The Whalers were trapped, but not for long.
Mattituck went on a 13-0 run with the help of a pressure-filled defense to take a 1-point lead in the third quarter, but Chastin Giles wasn’t letting her team go down without a fight.
With the score tied heading into the fourth quarter, the Pierson junior point guard knocked down a free throw and hit a 3-pointer off a Celia Barranco forced turnover to break a 39-all tie and give the Whalers the lead for good. After a Sarah Santacroce field goal, Giles and senior forward Katie Kneeland made back-to-back buckets for a 46-41 Pierson victory February 20 to send the Whalers to the small school championship. The team will face Mt. Sinai at Walt Whitman High School Friday, February 22, at 4:30 PM.
“Their press really got us on our toes, got us frazzled,” Giles said. “But we worked so hard, we’ve come so far, and we weren’t going to give that all up.”
Speaking of working hard, Kneeland put the cherry on top of a five-year career with a free throw that marked her 1,000th career point with 32.7 seconds left in the first.
“I never wanted to think about it, and thought eventually, if I worked hard enough, it would come,” said Kneeland, who became the third female in school history to reach the milestone. “I knew from the beginning my role was to score. It’s just great to finally take away a huge accomplishment from that.”
The senior forward, who scored a game-high 19 points, ended the Tuckers’ scoring spurt with a layup on a Giles pass, and Barranco added a free throw, but Mackenzie Hoeg (14 points) hit a running shot with 3.4 seconds left in the third to tie the game.
Head coach Kevin Barron said it was the worst quarter his Whalers played all season, but he couldn’t afford to spend any timeouts on the issue.
“They had to fix themselves,” Barron said. “I just kind of let them fall apart a little bit. I was trying to help them as much as I could from the sideline, but I made the decision I wasn’t going to burn any more timeouts, because I knew I was going to need them at the end.”
Giles’ rushes led Mattituck to press less, but when the point guard did blast through the traps there was a mad panic.
“Since we pushed through so quickly we didn’t have players set up fast enough — so it was easier for them to grab the ball from us and score easily on the other end. We basically threw the ball away when we got down the court,” Kneeland said. “But Chastin really set the tone for every single play of the game. We knew we just had to push through.”