Tag Archive | "Whalers"

Pierson Hoopsters Comment on a Time That’ll be Hard to Forget

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By Benito Vila

It’s hard for kids to know what to believe sometimes, especially when dealing with adults. Learning Coach Marienfeld had been fired last Thursday left more than a few Pierson varsity basketball players wondering what could possibly come next.

The team had come through a two-week stretch where the coach’s language in a loss led to his suspension, two players quit, a one-sided loss was followed by a close win, and an overtime loss at home preceded another nerve-wracking win. Still, to most, all seemed just as it should be, with the Whalers two wins away from a playoff berth, with five games left to go.

But then the news came Thursday afternoon of Coach Marienfeld speaking his mind in the press about allegations made of his treatment of players, and the school administration’s decision to dismiss him immediately, citing “misconduct.”

 “It just seemed surreal”, said team captain Joe Dowling. “If they [that hollow un-understandable ‘they’ that makes decisions far from where kids are] were going to do anything, they should have waited,” suggested sophomore Tyler Gilbride.

Gilbride’s classmate Skyler Loesch was more philosophical in saying he was “hoping for the best” and acknowledging, “It is what it is. You can’t do anything about it now.”


Emotions Run On

Coach Marienfeld had led the Whaler boys’ basketball program since 2005, his teams reaching the playoffs each year. “I’m going to miss him,” said Dowling, a sentiment shared by Loesch and Gilbride, the captain explaining, “He helped me out so much with summer league, talking to me and teaching me what I needed to do.”

All three are accepting and welcoming of interim coach Christian Johns, who worked with Loesch and Gilbride when they were in eighth grade. “I love his intensity for the game,” said Gilbride, “and how teams work for him.” Dowling describes Coach Johns as bringing “a whole new perspective on doing everything as a team,” noting, “He’s hard and he wants to win.”

The news of Marienfeld’s dismissal after all the local papers had published their weekly editions set off a slew of online reports and reader commentary. Some of those commentaries attacked the players who left the team, some their parents; many spoke well of Coach Marienfeld, while others felt he got what he deserved. Still others were critical of the Pierson administration with nearly all approaching their entries with a sense of disbelief.

In all this “posting” and “blogging,” the focus has moved away from the game on the court and the kids out there hustling; in fact, it’s moved away from Coach Marienfeld to commentaries on society, anger, and the roles and rights of parents, coaches and players.


Strains and Pains

What remains though are strained friendships, hurt feelings and an inordinate amount of despair and angst being felt by more than a few households. And the two students that chose to step away from playing are feeling it, perhaps more than most, Nick DePetris saying, “Nobody wanted this. I wasn’t out to take his job. I just wanted to have a good senior season. It’s been humiliating.”

Jake Federico spoke sadly of not knowing how to approach a person he’s known and had regard for his whole life. “It’s hard not to be able to acknowledge Fred in the hallway [at school] because I still like him as a person and love his family.”

Both players described the root of their conflict with the coach coming from his insistence they participate in summer league play, work and other sports commitments keeping them away. And both cited instances of feeling treated unfairly despite their best efforts.

The other comments made by DePetris and Federico indicate they have quickly gained a perspective on what happened between they and their coach, saying, “No one understands he can be a different man on the court”; “He made it hard on himself by lashing out”; “It’s like he wanted to make a point that if you don’t commit completely you wouldn’t play”; and “I’m just fine with it; I hope they finish up strong.”

They were also consistent in expressing surprise at the emotion and involvement of so many adults. Federico concluded, “They’re taking this far too seriously. They’re not the kids that worked and gave it their all. And they have their own ideas about what went on. I’ve never quit anything. I called everyone together during practice and said I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t just walk out. There was some [back and forth with Coach Marienfeld], but it wasn’t what people make it out to be.”

Plainly, in stating, “What he did was wrong” and “He was talking down on us and harping on weaknesses” both still feel hurt at being singled out and being described the way they were. But both see life going on for them at school, with talk of baseball, soccer, football and college quickly moving conversation away from a time that’s been hard for everyone.



Young Whalers Winners

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By Benito Vila

The Pierson seventh grade team came into this season both confident and uncertain. Several players had played together in the Police Athletic League the last few winters, twice playing for the championship and winning once. It was not clear how those players would gel with the others or how they might fare in the more structured state and county-regulated “junior high” program.

Coach Jonathan Tortorella took on a roster of 16 in November and demanded co-operation from the get go. Looking back this week, he said the most critical moment of the season came after an opening game loss to East Hampton. “We had set a team goal of going undefeated this year, a very tough task. After we lost the first,we were not really sure how good we were. Without a practice before our next game, we had a team discussion about our goals and what we are capable of doing. We came out the next day and played a near perfect game against Southampton, winning by 31 and getting contributions from everyone.”

That level of commitment to one another carried on after that first win, this youngest set of Whalers going on to win their last 11 games, including a 50-47 nail-biter over East Hampton in a January 8 re-match. Coach Tortorella said what he will remember most about this team is “their ability to deal with adversity. Due to either injury or illness, we only had a full team for 3 of our 12 games. No matter who was out, there were no excuses and it was barely even talked about. Other players stepped up and they all overcame everything they were confronted with. It was something that I hope they carry with them outside of basketball.”

Although the team fell short of its goal to go undefeated, it did hit two other pre-season targets, allowing less than 35 points per game on defense (34.3) and scoring more than 55 points per game on offense (55.5).

On the seventh grade roster were Caleb Atkinson-Barnes, Ian Barrett, Jack Bori, C.P. Cook-Firquet, Charlie Dickstein, Patrick Ficorilli, Joe Gengarelly, Drew Harvey, Nick Kruel, Forrest Loesch, Cooper Marienfeld, Gavin O’Brien, Garrett Potter, Aaron Schiavoni, Tim Markowski and Max Snow.


One Step Up

This year’s eighth grade team will forever remind the seventh graders about their sole scrimmage, where the older boys used their height and quickness to make the outcome a one-sided affair. That intra-program match-up was a welcome change for the eighth graders after routinely facing opponents with six-footers inside and confident shooters outside.

Coach Hank Katz described his approach as going beyond the score of any single game and looking ahead to a higher level of play. “At this level I never really pay much attention to the win/loss record. We did however finish 4 and 7. This record was no reflection on our actual success this season. A middle school team’s responsibility is to one day get ready to contribute to the high school team’s success and I believe this group will do just that.”

He also added, “It was a privilege to have been with these kids for the past two years. They worked hard, were very coach-able, and I believe that not only will they contribute on the basketball court, but most importantly, they will contribute as good kids who will be a positive influence whatever their plans.”

Making up Coach Katz’ first unit, and playing quarters one and three, were Jake Bennett, Dillon Decker, Joe Faraguna, Dana Harvey, Aidan Kirrane, and Jackson Marienfeld. The second unit, playing quarters two and four, were Abu Brown, Joe Butts, Gabe Denon, Liam Doyle, Raleigh Gordley, Patrick Sloane and Colman Vila.


Early Season Gut Check

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By Benito Vila


Sometimes games go the other way and coaches are left with very little to say. So it was after Pierson’s 56-28 loss to Mercy on Tuesday, Whaler varsity coach Fred Marienfeld making no excuses for a poor performance, disappointed in having to admit, “We had more turnovers than a bakery.”

Coach Marienfeld calculated that by making 26 turnovers and recovering only seven offensive, his team gave Mercy all the extra chances they needed to put the game away. “With the advantage they had on turnovers and rebounds alone, they had the ball 23 more times than us. We can’t give it to the other team like that and expect to win.”

The score was close at the half Tuesday, Mercy up 23-16 after Pierson battled back from being down 20-11 to make it 20-16. A breakaway bucket and foul shot shut down the Whaler run and allowed the Monarchs to regain momentum. That emotion carried into the second half, Mercy outscoring Pierson 33-12 to close out the game.

Under Pressure

The Whalers have had trouble getting the ball in the basket of late, scoring just 37 points in the pre-holiday win over Shelter Island at home and 28 Tuesday. “That’s simply not going to get it done,” said Coach Marienfeld Tuesday night. “We have Ross coming in Thursday and then we have Greenport and Stony Brook. They’re all good teams that can score and we’re putting ourselves under a lot of pressure with our shot selection and ball-handling.”

Describing his team, Coach Marienfeld feels he has a good group that can potentially make the county’s Class C play-offs, although noting that “we’re fairly even talent-wise and we’re going to have to work for whatever we get. I know we’re young and expectations weren’t high, but we’re more capable than this. We have three tough games this week and this is a chance for these guys to prove themselves. While we’re struggling with the ball, to be good rebounders and defensive players we just have to put our minds to it. If we can control the ball there, we’ll get more chances on the other end.”

Coach Marienfeld did manage to play the entire roster Tuesday, glad to see “everybody get minutes” and made more substitutions than he has with any of his previous four varsity squads. “Again, there’s not a huge disparity in talent, so I can do that. I’d like to see some of the younger guys step up and earn more time. That’s going to help us now and later on.”

Juniors Joe Dowling and Luke Kirrane and senior Casey Crowley led what little scoring there was for the Whalers Tuesday, each coming away with six points. Sophomore Jake Weingartner recorded four points and classmate Seamus Doyle two. Senior Nick DePetris scored three from the line and sophomore Skyler Loesch had one.

 What’s Ahead

The Whalers, even at 2-1 in League VIII, are at a defining point in the season. Their next three games are against teams that have started strong and sport a collective 6-1 mark in league play; 8-5 overall in competing against much larger schools.

Coach Marienfeld expects Ross to come into Pierson this afternoon “amped up and looking to get themselves to 3-1. After our game, somebody is going to get out 3-1 and in a good spot [for the playoffs]. The Pierson boys travel to league-leading Greenport Monday, matching up with all-Long Island scoring sensation Ryan Creighton and an offense that has scored 100 points twice and is averaging over 83 a game. The Whalers are home again next Wednesday hosting second-place Stony Brook at 6:15 p.m.

 Local League VIII highlights

 Bridgehampton’s Ainsley Wyche scored 22 in the Killer Bees’ loss to Greenport on Tuesday. That was not enough to offset the 23 points registered by both Ryan Creighton and Wally Sorenson or the 55 tossed on by the rest of the Porters.

With Shelter Island visiting Tuesday, Ross freshman Liam Chaskey hit three three-pointers to finish with 15 points in the Ravens 64-41 win. Ross senior Jasper Creegan also knocked down 15, with Brendan Pettaway posting 11 and Taylor Wilson adding 10. Mike Mundy led the Indian attack with 13 points.

A 15-7 run in the third quarter allowed Ross to build on a 27-20 halftime lead and take control of the game.


Shootout at the Hive

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By Benito Vila

It was standing room only in the Bridgehampton School gym Tuesday evening, the Killer Bees varsity basketball team hosting the Pierson boys in the League VIII opener for each squad. Tuesday’s contest was a close battle between two young and up-and-coming teams; the Whalers coming away with a 62-59 overtime win.

In years past the hoops-only rivalry has seen the Bees sting the Whalers often, especially in “the Hive” as their remarkably undersized gym is known locally. There was a buzz in the building Tuesday well before tip-off, long-time friends greeting each other and then sitting on different sides.

The game proved to be a thrilling roller coaster ride for both sets of fans, the Whalers going up eight at 18-10 to start to start the second quarter and the Bees building an eight-point cushion mid-way through the third at 37-29. Pierson rallied to within one to close the third and pulled ahead 47-44 with 3:12 to go in the fourth.

Whaler forwards Joe Dowling and Nick DePetris powered that 18-7 run, the pair scoring 14 of Pierson’s points in the go-ahead push. But Bridgehampton bounced back, Ainsley Wyche shooting in a three-pointer and Nate Hochstedler lifting the Bees up 49-47 on a steal and breakaway bucket with 2:30 remaining.


A Wild Finish

That frenetic pace, the product of having high school players on an elementary school-sized floor, continued the rest of the way, the emotion swinging from one-side of the room to the other on every point. In the final minute neither team could put the game away, Pierson holding a 54-52 lead with 57 seconds left but the possession arrow pointing towards the Bridgehampton bench.

In that last minute, both teams showed their youth in turnover-prone decision-making that prompted the ball to go the other way. The ball stayed on the Bees’ end for three shots, the Whalers unable to clear the rebounds back up-court.

When traveling was called against Bridgehampton with seven seconds left, some of the Whaler faithful started up to leave, seemingly satisfied to game was finished. But that was not the case, the visitors sitting back down when Wyche and Hochstedler closed in to deny an in-bound pass and Hochstedler hit a jumper to tie the score at 54-54 with two seconds on the clock.



With :00 on the clock and the score even, overtime seemed a forgone conclusion to the crowd but the two coaches and the referees gathered at the scorers table for what was obviously a meaningful discussion. Unheard by most was a whistle blown before the buzzer in the final second signaling a foul on Bridgehampton during Pierson’s final in-bound pass.

That call earned the fouled player, Dowling, two free throws. The crowd was hushed, the nine other players on the court gathered at behind mid-court, as Dowling toed the line, the pressure on the Pierson captain to make a shot and end the game.

Having shot 8 of 10 from the line at that point, it seemed Dowling was the right player in the right situation for Pierson. As fate would have it, both shots bounced away, negating a Bridgehampton protest and forcing overtime.

The extra period saw both sides struggle to control the ball, the Bees scoring first two minutes into the five-minute frame. Those points came when Wyche made the most of a steal and Cesar Banados sank a free throw. Fouls under the Pierson basket sent Whalers Nick DePetris and Luke Kirrane to the line, with each netting one to keep the score close.

With just 2:22 remaining, an in-bound play to Dowling put Pierson up 58-57 and a breakaway bucket by the captain with 1:33 remaining made up for the missed free throws and gave the Whalers a 60-57 lead. Pierson pushed their run to eight points when point guard Dylan Hmielenski scored on a floater in the lane with 49 seconds left, making the score 62-57 visitors.

Adding to the drama of the finish was Bridgehampton battling for the ball and controlling possession for most of the game’s final 39 seconds. But the Bees managed to tally just two points, those coming from Evan Marzan at the free throw line, making the final 62-59 Pierson.


Coaches Agree

When asked the difference in the game, Bridgehampton coach Carl Johnson simply said, “Joey Dowling. Every time they [Pierson] needed a basket to stay in the game, he came through. When they needed a rebound he got it.” In all Dowling totaled 24 points, 18 in the second half and four in OT, and pulled down 17 rebounds.

Reflecting on Dowling’s effort and leadership, Pierson varsity coach Fred Marienfeld said, “I need that kid on the floor. He played every minute and had no fouls. He hustles; he scrambles; he gets after loose balls. There’s nothing he won’t do.”

Both coaches cited the intensity of play as positive, each hoping it carries over into this week’s contests, the Bees hosting Mercy tomorrow at 5 p.m. and the Whalers heading upstate for a weekend tournament. The coaches also noted their teams need more work on rebounding, free throws and offensive execution.

In identifying key contributors, Coach Johnson pointed to the play of junior guard Wyche, who led the Bees with 25 points and is “quickly learning to be a leader, a coach on the court.” He also liked the hustle of Hochstedler, who created several turnovers and scoring opportunities, adding, “This might have been a breakout game for him; a big confidence booster.” Mainly, he applauded the team as whole, saying, “They came out a little nervous, kept playing when they were down and gave me all they could give me. They never gave up.”

Meanwhile, Coach Marienfeld praised the play of forward Luke Kirrane (eight points) and the effort of his sophomores, particularly Hmielenski and Tyler Gilbride who “did a good job up top both ways” after starting guard, senior Casey Crowley (seven points) fouled out late in the third period. When senior sixth man Nick DePetris (13 points, six rebounds) fouled out in overtime, Coach Marienfeld had sophomore Skyler Loesch step in to fill a big spot at forward.


Joey D.

After the game Tuesday, Dowling described his focus going into Tuesday’s game saying, “I really wanted that one. We had to get it, especially since we started 0-3 [in non-league], all games we should have won [two of the losses coming in overtime].”

In describing that moment alone at the line, Dowling humbly expressed a dislike for those sorts of pressure situations and was surprised to learn that he was 8 of 10 before those two avoided the net. He said the best part of the game “was how everybody came together at the end, the young guys stepping up when we needed them.”


Whalers Home Tuesday

The weekend has the Pierson boys in playing in Syracuse and Rochester as part of the annual Charles J. Finney School tournament, an event the team won last year. They are back for school on Monday and open their home schedule Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. against 1-0 Shelter Island in the Pierson gym.

 “That’s this team’s only league home game for 2008,” noted Coach Marienfeld. “It’d be great if these guys could get themselves an early Christmas present upstate and then show everyone their best Tuesday. After six games away, I’m sure everyone will be glad to be home.”


And the Crowd Goes Wild

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He’s not going to make SportsCenter, but Hampton Whalers’ short stop David Leon, a freshman from Youngstown State, did make Sag Harbor sports history on Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park.
Public announcer Kevin Major screamed, “The Whalers Win! The Whalers win!” as the team mobbed Leon after his RBI with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the N.Y. Metro Cadets, 2-1.
And Tim Therrian, a junior from the University of Southern Maine, will not receive any endorsement deals, but the young pitcher did earn the respect of his teammates after back-to-back pressure packed performances on the mound.
When Leon’s base hit landed in the outfield grass, just over the second baseman’s head, winning the Whalers both their division and a chance to play in the ACBL Championship Game on Saturday, it capped an improbable run. It also landed the team a spot in the hearts of the fans that have embraced them for the past two and half months.
Leon said as soon as he made contact with the fastball, he knew the game was over.
“I knew it was going to drop by the way the defense was playing,” he said after the game.
Leon said though the Whalers started 0-6, they kept believing in each other. And they kept believing in their coach, manager Julio Vega, as well.
“We feed of him every game,” said Leon.
When Vega saw the Cadets’ right fielder give up on Leon’s ball, he became a spectator himself.
“I was just jumping up and down,” he said. “It was great just watching the guys’ reaction.”
Vega has been telling his players all summer to let the other team make the plays. Pitching and defense has never been an issue, but the bats have been at times hot and at other times not. Such was the case in the two game series against the Cadets, which began Monday night at St. John’s University when the offense accounted for an impressive ten runs. The Whalers beat the Cadets, 10-5.
But yesterday, it was all the Whalers could do to muster a hit here and there.  The visitors took a one run lead early in the game and it looked as if the series might stretch to three games as Cadets’ pitcher Gabriel Duran from Dowling College was making quick work of the home team, at one point retiring nine Whalers in a row.
Gardner Leaver started for the Whalers and after giving up the one run in the top of the first, kept the Cadets in check for the next six innings.
“I told myself that’s the last run they’re getting,” said Leaver afterwards. “I knew my team could take it from there.”
The Whalers defense proved Leaver’s words true; there would be no more runs for the Cadets. In the seventh inning, a tired Leaver was pulled and the crowd stood and applauded. Therrian came in with two outs and threw a single pitch that was popped up to end the inning. Therrian retired three straight the next inning and then in the ninth set the stage for his offense.
The night before, at St. John’s, Therrian recorded the type of save that pitchers dream of. In the bottom of the ninth inning, he was called in to relieve Dan Rieser who retired three straight in the eighth inning but got into trouble in the ninth. Therrian stepped on the mound with the bases loaded, the winning run on deck and no outs.
“I was working the first batter pretty hard,” said Therrian. “The count was two and two and I threw a slider to strike him out.”
He struck out the next batter as well and got the third to pop up.
“It was a tough position to be in, but that just got me pumped up,” he said.
After Therrian took care of business in the ninth on Tuesday, it was left up to the Whalers’ bats. Duran hit catcher Chris Walker to start off the inning. Kyle Crean laid down a sac bunt to move Walker to second. Third baseman Mark Houck belted a line drive to the Cadet’s shortstop that let Walker move to third, while he hustled to get the base hit. Tom Coulombe hit a slow moving ball to the shortstop who, after stepping on second for the force out, made a bad throw to first allowing Coulombe to get to second base and scoring pinch runner John Flanagan to tie the game. With Coloumbe on second, Leon stepped up to the plate and the rest is history.
Vega described it as the best game of the summer and one of the best he’s ever been a part of. He’s been coaching in summer leagues for the last eight years but he’s never made it to the championship game.
“You always wonder how it’s going to feel,” he said. “I’m just proud of the guys. They worked their butts off.”
The team’s motto all season has been “hard nine” said Vega, which means play hard from the first inning to the last. On Tuesday, he said that’s exactly what they did.
“If Houck didn’t run hard to the base to try to make it to the bag, the double play is made and the game is over,” he said.

Vega also said it was extra special to be in Sag Harbor. He said it was great to see the fans that supported the team all season, all standing and jumping up when Leon’s ball landed in play. The Whalers went 12-1 at Mashashimuet and Vega said, “it makes you wonder what would’ve happened if we played all of our games there.”
“The community has been awesome,” he said. “They’ve been great, they adopted us as their own. The baseball gods definitely love us in Sag Harbor.”

Top photo: The Whalers mob Tom Coulombe after he scored the winning run on Tuesday.

Bottom photo: The Whalers stood up the entire game cheering on their teammates.

Bayles photos