By Benito Vila
When things come together for team, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. And so it was last night as the Pierson boys’ basketball team prevailed 52-31 over Smithtown Christian to close out a tumultuous season by earning a berth in the Suffolk County Class C tournament.
A pre-game ceremony honored Whaler seniors Casey Crowley and Ryan Miller and the pair combined with junior captain Joey Dowling to put Pierson up 6-0 in the first quarter. A 15-2 run in the second quarter pushed the lead to 25-3, Miller and Dowling making the most of their opportunities.
Dowling led the charge in the second half, scoring eight to give him 19 points for the game; he was also a dominant force underneath, pulling down 16 rebounds. Miller came away with 13 points and Crowley five.
The win in the season finale, pushed Pierson’s league mark to 7-7 and took the sting out of losses to first-place 14-0 Greenport and second place 11-2 Stony Brook earlier in the week. The 73-45 loss to the Porters came at home last Friday, all-time Long Island scoring leader Ryan Creighton posting 28 points despite the tenacious defensive efforts of Tyler Gilbride and Skyler Loesch.
Monday found the Whalers in Stony Brook, down 17-7 to the Bears after the first quarter. Although Pierson closed the deficit to two in the third, the home team held on and won 48-39, making the game against the Crusaders last night a crucial “must win” if the Whalers were to play on.
Tuesday in Port Jefferson
As the county’s number four seed, Pierson travels to number one-seeded Port Jefferson Tuesday to play the Royals, who went 10-4 in League VII. The number three-seeded Mercy Monarchs (9-5 in League VIII) make their way to number two Stony Brook Tuesday. The winners of those games meet in Longwood at 3 p.m. next Friday, February 20 for the Class C championship.
In facing the Royals, the Whalers will match up against a team that has sharp outside shooters and strong inside play. Port Jefferson averaged over 60 points per game in League VII, while surrendering just over 40. Pierson meanwhile averaged just over 50 points per game and gave up 40 in League VIII.
In Friday’s loss, Pierson faced a quick and physical Greenport team that used a defensive press to pick up points on turnovers and steals. The Porters took a 17-6 lead in the first quarter, but a pair of Crowley free-throws and Dowling buckets underneath with six minutes left in the second cut that lead to seven, 19-12. That run was undone by a 12-2 spurt by the Porters that gave the visitors a 31-14 halftime lead.
The second half saw Pierson score 31 but it was not enough to keep pace with the Porters’ attack, which scored 42. Crowley led the Whalers in points with 14, Dowling adding 12 and Luke Kirrane 8.
Pierson boys’ varsity coach Christian Johns said afterwards, “Our goal defensively was to make them earn points in the half-court. We tried to shorten the game and limit their transition baskets. I thought our intensity was there right from the opening tip and really didn’t drop off. Our guys definitely came forward and got after them. Obviously, Greenport is an extremely talented and athletic team that will make you pay for even the smallest mistake, their undefeated record shows that.”
In describing the loss to Stony Brook, Coach Johns explained the challenge his team faced from the start. “They hit a couple three-point shots in the first that got them going and forced us to play from behind. After we adjusted defensively and got the ball into our shooters’ hands, the game was much more even.”
Â “Early in the third, we were within two but couldn’t seem to narrow the gap. They are a very fundamentally sound team and when they have a lead they are able to work the clock to maintain it. Both this game and Greenport were solid tests heading into our final game of the regular season.” Dowling led the scoring Monday with 14, Crowley contributed 11 and Jake Weingartner six.