By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
The shock from last season’s second-half collapse against Stony Brook in the Suffolk County boys basketball Class C final is still fresh in the minds of the Pierson faithful. What was a tight game last February quickly turned into a second-half blowout and the careers of six seniors, including Jake Bennett, Joey Butts, Patrick Sloane, Jackson Marienfeld, Aiden Kirrane and Liam Doyle, came to an abrupt end.
But with a new season comes new hope and the Whalers this year will rely on three key players and a host of reserves as they look to navigate their season schedule, which kicks off at East Hampton with a non-league game on December 7 at 5 p.m.
The Whalers will once again compete in League VIII against the likes of Stony Brook, Southold, Greenport and local rival Bridgehampton, which will host Pierson in the league opener on December 10 at 6 p.m.
Pierson seniors Forrest Loesch and Ian Barrett, the only two returning starters from last year, along with junior Robbie Evjen will be the driving force for the Whalers this season. Loesch was the team’s leading scorer at 18 points per game and prior to an injury that off-set his junior year, Barrett was playing like one of the top guards in the league. According to head coach Dan White, Evjen gained 20 pounds during the offseason and will be relied on for rebounding and to anchor the team’s defense in the paint.
“Ian and Forrest being seniors, and with Robbie stepping in, I think we’ll be much more effective offensively,” said White, who enters his fourth season at the helm of the program. “It gives me a little more freedom defensively.”
White said last year’s team won primarily with defense and struggled, at times, on the offensive end, which was made apparent during the Whalers’ second-half collapse against Stony Brook in the county final, where they made just two baskets.
“Forrest’s jump shot is a lot better this year,” White said about his leading scorer. “He was in foul trouble last year because he was almost too aggressive. And with Ian, he’s got a gear that not too many kids have in our league. He got off to a great start last year and I’m just praying he can stay healthy.”
Senior guards Cooper Marienfeld, Micah Hemby and Garret Potter will contribute this season in the backcourt while Nick Stevens and Drew Harvey, seniors with good athletic ability, could also play important roles off the bench.
A strong group of players from the junior varsity team, which went 14-0 last season, will move up to varsity this year, including juniors Duncan Bennett, Ben Kushner and Keith Ellis, as well as sophomore Andrew Roberts and freshman Sean Sloane, Patrick Sloane’s younger brother who led the JV in scoring last year.
White said Stony Brook will once again be favored to win the League VIII and Suffolk Class C titles, especially after picking up two strong players during the offseason. Greenport will move back down to Class D this year to compete for that county crown with Smithtown Christian, Shelter Island and Bridgehampton.