Barn Burner at the Bee Hive

Both coaches pronounced themselves pleased at the end
Elijah White, guarding Pierson’s Tom Brooks above, wound up with a game-high 27 points in the 63-61 loss. The Bees would probably have won had they not gone 2-for-8 from the foul line in the final 1:19. Craig Macnaughton

It was like old times in the Bee Hive when, on Jan. 17, Pierson and Bridgehampton duked it out, though what the game — ultimately won by the Whalers 63-61 — may have lacked in finesse was balanced out by the rivals’ all-out efforts.

Both coaches, Hank Katz of Pierson and Ron White of Bridgehampton, pronounced themselves pleased at the end. The Bees, thanks to J.P. Harding’s close attention, made things difficult for the Whalers’ scoring machine, Will Martin, who had 22 points by the time he fouled out in the final half-minute.

Martin, who can soar into the high 30s, missed his first six attempts in the game’s early going before finding the nets with 2 minutes and 25 seconds left to play in the first quarter. Frequently his dashes to the hoop found Elijah White, Bridgehampton’s sophomore point guard, squared up in front of him. 

Martin picked up his third personal foul midway through the second quarter and sat out the remainder of the period, by the end of which the visitors were up 28-25.

The Bees jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first period, delighting their fans. White got them going with a jumper from the right side and then a pull-up 3, after which Nate DePasquale netted another 3, and White, following Martin’s fourth straight miss, got off a 2-pointer from the right corner.

Pierson came back, however, on baskets by E.J. Burke, Tom Brooks, Martin (finally finding some room to maneuver), and Sam Warne. An off-the-dribble 2 by Martin put the Whalers ahead 13-12 with a minute and a half to go in the period.

Steals, travel calls, and missed shots amid the sound of squeaking sneakers ensued.

When the second period began, Pierson kept the run going, with a putback by Cooper Schiavoni, a basket by Henry Brooks (about whom more later), a layup by Martin that followed a leaping one-handed steal by him, and a follow by Martin of his own missed 3-point attempt, before the Bees got on the scoreboard again with two made free throws by White (who was to finish with a game-high 27 points). It was 21-14 Pierson at that point. 

By the end of the half, thanks in part to Martin’s benching, the Bees too had come back, partly because of the strong play of J.P. Harding, who was to really turn it on offensively as the game progressed.

The Whalers came out strong in the third, Martin drawing a foul on his way to the hoop and making both free throws to begin it. With 5:54 left in the period, Pierson led 39-29 and continued to stubbornly cling to that margin, though Martin picked up his fourth foul near the end of the period, which ended with Pierson up by 7.

Martin-less for the opening minutes of the fourth, the Whalers saw their lead diminish as the Bees began to feed Harding repeatedly down low, after which he’d wheel and deal. Successive thunderous baskets by him enabled the Bees to take a 51-50 lead — their first since the early going — with five minutes left to play.

Thereafter, it was a dogfight.

A huge putback by Jahqur Carr, who had come off the bench, treated the home team to a 59-57 lead with 1:19 to go, but then Harding missed two free throws and Tom Brooks hit a 3, wresting the lead back for the Whalers. A foul shot by White drew Bridgehampton even, at 60-60, with 42.8 seconds left. Martin was to foul out 20 seconds later. 

A foul shot (his second attempt) by Jonny De Groot put the Bees up 61-60 with 10.2 seconds remaining, but two subsequent free throws by Tom Brooks flipped the score Pierson’s way.

Pandemonium reigned, Sag Harbor’s fans matching the Bees’ side when it came to fervor.

During a mad scramble for the ball,White was fouled with 1.7 left, giving the Bridgies a chance to win it, but his first attempt hit off the back of the rim and his second went in and out.

Pierson inbounded following a timeout, with 1.2 seconds left. Harding fouled Henry Brooks on the play, and Brooks, a junior guard, calmly sank both, capping the barn burner.

“I knew he’d make the second,” said Katz. “I wasn’t so sure about the first.”

“Free throws were crucial at the end — it was a tough game,” said the elder White. “You’ve got to give credit to both teams. . . . I thought J.P. did an amazing job in defending Martin. He’s not used to being up top. He’s usually down low. It was the opposite of what he’s used to. . . .

“It was a good experience, I thought we played well against an older team. We can still tweak some things . . . we can build on that.”

As of Monday, Pierson and the Bees were each 4-1 in League VIII play, behind 4-0 Greenport. Southold (3-3), the Ross School (1-3), Smithtown Christian (1-5), and Shelter Island (1-5) followed.

Pierson defeated Smithtown Christian 66-25 on Friday, the same night the Bees edged Shelter Island 46-44. Greenport was to have played at the Bee Hive yesterday. Tomorrow, Southold is home against the Bees, at 6 p.m.

Bridgehampton is to play at Pierson — a game that is sure to draw another big crowd — on Feb. 5.  

Elijah White, the Killer Bees’ sophomore point guard, had a chance to tie or win it from the foul line in the final seconds, but. . . . Craig Macnaughton