SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C FINAL | WHALERS 54, CLIPPERS 49
The Southold/Greenport Clippers were almost there, and that is what made their ending so painful.
After leading for most of the way, the Clippers were just nipped at the finish line. For Pierson/Bridgehampton, it was the best way to win; for Southold/Greenport, it was the worst way to lose.
Top-seeded Pierson/Bridgehampton scored the game’s last 7 points in the final 2 minutes 9 seconds of the Suffolk County Class C girls basketball final to finish a 54-49 thriller at Northport High School on Tuesday.
“It’s hard,” said Southold/Greenport coach Joe Read. He added: “We played as good a game as we could play. We were two baskets short.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton (13-6) bucked the odds, pulling out the victory despite seeing one of its starters, May Evjen, foul out 3:09 into the third quarter.
A pair of free throws by Cari Gehring gave the No. 2 seed Clippers (5-13) a 49-47 edge with 3:47 left in the game.
Fifteen seconds later, the Clippers lost one of their senior starters, Abby Scharadin, when she fouled out.
“It was kind of at that point where I started to feel it slip away,” said Gehring.
Not long after that, Gehring, another senior starter, joined Scharadin on the bench after being whistled for her fifth foul. She held her head in disbelief as she trudged off the court. In her final game for the Clippers, Gehring had 11 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal.
Pierson/Bridgehampton tied it at 49-49 when Kasey Gilbride made a layup while being fouled. A free throw by Isabel Peters gave the Whalers their first lead since the first quarter. Then a layup by Bridget Canavan and two foul shots by Erica Selyukova closed it for the Whalers, the League VIII champions who had split their regular-season series with the Clippers.
When the final buzzer sounded, the happy Whalers ran to center court and raised their arms in triumph. It must have been a tough sight for the downcast Clippers, who missed their last 19 field-goal attempts and had some costly turnovers down the stretch.
“To the very end we kept fighting, but some things happened and, I don’t know, we kind of lost it a little bit,” said Southold/Greenport point guard Justina Babcock.
“It was going to be a tough climb,” Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Kevin Barron said of his team’s comeback.
Pointing out that the Whalers have four 100-point scorers on their roster, Barron said: “We’re a complete team. We don’t rely on one person to do a job. Everybody has got a role.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton’s scoring balance was evident Tuesday, with 13 points from Gilbride, 12 from Selyukova, 10 from Canavan, 9 from Evjen and 8 from Peters. Selyukova also grabbed 16 rebounds. Canavan added 6 assists, 5 blocks and 3 steals.
The first half belonged to the Clippers, who used a 13-0 burst to forge a 20-12 lead. Shannon Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the spell. The Clippers had opened the game by hitting 10 of their first 19 shots.
“They came out on fire,” said Barron.
Later in the half, the Clippers stretched their lead to as many as 12 points on three occasions.
The Clippers outrebounded the Whalers, 23-14, in the first half and held them to 11-for-33 shooting. Babcock scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half.
Pierson/Bridgehampton was a better team in the second half, though.
“I think they came out stronger than even we thought they would,” Gehring said. “It was a lot to handle, I’m not going to lie.”
Following their exhilarating win, the Whalers could be heard hooting and hollering in their dressing room. “They’re going to go insane on the bus on the ride home,” said Barron.
Pierson/Bridgehampton will play Hampton Bays (18-2) in the Suffolk Class B-C final on Saturday. The Whalers will also play a Nassau County team in a regional semifinal on March 4.
For the Clippers, it was one of their better games this season. It was just the ending they didn’t care for.
“I got to say, I coached a lot of teams, a lot of teams with a lot of talent, and for the way these kids played all the way to the end with the talent that they had is amazing,” Read said. “These girls are just amazing girls. They are the true spirit of high school sports. They fight to the end. That’s great. Southold should be very proud of these girls.”