By Andrew Rudansky
As the months grow colder, varsity basketball returns to the high school landscape around the East End. For the Pierson Whalers this means reconstituting a boys’ team that has seen eight players, two-thirds of its roster, lost to graduation.
Last year the Whalers finished the season with a disappointing 5-9 record, missing the “magic” .500 season and a spot in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs by just two games. Despite the losing record, head coach Dan White said that he wasn’t disappointed with the team’s effort.
“We were competitive in all of our games,” he said, giving special praise to Pierson alumni Tyler Gilbride, Jake Weingartner and Seamus Doyle.
White said those three players by themselves accounted for half of the team’s scoring last season.
White, now in his second year as skipper for the Whalers, and his assistant coaches Eric Anderson and John Tortorella, held the first team practice yesterday, November 16. They will have a lot of work to do forming a team around what few varsity players remain from last year.
Among those returning are seniors Ben Miller and Mike Heller. White said the tall forwards will be “key” to the offensive schemes that he has planned for this season.
“We will be counting on these two guys a lot,” said White, who said their experience will make them invaluable to the team’s cohesiveness.
Joining them from last year are Patrick Sloane and Jackson Marienfeld, two juniors who both play at the guard position. White said that he is leaning towards letting Sloane lead the team at point guard, while relying on Marienfeld for starting shooting guard or small forward.
White said that while these four will play a significant role in the Whaler’s game plan, he hasn’t set an official starting lineup and the incoming JV players will all have an opportunity to earn their own spot in the starting five.
These JV players will have to learn fast to compete at the varsity level, however White said that he is not overly concerned with the relative youth of his team.
“Our JV team was very strong last year,” said White.
He credits JV Head Coach Tortorella with creating several strong classes of future varsity players. Last year the team took home the JV league championship, and White thinks the new players can easily transition to the varsity level.
The league had its own shakeup this year when perennial top-dogs, the Port Jefferson Royals, moved up to league VII, leaving the field wide open for a number of teams.
Pierson’s first game of the season is a non-league matchup against the Sayville Golden Flashes on December 13. The Whalers’ first league game is at the Bridgehampton Killer Bees on December 16.