By Gavin Menu
May Evjen was in foul trouble, playing somewhat sheepishly for one of Pierson High School’s most aggressive athletes. The restraint paid off in the end, though, and Evjen was on the floor during a final frantic minute in Saturday’s non-league game against Center Moriches, where the Lady Whalers escaped with a 28-25 victory, their first of the new season.
“It’s nice to get this win against a bigger school,” head coach Kevin Barron said afterwards. “Hopefully it gives us a confidence boost going into our next few games.”
And indeed it did. The Lady Whalers pulled out another nail-biting win on Tuesday, this time a 53-51 victory over rival Port Jefferson to kick off the League VIII season.
Seniors Bridget Canavan and Kasey Gilbride scored 16 points apiece to lead Pierson (2-1 overall, 1-0 in league), while freshman Isabel Peters had her best varsity game yet, scoring eight points. Trailing by one with just 12 seconds to go in the game, Canavan drilled a three-pointer to put Pierson ahead for good.
The Lady Whalers will play on the road for the first time this season today, December 12, at Mattituck at 4:30 p.m. before returning home for two straight home league games against Mercy on December 13 and Stony Brook on December 17, both at 4:30 p.m.
It turned out that Saturday’s come-from-behind win was a harbinger of things to come. Trailing by 10 at halftime against Center Moriches, the Lady Whalers were forced into a full court press in the second half, where Gilbride fouled out with 4:27 remaining.
Pierson trailed by nine after the third quarter but with its frenetic full-court press leading to steals and turnovers, the Lady Whalers slowly chipped away at the lead while allowing only two points to Center Moriches during the entire fourth quarter.
Canavan, who led all scorers with 13 points, hit her first big three of the week with two minutes remaining to pull Pierson within two at 25-23. Evjen and Erica Selyukova forced another turnover on the ensuing inbounds play and Evjen was fouled before knocking down a free throw that pulled the Lady Whalers within a point.
Evjen made another key defensive play and stole an inbounds pass with a minute remaining, and then hit a 15-foot jump shot with 34 seconds left to put Pierson ahead, 26-25, for the first time since the first quarter.
Canavan hit two shots from the foul line to ice the game for the Lady Whalers.
When asked why his team played only half-court defense during the first half, Barron said he was hoping the added rest would improve the team’s offensive production. After falling behind by 10 points, he brought back the full court press, which, he said, may have to be the Lady Whalers’ calling card this season.
“I wanted to come out today and be relaxed,” Barron said, acknowledging that it was the team’s pressure defense that ultimately led to the win on Saturday. “But it looks like [the press] is going to be our thing the rest of the year.”