By Gavin Menu
Pierson boys basketball coach Dan White knows his players better than anyone. And he recognized earlier this week that they, and even he to a certain extent, had lost their way.
Pierson dropped a critical game at Greenport last Friday night, falling 59-49 to severely cripple their chance at a League VIII title this season. Undefeated Stony Brook continued to cruise with two more wins this week and could wrap up the league title before the teams meet in the regular-season finale on Friday, February 8.
“We had to get back to who we are,” White said on Tuesday following Pierson’s 53-34 win over visiting Shelter Island, which moved the team’s record to 9-2 in league play. “We got shocked at Greenport. I’ve been watching the tape and it became clear that we got away from what they’ve been doing their entire careers, which is being a solid half court defensive team.”
Junior point guard Ian Barrett returned this week after missing a large part of the season with a knee injury. He was slow to pick up the action against Greenport (7-3), scoring just four points, but came back on Tuesday and knocked down two early three pointers and scored 10 points while dishing out five assists as the Whalers cruised against Shelter Island.
“I’m not 100 percent, but I’m definitely starting to feel better,” Barrett said after the game. “It’s hard to get back into the groove, but I started to today. And everyone else has been playing so well, I just need to come in and fill that void.”
Junior forward Forrest Loesch, who has been an offensive force this season, cooled off a bit this week and finished with just five points against Shelter Island, which struggled to score and finished the first half with just 11 points and only three field goals.
Jake Bennett was much more assertive on offense over the last two games and led the Whalers in scoring against Greenport, with 16 points, and against Shelter Island with 15. Patrick Sloane had 10 rebounds in the game, as did Bennett, who fouled out with just over four minutes remaining, but not until he had tormented Shelter Island’s backcourt on the defensive end.
On Tuesday, White said if his team can force turnovers with its half-court defense and have Barrett back at full strength going into the playoffs, a possible third meeting with Stony Brook in the postseason could go either way.
“He’s probably about 60 percent right now, but we play Southold on Thursday and then we have four days off,” White said after the win over Shelter Island, in which Barrett also rolled his ankle and had to sit out for a short time. “As a team we had just eight turnovers tonight, so that shows me that he’s starting to fit back into where he belongs.”
Today’s game at Southold tips off at 6:15 p.m. Pierson will play at rival Bridgehampton on Tuesday, February 5 at 6 p.m. and will close out the regular season with a home game against Stony Brook on February 8 at 6:15 p.m.