By Benito Vila
The sound is unmistakable, a hustling age-old cadence coming out of the gym. Boys’ basketball is back, balls banging out a heavy bass line, sneakers running up a mid-court melody, squeaking at every stop and turn.
The year’s Whalers come in twelve strong, Steve Early, Luke Kirrane and Jeff Schimmer representing the seniors and Seamus Doyle, Skyler Loesch, Dylan Hmielenski, Jake Weingartner, Brook Hartnett and Tyler Gilbride, the juniors. Sophomores Nolan O’Brien and Sean Hartnett have their work cut out for them in finding time in the rotation.
Even though a shoulder injury to Early provided a setback last week, coach Christian Johns likes what he’s seen of the varsity in its first conditioning go-round. Already looking ahead, Coach Johns acknowledged, “Our most important expectation for the season is to play hard-nosed and smart team basketball on both ends of the floor, and to improve each and every day we walk into practice.”
Last year’s team saw a tremendous amount of turmoil on and off the court but came on late in the season to finish 7-7 and play for the county title. While a loss to Port Jefferson ended the careers of guards Casey Crowley and Ryan Miller, it provided Kirrane, Doyle Loesch, Hmielenski, Weingartner and Gilbride a sense of play at another level.
It has been 15 years since a Pierson boys’ team has taken a county hoops title, the banner in the gym watching every move these boys make, hoping that streak comes to an end. While League VIII has seen Ryan Creighton graduate, Greenport remains strong as does Stony Brook, Southold and Mercy.
With Bridgehampton, Shelter Island and Ross on the schedule, the Whalers will have plenty to play for locally, with a trip to Smithtown Christian being no picnic in any sport.
A scrimmage in Center Moriches on Monday opens the pre-season, with tournament games in Islip Wednesday and Friday providing an even tougher proving ground. A non-league contest in East Hampton December 8 is the final tune-up before the league opener on Shelter Island December 15.
The Whalers home debut is set for December 18, Southold coming in for a 6:15 p.m. start.
Bridgehampton Killer Bees
The black and gold banners in Bridgehampton are hopeful, too, the Class D title making its way elsewhere the last nine years after a dominating run dating back to the late 1970’s
Bridgehampton coach Carl Johnson is happy with what his team has brought into the Hive, the school’s one-of-a-kind gym. “We have some length, four guys are 6’-3” or taller. We’re also athletic, so defense and rebounding should be our strong suits.”
Another plus for Coach Johnson is the experience on his team, all his starters returning, led by top scorers Ainsley Wyche and Cesar Banados. Jamal Hines, Nathan Hochstedler and Evan Marzan have all returned in top form, with the team seeing a major improvement from sophomore Canaan Campbell, who Coach Johnson described as “our X factor.”
Coming off the bench will be Spencer Cannon and Brandon Jenkins, two over six-foot, two-hundred-pounds-plus forwards that will provide some size underneath. The team’s most vocal leader has once again proven to be Brendan Hemby who Coach Johnson claims “brings a special element to everything we do.”
Looking at the league, Coach Johnson predicts a competitive and intense level of play. “There’s not going to be a day off.” Already acknowledging the Killer Bees’ top Class D rival, he added, “We’re getting ready for Greenport [the home opener, December 22]. We have to beat them two out of three,” referencing the county title.
The Killer Bees begin scrimmaging next week and tip-off their season at Southold December 15. A tournament at Southampton the weekend of December 18-19 leads them into their home debut against the Porters.
Ladies On the Court
The Pierson Lady Whalers make their season debut Monday, heading to East Hampton for a 5:15 p.m. scrimmage. Next Friday the girls open play at home, Southampton here for a non-league match-up at 5:45 p.m. Away games at Mattituck December 7 and Rocky Point December 12 close out the preseason.
The Lady Whalers open league play in the Pierson gym December 15, Shelter Island in for a 5:45 p.m. tip-off.