By Gavin Menu
Pierson forward Forrest Loesch, who a year ago hit a shot at the buzzer to beat Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class C Championship game, cut right to the chase in a rematch of the Class C final last Thursday, February 14 with a torrid scoring pace that had the Bears clinging to a 26-22 lead at halftime.
And then, in the blink of an eye, the wheels fell off for the Whalers.
Stony Brook (15-3) outscored Pierson 31-5 in the second half, including a 15-1 run to start the third quarter, and got revenge in the form of a 57-27 win that gave the Bears this year’s Class C title.
The Whalers saw their season come to a disappointing end with an overall record of 12-8.
“We were thinking about this game since last summer,” Stony Brook head coach Mike Hickey said. “Pierson is a terrific team. Normally when you play someone in the playoffs, I would go and scout the team. We didn’t have to do that with them. We know them very well so it just came down to execution.”
Junior big man Andrew Daniel led the Bears with 15 points and 13 rebounds while senior Marco Masakayan had 13 points and eight assists.
With the win, Stony Brook advanced to the Long Island Class C Championship game on March 5 and also played Bridgehampton in the Suffolk C-D game yesterday, February 20, at Patchogue-Medford, with the winner having advanced to the Small Schools championship game this Saturday, February 23.
Pierson, meanwhile, will look to the offseason and the return of both Loesch and starting point guard Ian Barrett. Loesch led Pierson with 16 points against Stony Brook, but only had three in the second half. Barrett was held to just two points and Pierson as a team shot 2-for-26 in the second half.
“At halftime I walked into the locker room feeling pretty good,” Pierson head coach Dan White said. “But you have to be able to make more than two buckets. Obviously Stony Brook’s defense was good, but it wasn’t 2-for-26 good. We missed a lot of shots that we normally would make, and what ends up happening is, it’s like a disease. Instead of just playing Stony Brook, you’re playing the rim.”
Senior Jake Bennett, playing in the final game of an outstanding season, scored seven points and fouled out with 4:27 remaining.
Joey Butts, Patrick Sloane and Jackson Marienfeld, who were all key components to the rotation, will graduate this spring along with reserves Aiden Kirrane and Liam Doyle.
“I feel bad for them because they had very high expectations,” White said when asked about the senior class. “With regard to the seniors, they restored Pierson basketball. They went 21-7 in the league, went to back-to-back county finals and won one of them, so they were successful.”
White said all his players improved individually from last season, but that the team as a whole was not as strong as last year, mostly because of two injuries suffered by Butts and Barrett. White said that Butts broke his arm last summer and as a result has little feeling in three of his fingers. The senior guard, who was All-League as a junior, struggled shooting the ball this season and finished with just two points in last week’s championship game.
Barrett hurt his knee early this year and sat out half the season while the rest of the team continued on without their floor leader. Eventually Barrett returned to the line-up, but an offense that once excelled with him as the point guard never fully came back up to speed.
“We were very dependent on Ian Barrett last year,” White said. “But when you’re out for two months, not only was he not getting better, but we became a different team. Between Joey’s injury and Ian’s injury, we weren’t as good as we were last year.”
Speaking on Tuesday after having several days to reflect on the season, White said his biggest challenge going into the off-season will be to develop some defensive talent to replace the graduating seniors, especially Bennett, who White said was the best defender in League VIII this year. Pierson’s junior varsity team was undefeated in league play this season so the school does have some up-and-coming talent to match with Barrett, Loesch and the rest of the returning players from this year’s team.
“I think we’ll be better offensively because Ian and Forrest can have big years next year,” White said. “But we are light years worse defensively. When you lose Jake, Joey, Patrick and Jackson, all of who could shut down a big man or a guard on any given night, they’re going to be hard to replace. And that’s up to me this off-season.”