Harry Cowen missed his chance to tie the game from the free-throw line with 3.8 seconds left and his Pierson team down 63-62 to rival Bridgehampton. But the junior found an even better opportunity as he grabbed his own rebound as time ticked down and scored the winning basket in a 64-63 come-from-behind victory February 1 that secured the Whalers a spot in the playoffs.
“It was a really good win,” Pierson head coach Hank Katz said. “We know Bridgehampton is a very good team, but we know we can play with them. We felt that if we had some sort of composure we could play well enough to stay with them, and we did that in the fourth quarter.”
Pierson found itself down 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but an 11-3 Whalers run, featuring a Henry Brooks (30 points) reversal and Wilson Bennett three-pointer, closed the gap to 29-25 by the break. Bridgehampton put the pedal to the metal in the third, stretching its lead to 51-38 off a balanced attack from Elijah White, J.P. Harding, and Nae’Jon Ward, who each scored five points over the eight-minute stretch. Jonny DeGroot added four. White’s 16 points carried the Killer Bees through the first half.
“We know what we have to do, we can play on a consistent level, but we get in our heads,” Katz said. “When we fight through that and we play together we’re a very good team.”
Wilson Bennett (15 points) kept the Whalers in it through the third with six points. Each time he countered a Bridgehampton score, the crowd began shouting: “He’s a freshman.”
“I had a few good shots, made my fouls, I felt pretty good,” he said, adding the chanting put a smile on his face. “We were looking to move the ball around the top and get some open shots. We wanted to pound the ball to the hoop once they started coming out on us. And the ball started falling for me.”
His coach said he’s seen a lot of improvement in his power forward since he was brought up to the varsity team just five game ago.
“He’s getting more and more confident, and it’s translating into progress on the court,” Katz said. “You need to believe that you’re capable.”
Add in Brooks, who was running the table in the fourth, picking up the first four points on a long field goal and two free throws to make it a 10-point game, 51-41. His next two scores sandwiched a Bennett bucket, the second being the first of two three-pointers in the stanza. Brooks racked up 17 of Pierson’s 26 fourth-quarter points, which provided a big boost following teammate Cooper Schiavoni’s two technical calls.
“He’s been tremendous all year,” Katz said of his junior standout. “We’ve relied heavily on his scoring and his leadership, and his last two minutes were huge.”
Pierson closes out the season with a senior night game against Greenport Wednesday, February 6. Tipoff is slated for 6:15 PM.