By Benito Vila
When a line drive three-pointer by Tyler Gilbride nailed the back of the net in the closing minutes Friday, Pierson boys’ varsity basketball team took a lead it never relinquished in topping playoff-bound Port Jefferson 55-52.
That home court victory, coming after the Whalers were down nine at the half, provided a measure of redemption for a Pierson squad that found itself down 24-7 and 35-12 in losing to the Royals on the road three weeks ago.
Inspired by their comeback, the Whalers winning ways continued Monday in besting the Bridgehampton Killer Bees 48-34 in the season’s home finale. The two-game streak improves Pierson’s mark to 4-9 in League VIII, with Wednesday’s match-up on Shelter Island closing a campaign marked by narrow losses early and better team play of late.
The Killer Bees meanwhile have struggled with injuries all season, Bridgie fans seeing their team fall towards the bottom of the league at 2-11, with the final game on the schedule set for Wednesday in Southold.
The Killer Bees coming in to play Pierson Monday were better skilled and more single-mined than the team that let the Whalers leave “The Hive” with a 63-50 win a month ago.
Down 19-13 at the half, these Bees battled back to tie the score at 23 with three minutes remaining in the third.
Panic and dismay spreading among the Whaler faithful, the Pierson boys on the court went on a 7-1 run sparked in part by a burst of temper by a Bridgehampton player that resulted in a technical foul.
That penalty put Pierson on the line with the lead at 25-23, Lukas Wheeler and Seamus Doyle converting three of four free throws and Skyler Loesch taking the extra possession to the basket to calm the crowd.
Caanan Campbell, the Killer Bees’ leading scorer this season, nearly brought his team back, a field goal and a three-pointer closing the gap at 31-29 with seven minutes left in the fourth.
But a timely shot by Whaler Jake Weingartner stopped that Bridgehampton run and put Pierson back up four at 33-29 with six and a half minutes to play.
Gilbride then made his presence felt again, a hard drive extending the Pierson lead to 35-29 with 5:40 seconds to go and a long three-pointer giving the Whalers a 44-32 advantage with 1:40 left to take the mystery out of the game.
In his last time playing in uniform on the Pierson court Monday, Loesch led the Whalers with 13. Classmates Doyle, Gilbride and Weingartner contributed 10, eight and six, respectively.
Campbell scored 14 for the Bees, as did Jason Hopson. Donovan Davis added four for Bridgehampton, with all three already looking to next year when they get their next shot at the Whalers.