their playoff chances. “When we make a commitment to get the ball inside, and when we make a commitment to playing good half court defense, that’s what we hang our hat on. Whenever we get away from that we start to struggle a bit. We’ve also got to become better at taking care of the ball and doing a better job of looking out for each other on the weak side. We need to do a better job, too, of playing for each other on offense. We’ve started to do it, but we have to do it all the time.” White points to four individuals who have really carried the team when it comes to production and leadership. “Seamus Doyle, Skyler Loesch, Jake Weingartner and Patrick Sloane have stepped up as far as scoring, being leaders and playing the majority of our minutes. They’ve also been really good on defense. We’ve really been relying on them.” “Jake Weingartner has come back and been really important for me this year. He didn’t play last year, but played varsity as a Sophomore, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to fit in. He’s a smart kid and he knows the game of basketball and he’s been great.” Despite two stinging losses to close out 2010, confidence in the Whalers’ camp is still high. Though it won’t show up on the score sheet, the Whalers took home a scrimmage victory against Sayville, which has given the team vital momentum ahead of their first games of the new year. “We went to Sayville and got a win in the scrimmage. On top of that, we had a really good week of practice. We may face our toughest games coming right out of the break, but I think we’re ready.” “We’ve got Greenport, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson coming up. Those are the three best teams in the league, so that’s going to be a difficult run for us. We’ll be competitive if we do the things we need to do. We’re going to have to do some damage against some of the lesser teams in the league to put ourselves in position to make the playoffs. The Whalers get their season back underway on Friday with a league eight matchup against Greenport (5-0, 2-0). Greenport’s two league eight victories came against Bridgehampton (0-5, 0-1) – a 66-34 blowout on December 15 – and against Southold (3-3, 1-1) – a 61-54 victory on Tuesday. Pierson/Bridgehampton will need to work hard to stop Greenport’s Dantre Langhorne, who scored 27 points each in his last two games and hasn’t scored fewer than 20 points once this season.