By Jacob Sisson
Down 3 entering the fourth quarter, the Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers (2-6, 2-0) turned to a player they have been relying on all year: Sarah Barrett. The senior guard did not disappoint, scoring all of The Lady Whaler’s seven points in the fourth quarter to lead the team to a 43-41 victory over the Mercy Monarchs (2-4, 1-1). None of her points were as clutch as the two free throws she hit with 15 seconds remaining that gave the Lady Whalers their final advantage.
Barrett’s final push capped a season high 23-point night. The guard added four steals on a night where ball control was fleeting and turnovers were common. As a team, the Lady Whalers collected 14 steals, with senior forwards Samantha James and Kaci Koehne as well as senior guard Amanda Busiello adding three steals each.
James herself had an outstanding night, adding a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
“We started out like a house on fire,” said Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Dennis Case. “Mercy stayed with us all game. Our biggest problem all year has been consistency. We made a lot of errors in the game, many of them unforced.”
The Lady Whalers were aided that for each period of sloppy play they endured, Mercy seemed to respond in turn. Much of the credit has to go to the Lady Whaler defense, which constantly applied pressure and harassed Mercy’s ball handlers.
“Down the stretch, we played great defense.” That defense was the real key to Pierson/Bridgehampton’s victory, as they held the visitors to only two points in the fourth quarter. “We needed to overplay [Mercy forward] Amy Boden so she couldn’t power up to the basket. Kaci Koehne shut her down.”
Koehne and fellow forward Samantha James each added two blocked shots to the defensive effort. None were more important than the latter’s swat with 4 seconds left that ended a threatening Mercy possession, allowing the Lady Whalers to run out the clock for the win.
The game was a tense, back-and-forth affair, with no team able to assert their hold on possession. Person/Bridgehampton held a slim 26-23 lead at halftime thanks in large part to the work of James, who scored 10 of her 12 points and had 10 of her 13 rebounds in the first half. Also lending well to the cause was sophomore guard Emily Hinz, who had six points and three assists in the first 16 minutes.
Mercy roared back in the third quarter, outpacing the Lady Whalers 16-10, and entering the fourth quarter up 39-36.
As if “clutch” was her middle name, Barrett sprung into action. Barrett’s intensity helped inspire the defense to clamp down and take the wind out of Mercy’s sails. After a Mercy free throw, Barrett hit a three-pointer to draw the Lady Whalers within one. A jumper from the foul line halfway through the fourth quarter gave the Lady Whalers their first lead in the fourth. Another free throw drew Mercy level with just under four minutes remaining.
The score would stand at 41-41 for what felt like an eternity as both teams struggled to score. Mercy was trying to assemble their offense when the quick hands of Hinz knocked the ball into the path of Barrett. Without a second thought, Barrett took off to the basket. While her layup didn’t fall, she was fouled and went to the line for two free throws.
Barrett’s first free throw fell much to the delight of Pierson/Bridgehampton supporters.
“After Sarah made the first free throw, I called a timeout to set up our defense. If she had missed, we would have to play solid defense and not foul. After she iced the second shot, we knew we would have to put pressure on their guards to protect against the three-pointer.”
Mercy managed to get the ball inside as the seconds ticked away, Mercy had one last look at the basket until James arrived to remove the threat. While Barrett’s free throws put the Lady Whalers ahead, James sealed the deal.
As the final buzzer sounded, Case pumped his fist with delight. Case had pointed out earlier in the season that Mercy would be one of Suffolk County league VIII’s main title contenders and this game would be key to their championship hopes.
The win wasn’t just about the performances of one individual. The victory came down to hard work and determination of the entire Lady Whalers squad.
“The key to the win was total teamwork and focus in the final minute of play,” said Case.
Extend Lead in League
For the second game in a row, senior guard Sarah Barrett hit a game winning shot with less than 30 seconds to go Tuesday night, extending the Lady Whalers’ lead at the top of Suffolk County league VIII standings. Barrett’s heroics with 30 seconds to go put the Lady Whalers (3-6, 3-0) up 35-33 against the Stony Brook Bears (2-3, 1-1) in what was a matchup of the league’s top two teams. It was a defensive struggle, as both teams found offense hard to come by. Neither team scored in the double digits until the third quarter when each team had 10 points. Despite the low scoring game, Barrett once again led the team with 15 points while Samantha James had 12.