By Benito Vila
“The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner.” So states the thirteenth of basketball’s original thirteen rules.
Much has changed since December 1891 when Dr. James Naismith penned and posted those at a YMCA in Springfield, Mass. That rule, though, still holds, the ball going in the basket making the difference in who comes off the court with a win.
While it may seem elementary, how the ball gets in is a matter of teamwork, positioning, timing and perseverance. Winning teams tend to create openings for one another close to the basket and finish on those shots; losing teams often miss out on those very same chances.
The Pierson varsity boys’ basketball team re-discovered those rules and realities in dropping its League VIII opener Tuesday on Shelter Island, the Indians holding off the Whalers, 40-31.
According to Whaler coach Christian Johns, the difference in the game came down to “the last few possessions. We had opportunities in the paint but didn’t finish. We drove [at the basket] well all game and had our chances from the free throw line but we didn’t get those points.”
By shooting 10-for-29 from the line, the Whalers allowed the Indians to recover, regroup and get away with what Coach Johns called, “a hard-played, physical game.” Pierson was down one at the half and three after the third period, but Shelter Island pulled away at the end of the fourth, their shots finding the hole and dropping through the net.
Leading the Indians was Mike Mundy, who finished with fourteen points. Luke Kirrane topped the Whaler scoring, also tossing in 14. Skyler Loesch added nine and T.J. Arreguin four. Sean Hartnett and Dylan Hmielenski each posted a pair.
Despite the outcome, Coach Johns remains enthusiastic about his team. “I’m proud of the way we played and I love how we battled under the boards. I’m also proud of the way we got into the paint. We just gotta make those fouls shot.”
“Overall, defensively, we didn’t do a bad job. We kept them to 40. What we have to work on is our transition defense and our efficiency and shot selection on offense.”
Looking to tomorrow’s home opener, Coach Johns expects to match up against “an extremely tough” team from Southold. Tip-off is set for 6:15 p.m. Friday in the Pierson gym; the Whaler faithful are expected to fill the bleachers to near capacity.
The Settlers come in 1-0 in league and 3-0 overall, wins over Bridgehampton (41-34, Tuesday), Rocky Point and Mattituck making for a good start.
The year-end school break interrupts the Whaler’s game schedule, but it gives the team (0-1 in league, 0-4 overall) more time to practice as a unit; league play resumes at Ross January 5.
In the meantime, there is a non-league contest scheduled at Pierson, December 30, against Mercy, keeping the Whalers competitive; the game tips-off at 6:15 p.m. that Wednesday.
Stops & Shots
The Pierson JV had a better time of it Tuesday, besting Shelter Island, 44 to 35. Coach Tortorella was pleased how the team finished, getting “defensive stops and hitting key free throws to close out the game.”
But Coach Tortorella cautioned, “We need to play much, much better than this. Our defense was average, at best, and we need to really focus on basic things like positioning, communication and close-outs.”
“Three or four players were in foul trouble all game and we need to be more disciplined and not put ourselves in that situation. Offensively, we need to get out in transition a lot quicker and be more effective with our decisions in the half-court.”
Coach Tortorella also liked how the team “fought through” its more discouraging moments, working hard as a unit until their game came together at the end.