WHALERS 54, CLIPPERS 38
One waiting game ends, and another one continues.
The Pierson/Bridgehampton girls basketball team waited a long time — 22 years — for this league championship. Now Southold/Greenport will have some waiting to do to see if it will continue a playoff streak.
Both teams played on Monday night with a lot on the line. “Spirit Night” at Pierson High School ended with the Whalers (9-6, 8-1 Suffolk County League VIII) in good spirits as they clinched their first league title since 1992 via a 54-38 defeat of Southold/Greenport.
Because of the loss, the Clippers (4-11, 4-4) remain one win away from securing what would be a sixth straight playoff berth. They have two more chances to get that win, on Friday against Port Jefferson and on Feb. 6 against Stony Brook. Both of those are home games for the Clippers, who have lost four of their last five games.
The Clippers are responsible for the only blemish on Pierson/Bridgehampton’s league record, a 4-point win on Dec. 20.
But the Whalers were up for the rematch. Perhaps emotion had something to do with it. Pierson/Bridgehampton’s seven seniors were recognized in a pregame ceremony and given flowers and hugs for their service to the program. Then, after the singing of the school’s fight song, the teams hit the court, and it was all Pierson/Bridgehampton from the start. The Whalers shot out to a 19-6 lead and never looked back.
Aided by the Clippers’ 5-for-25 shooting and 16 turnovers in the first half, Pierson/Bridgehampton held a 25-13 lead by halftime. The Whalers stretched their advantage to 33-13 by scoring the first four baskets of the third quarter, three of them by senior Bridget Canavan. Canavan, a four-year varsity player, made 5 of 10 field-goal attempts and struck for 16 points, leading all scorers.
The cold-shooting Clippers somehow clawed their way to within 9 points when back-to-back buckets by Cindy Van Bourgondien and Abby Scharadin, followed by a Van Bourgondien free throw, made the score 38-29.
Hmmm, the Clippers may have wondered. Just maybe …
But the Clippers’ offense never really got into a flow, and their shots were not falling in the cylinder with enough regularity, hampering their comeback attempt. They shot 23.4 percent (15 of 64) from the field and 0 for 15 from beyond the arc. Not only that, but their foul shooting wasn’t much better: 8 of 27.
As if that wasn’t enough, three Clippers fouled out in the fourth quarter: Cari Gehring, Justina Babcock and Shannon Quinn.
One Pierson/Bridgehampton player, May Evjen, took an early seat on the bench as well after picking up her fifth personal foul in the fourth quarter. The Whalers made 13 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter to help salt the win away.
After the final buzzer sounded, proclaiming the new league champions, the Whalers jumped for joy and exchanged high-fives with one another. Smiles abounded, except on Southold/Greenport’s side of the court where the glum-looking Clippers quietly waited in line for the customary postgame handshakes.
Kasey Gilbride scored 10 points and Erica Selyukova grabbed 13 rebounds for the Whalers, who claimed their fifth straight win.
Scharadin and Van Bourgondien were the leading scorers for the Clippers with 8 points each. Van Bourgondien also gathered 9 rebounds.