Wilson Bennett’s first thoughts weren’t on how he had just scored a game-high 24 to help propel his Pierson Boys basketball team to their first Suffolk County Class C Championship since 2012 on Wednesday. It was about how everything his Whalers have done this season, including holding Greenport to a 68-52 title win at Westhampton Beach High School, was for last year’s graduates.
“It took a while to come,” said the 6-4 senior striker. “This one’s for them.”
The Sag Harbor School District canceled what would have been an abbreviated 2021 season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the Whalers, a group that not only wins, but weathers the storm, to make a dramatic statement this year: They’re here to play.
Pierson (20-1) will face Bridgehampton for the C/D title Saturday at Sachem East High School at noon and will face Carle Place for the Long Island Championship on March 9 at Centereach High School at 4 p.m.
“It’s amazing to come out of here with a win. There’s nothing like it,” said senior goaltender Dan Labrozzi, who scored 20 points. limit in transition. We’ve been playing together since kindergarten, so coming all the way here is great.
And Pierson played hard from the opening whistle, starting the game on a 13-2 run capped by Bennett’s third field goal. During this streak, the Whalers have shown what dynamic players they are. Bennett scored on a jumper and a layup, Labrozzi scored a three-point shot, senior forward Charlie Culver hit a field goal and added two free throws, and senior point guard Cecil Munshin stole a pass that forced Greenport to request a time out.
Head coach Will Fujita, who went to Providence College, idolizes men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley, whose famous mantra is, “Be dudes.” That’s what he said his boys embody right now.
“Every player on the pitch tonight did something to benefit this program, and I’m very grateful for that,” he said. “They do a lot of work when people aren’t watching, and it’s good that they’re being recognized for that now.”
The Whalers also worked hard to turn their advantage into a 34-19 lead at halftime, and that grew to 41-23 in the third quarter. But the Porters (14-8) fought back with a torrent of runs, forcing turnovers and fighting their way to the basket to cut Pierson’s lead to 49-44 just 20 seconds into the fourth. Senior Jahmeek Freeman was at the forefront of Greenport’s comeback, scoring 11 of his 15 points to power a 21-8 run that closed him at five. Main hitter Donovan Lawrence led the Porters with 17 points and schoolmate Ev Corwin, a point guard, added 15 points.
“By playing them twice, we know they’re a tough opponent and they’re going to try and pick up the pace of the game. They definitely did that by coming out in the second half,” Bennett said. “But we stayed in our minds and held on until the end.”
Greenport’s push sparked the Whalers’ own 13-2 run that extended the lead, to 62-46, with 4:32 remaining. Labrozzi capped the drive with two offensive rebounds for the scores.
“I was trying to roll over it and get to the hoop,” he said. “I felt good – I was just trying to play my best. If we keep playing hard we will keep moving forward.
Bennett said he knew that as soon as his opponents switched to a male defense, his team could take over again.
“We know they can’t compete with us at the top – and we knew we could take it to the rack and any of our guys could go up against any of theirs one-on-one.” , did he declare. “We continue to go out and compete to the best of our abilities.”
Fujita said he has a lot of respect for Greenport head coach Ev Corwin Sr., whom he played against when he attended Southold High School. He thought his son and Freeman were tough and fought hard, but added that his boys’ familiarity with the team was a plus.
“We knew they were capable of those accelerations to bring the game closer, and I’m really proud of how we handled both teams’ rushes,” Fujita said. “Having these experiences prepared us a little better for this situation. I liked how we continued to work on the defensive side.
He is also eager to see what his team can do next and said no matter the opponent, his Whalers will be waiting to strike.
“We just have to prepare for the next one – be ready for whatever it wants to throw at us – and continue to stay consistent,” Fujita said. “We’re going back to the lab. We will do our research. We’re going to get back to work. »
Bennett said that being a group of brothers, this Pierson team might just be unstoppable.
“We’ve known each other forever and have built real chemistry since we started playing together in fourth grade. We’ve been together ever since,” the eldest said. “Right now we know there is another game, but the stakes are the same. We have everything to lose – it’s win or go home – so you have to leave it all there. is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.”