When her Pierson team struggled inside the Smithtown Christian gym, Chastin Giles was there to help get the party started.
The senior point guard peppered the scoreboard with eight points on two layups, a three-pointer, and a free throw, and came up with a big block in the first quarter en route to her Whalers’ 58-38 win January 6.
“It’s always hard playing in this gym, but I don’t think that’s an excuse,” she said. “It was a mental struggle, and we got used to it as the game went on. We just need to build our confidence.”
Giles, who finished the first half scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points, aided her teammates with just that. She came up with seven assists and a steal and found senior Kathryn Powell twice under the boards in the second quarter for easy buckets. Powell sprinkled the scoreboard with field goals in all four stanzas.
“We came out weak,” Powell said. “I think the floor layout was in the back of our minds and became more of a prominent issue in the second quarter.”
Head coach Woody Kneeland said the Whalers (5-4 overall, 5-1 in League VII) talked more about help defense and less about the gym at halftime. The girls also struggled rebounding on both sides of the court.
“It comes down to wanting it more than them, and sometimes we didn’t,” the coach said. “They always come into this gym and get confused because it’s a different floor.”
His girls ran like the wind, though. It helped the team deliver some swift points, especially on breakaway chances and off steals.
“My teammates are getting to spots and running down the court on fast breaks making it so much easier for me to make a pass,” Giles said, adding after graduating 10 seniors the new girls have grown quickly. “I think it was definitely a bit of a game changer to come up to the varsity level for some girls, but everyone has adjusted so fast, and it’s nice to have everyone put up numbers on this year’s team.”
Junior Grace Perello finished with 12 points, knocking down six straight in just over a two-minute span at the end of the fourth quarter, and Powell was right behind her with 11 and grabbed seven rebounds. Junior Brooke Esposito, who came off the bench to score seven points in the second half, ended the third quarter, in which six different girls scored, with a layup to put Pierson ahead 43-28.
“From the first game to now Grace’s confidence had improved and her mid-range shot is insane now that she trusts herself,” Giles said. “And Brooke Esposito really helped out guarding Abbey Loiacono in the second half.”
Loiacono finished with 29 points for Smithtown Christian (1-7, 1-6), swishing four three-pointers.
“We showed more effort toward the end of the game,” Powell said. “We started to work together, our eyes were up more, we were making better passes … we’re growing stronger. We have the right mentality. We want to win.”
The girls will take that into Friday’s matchup when they host Mattituck (7-4, 6-1) Friday, January 10 at 6:15 PM.
“They play Mattituck like it’s their last game ever — they give it their all,” Kneeland said with a laugh. “I’m not nervous as far as them showing up. They know the level and they rise to it. I’m trying to get them to do that with every team.”
Giles and Powell said their Whalers just seem to bring a different energy against the tougher competition.
“We’re going to go in and give it everything we have,” Powell said. “I think we’re ready for them.”