By Benito Vila
Sometimes it just seems like there’s nothing you can do. Balls bounce the other way, calls go there, too, and the next thing you know, you’re down again.
That’s how losing streaks work, the worst part not coming in preparing or in packing up but in that sinking feeling that comes when the game first starts to get away. It feels unfair and unreal, as if the other team is playing by other rules.
What it comes down to most often is that the other team is getting extra chances, chances that come from your own mistakes and lapses. It makes you practice harder and want to get better faster.
That’s what the Pierson varsity boys’ basketball team has been through of late, struggling through a pair of one-sided losses this week and seeing its League VIII mark fall to 0-5 and its overall record go to 0-9.
The totals have been tough to take on paper, Greenport leaving Pierson with a 60-27 win Friday and the Whalers coming home from Stony Brook with a 68-42 loss Wednesday.
The Whalers hosted the similarly winless Smithtown Christian Crusaders last night looking to change their fortunes. The suddenly resurgent Bridgehampton Bees are on their schedule for tomorrow at 4:30 p.m., with Shelter Island due in Tuesday at 6:15 p.m.
Inside the Numbers
While the most recent outcomes have been one-sided, the Whalers have shown their grit in hustling to the final buzzer and winning both fourth quarters.
Many have wondered what has kept the Whalers from their first win. There is remarkable hustle and the athleticism on the team, but all that has not been enough to overcome ineffective ball handling and inconsistent outside shooting. Pierson’s push for points has often been cut short by turnovers of one sort or another and single-shot possessions.
The Whalers have also found themselves having poor third quarters their last two times out, the Porters pounding them 14-3 and the Bears 16-2. Those point totals have turned halftime holes into big-time blowouts, Pierson down 30 going into the final frames.
Emerging from all the effort is an improving rapport between the Whalers getting the most minutes, a seven-man rotation led by guard Tyler Gilbride and forward Skyler Loesch. Those two have seen the most touches on the ball, with Luke Kirrane, Seamus Doyle and Sean Hartnett improving underneath and Nolan O’Brien and Dylan Hmielenski often joining Gilbride up top.
Coach John Tortorella, who coached the varsity boys at home last Friday in the wake of Coach Christian Johns’ suspension, said afterwards, “You can’t question their effort; they fight; they put in the work. Things are going to turn around for them.”
The Milk Man Delivers
Coach Tortorella has led the Whaler JV to a 4-1 league mark, the sole loss coming last Friday as the Greenport JV turned a 16-5 second-quarter run into the difference in the game, the final score 46-35 at the buzzer.
The Porters took a 36-20 lead in the third before the Whalers re-grouped, coming within ten twice, but not able to come any closer as the size, speed and shooting of the visitors left them humbled at home.
The outcome was a bit different on Monday, Coach Tortorella’s team making an improbable comeback in the last minute to overtake the Stony Brook JV, 31-30.
The game started off with the Bears building a 10-2 lead in the first quarter. With three minutes left in the fourth, the Whalers were still down five but that was not enough to keep them from giving in, the team stepping up to make big plays.
As Coach Tortorella explained it, “Our half-court defense was great, maybe the best we have played yet. We were bumping cutters off their line, we were disciplined in our help positioning and we really did a good job of denying the post. On top of that, we drew three or four charges tonight. It was a tremendous effort.”
Looking at the key moments in the comeback, Coach Tortorella said, “Raleigh Gordley’s basket with less than two minutes left was huge; it gave us a chance. Without that bucket, the game was over.”
“With 10 seconds left and no timeouts, we had the ball down two points. The boys were patient and did not rush anything. Jackson Marienfeld did a great job of staying poised and not forcing a shot. He got it to Liam Doyle who took one dribble to the corner and pulled up to bury a three at the buzzer for the win.”
That set the boys into a celebration that even the coach enjoyed, noting, “No matter how you play and what you need to work on, it’s great for the team to experience a game like this. The emotion and energy was great and we fought hard until the end.”
The thrill of the win carried over to the varsity players, who were able to set aside their difficulties and high-five and carry on with the JV. The bus ride home heard the last shot described over and over, with the nickname “Milk Man” becoming Doyle’s new moniker.
The JV plays next on Tuesday, hosting Shelter Island at 4:30 p.m. before going to Southold on Friday.