When the end comes, it’s hard. There’s really no way to predict how one is going to feel when it’s time to say goodbye to players, to a team.
Those emotions caught up to Greenport coach Ev Corwin while talking to reporters following his team’s 68-52 loss to Pierson in the Suffolk County Class C final Wednesday night at Westhampton Beach High School. It was the final high school game for seven Greenport seniors, one of them being the coach’s son, also named Ev Corwin.
“I had four starters that were seniors that included my son, they all grew up in my house, and I’m gonna, you know, it’s very emotional right now because my son has also,” the coach said before choking up. “Yeah, I’ve been good. You know, those kids grew up at my house and it’s sad for me that I’m not gonna see them every day at practice. It’s a great group.”
That lost to — perhaps great is too strong a word — a strong Pierson squad that has won 12 straight games and 20 of 21.
This was the third time in as many games this season that Pierson had beaten Greenport. None of them were close (the average margin was 22.7 points), but this was the closest.
Pierson asserted itself from the beginning, scoring the game’s first 11 points before a Donovan Lawrence layup put Greenport (14-8) on the scoreboard almost a full three minutes in. Wilson Bennett poured in 10 of his game-high 24 points to spot Pierson a 19-4 lead. It was 20-7 after one quarter.
When Corwin, a 5-9 point guard, was asked what was the toughest part of Pierson’s game, he answered: “What’s his name? Wilson.”
True enough. Bennett, a 6-4 senior, also brought the Whalers 14 rebounds, six assists, five steals and a blocked shot. That’s quite a stat line.
Pierson stretched its lead to as many 18 points at 41-23 early in the third quarter. Greenport strung together an 11-0 run that pulled the Porters within 49-44 early in the fourth.
“We fight, man,” the younger Corwin said, adding, “We’re gonna go out there and give it all we got.”
But the Porters got no closer. Each time they mounted a mini-run, Pierson responded.
“Just couldn’t get over the hump,” Coach Corwin said. “Every time we went on a little run, they put out the fire.”
Pierson is a well-rounded team that does many things well. The Whalers throw a lot at opponents, like Dan Labrozzi, who added 20 points to their cause.
“Honestly, we played our best,” Greenport guard Jahmeek Freeman said. “We left it all out on the floor. It was the last time we’re ever gonna be out there, so I just wanted everybody to give it their all for their last time.”
Lawrence brought Greenport 17 points while Corwin and Freeman had 15 each. Freeman had a rare four-point play. Jordan Hubbard hauled in 15 rebounds. Those four are senior starters.
Greenport was held to 30.2% shooting and beaten on the boards, 45-31.
The last time Pierson won a county championship was in 2012 when the team’s current coach, Will Fujita, played for Southold.
“We’ve had a few ideas that we’ve stayed true to this year,” Fujita said. “The first is to be grateful for the opportunity to play and then the second is to be consistent in the things that we do. And I think that as the course of the season has gone on, we stayed true to those two things. Very, very happy. They were willing to pick each other up, even when there was adversity. Greenport is a great team. I have a lot of respect for Coach Ev because I played against him when I was in school. And his son, Ev, and Jahmeek are both great basketball players.”
Understanding why Pierson won was one thing. Dealing with the defeat was something else.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, I’m going to be honest,” said Freeman.
After emerging from the locker room after his final game as a Porter, Corwin noted dealing with the emotions of the moment.
“I got all my tears out early,” he said. “I’m good now. It’s my pops, man. I love the guy. I mean, he’s my coach. He’s been coaching ever since I was little. And, I mean, I hate this is the way it had to end. You’re a senior and you wonder where it all went.”