By Jacob Sisson
The Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers’ girls basketball season came to an end on Tuesday in the same way it did one year ago, with a loss to top-seeded Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class “C” championship tournament. This year, The Lady Whalers’ playoff run ended with a 43-29 defeat at Saint Joseph’s College in the Class “C” championship game.
Instead of last year’s semi-final defeat, the Lady Whalers pushed their way into the county championship game for the first time in the six years that Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Dennis Case has been at the helm. The game was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that had beaten the Bears once this season, and had the confidence and momentum to win a second time.
“We had a very successful season,” said Case. “It’s the first time we’ve been to the county final, at least in the six years I’ve been coaching. We’ve been to the playoffs those six years, but it’s the first time we’ve been to the final.
“We made a good showing. We played hard; we never gave up the whole game. We played hard from the tip-off to the very end of the game. You can’t complain at all. The kids played with a lot of intensity. That’s the way they’ve played all year.
“We lost a couple games because of a few different things, a couple times because of shooting, but overall we did fine.”
The Lady Whalers picked the wrong night to lose their shooting touch. While the Lady Whalers were successful in playing intense defense and fighting for every ball – the team had 11 steals, six of which came from senior guard Sarah Barrett – they could not match that level in their shooting.
Collectively, the team shot 11 of 58 from the field, including a paltry 20 percent from inside the arc and only hitting 1 of 8 three-point attempts. While Stony Brook was enjoying wild success from the free-throw stripe, Pierson/Bridgehampton struggled, hitting only 6 of 13 attempts.
“We had cold shooting, that’s for sure. We played very good defense, but we just couldn’t finish. We had a tough time putting the ball in the hole. On top of that, we just didn’t shoot well from the foul line. We must have missed eight or ten foul shots. But that’s the way the game goes.”
While the Lady Whalers attempted to mount a comeback in the second half, things became dire when Stony Brook was given shot after shot from the free-throw line. As a team, Stony Brook hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final quarter to put the game on ice and give them their wide winning margin.
It was a sloppy start to the game that seemed to set the tempo for the Lady Whalers. Only eight points were scored in the first quarter, with the score tied 4-4 after the first period.
The second quarter brought little relief for the Lady Whalers, as their shooting woes continued. The team went 3 of 16 from the field (the Lady Whalers shot 5 of 29 in the half), and could only add another seven points to their total. Stony Brook, on the other hand, had an explosive quarter. Driven by the efforts of forward Brannon Burke, Stony Brook scored 15 points to push their lead out to a halftime advantage of 19-11. Burke finished her night with 26 points, 11 from free-throws, and was singled out by coach Case as Pierson/Bridgehampton’s main adversary.
Sarah Barrett began to heat up in the second half, and tried to will her team back into championship consideration. Key steals and subsequent fast breaks seemed to put the wind back in the Lady Whalers’ sails for a time, and brought them back to within six with just 3:50 left in the fourth quarter.
It was not to be, however, as it began to rain Stony Brook free-throws that dug Pierson/Bridgehampton into a hole it could not climb out of.
The loss, however, was not for lack of effort, as the Lady Whalers defended doggedly to the last, and gave everything they had to break down a difficult Stony Brook defense. In the offensive half, the Stony Brook’s defense limited Barrett, Pierson/Bridgehampton’s top scorer, to eight points, while fellow seniors Amanda Busiello and Kaci Koehne finished their nights with six points each. Seniors Samantha James and Nina Hemby as well as sophomore Emily Hinz all had three points, with James hitting the team’s only three-pointer.
Koehne, Busiello and Barrett led the team in the rebounding category, with six each, on a night where Stony Brook’s height advantage left Pierson/Bridgehampton wanting. Koehne also had three blocks in an effort to disrupt Stony Brook’s shooting.
It was the end of a long road for Pierson/Bridgehampton’s five seniors who waved their final goodbyes to Lady Whalers fans. That elite group included Barrett, Busiello, Hemby, James and Koehne, who have grown and matured as a group both this season and earlier in their careers.
“We’re going to miss five seniors,” said Case of his stellar senior class. “We’re going to miss that group, that’s for sure. They’re all talented, so we’ll have to rebuild next year. But we’ll rebuild next year with four returning players, plus a bunch of kids from the JV, so hopefully we’ll be there.”