SUFFOLK CLASS C OUTBRACKET GAME | WHALERS 63, PORTERS 41
When the Greenport boys basketball team is on top of its game, whipping passes around the court and draining one outside shot after another, it is a sight to behold.
Tuesday night was not one of those occasions.
The story of Greenport’s season could be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Certainly, when the Porters are playing well, they can give an opponent a lot to worry about. But Tuesday’s Suffolk County Class C outbracket game was one they would prefer to forget.
With the exception of the game-opening basket, Greenport never led and was ousted by Pierson, 63-41, in Sag Harbor. No. 2 seed Pierson (12-7), the defending county champion, will have the opportunity to retain its title Thursday when it will play top-seeded Stony Brook (14-3) in the county final at Westhampton Beach High School.
“The third quarter we were hanging for a while, and then it seemed like they got on a good streak where they were knocking down threes and we just couldn’t recover,” Greenport coach Al Edwards said. “We were just not strong enough to keep fighting waves like that. After a while we were just on our heels, you know, just can’t recover.”
Tuesday was not Greenport’s night in a number of ways. Injury and foul trouble cost Greenport (10-8) the use of its two best rebounders, Billy Doucett and Austin Hooks. Doucett sprained his left ankle and exited the game with 1 minute 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter. It was the end of the senior’s high school playing career. Hooks picked up his third personal foul early in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game until 5:27 into the third quarter. By then Pierson was holding a 40-29 lead.
“We picked up the momentum and moved the ball more and made some good shots, but when we lose one of our best rebounders, it’s kind of hard to battle back from that,” said Greenport sophomore Timmy Stevens, who led the Porters with 17 points. “They’re a scrappy team. They move the ball, they do everything. It’s kind of hard to defend them.”
Jake Bennett was undoubtedly the player of the game. Bennett, one of six Pierson seniors playing for the last time in their home gym, provided the Whalers with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. But perhaps just as valuable was the contribution he made that didn’t show up as clearly on the statistics sheet.
Pierson, as it usually does, assigned Bennett to guard the opposing team’s most dangerous offensive player. In this case, it was Gavin Dibble, a genuine long-range threat. Dibble, with Bennett in his face much of the time, was held to 11 points.
“They had a great game plan,” Edwards said. “They take Gavin out of the game — most teams do that — and then they put the best defender on him so that he’s not a factor, and he’s not the one that beats you.”
Pierson coach Dan White has seen Bennett blanket opponents before. “He’s something else,” White said. “He’s rare. I’ve played a lot of basketball, and I’ve never met anyone like him.”
And Bennett wasn’t the only one. The Whalers brought hustle and energy to the court. Greenport’s shots weren’t dropping for a reason. The Porters shot 33.3 percent from the floor and made only 7 of 25 field-goal attempts in the second half.
“Our defense is our backbone,” said White, whose team had 7 more rebounds and 9 less turnovers than Greenport.
For a while, though, Greenport played its best basketball without Doucett and Hooks on the court. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Stevens and Dibble enabled Greenport to cut Pierson’s lead to 33-29. But then Pierson’s transition game led to some easy layups. The Whalers closed out the third quarter on a 14-2 run, Ian Barrett scoring 7 points during that spurt.
“We don’t have anybody who’s 6-4, jumping, dunking, knocking down threes,” White said, “but I have a lot of kids who play year-round, work on their skills and play for each other and care for each other.”
Barrett put up 16 points and 8 rebounds for Pierson, and Patrick Sloane added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Joey Butts provided 6 assists.
Matt Dibble of Greenport passed for 8 assists.
Bennett said the victory was good medicine for Pierson. “We were struggling in that last half of the season,” he said. “We were struggling to get through games. Practices were starting to lack energy.”
Now, he said, “We’re ready to roll.”
Greenport’s inside game — its Achilles’ heel — was exposed, especially when Doucett and Hooks were on the bench.
“That’s the story,” Edwards said. “Which team is going to show up? Are we going to hit the jumpers? Are we not going to hit the jumpers? Are we going to have a halfway good inside game? You can’t win without an inside-outside game.”
With its playoff loss, Greenport bids farewell to its seniors: MATT DIBBLE, BILLY DOUCETT, CHRIS MANWARING, BRYANT RIVAS and RICH WYSOCKI.