Though the teams may not be as good as they have been in the past, the East Hampton and Pierson High School boys basketball squads had those who had packed Sag Harbor’s gym Saturday night on the edge of their seats for the duration of a game that was as hotly contested as any you’d want to see.
Everyone had plenty to cheer about as Dan White’s Whalers twice came close to burying East Hampton — the home team led by 12 points early in the second quarter, and by 14 late in the third — in the nonleaguer, but the Bonackers, who switched to an effective trapping defense, clawed their way out of both holes and went on to win 53-51 in overtime after having blown a 5-point lead in the final 48.7 seconds of regulation.
Both White and East Hampton’s Bill McKee, who are in their first years as head coaches, were proud to say their players had never quit.
With things pretty much at a fever pitch all night, the Whalers, who had lost by 11 at East Hampton the week before, shot well from the get-go while the visitors did not.
Pierson extended a 16-10 first quarter lead to 22-10 early in the second period thanks to baskets by Jake Weingartner and Patrick Sloane and free throws by Weingartner and Skyler Loesch.
East Hampton replied with a run of its own on baskets by Thomas King and Carlos Serra along with foul shots made by Steven Bahns, John Nolan, and Danny McKee — the coach’s son, who was impressive in his varsity debut. And so it went.
The Whalers led 29-24 when the teams went into the locker rooms at the half, by which time Pierson’s Seamus Doyle, who was deadly from the perimeter, and his teammate Tyler Gilbride had three fouls and East Hampton’s Pat McGuirk had three.
Turnovers and errant shots marked the opening three minutes of the third, a drought that ended when Doyle netted a 3-pointer to put the Whalers up by 8. Soon after, electrifying back-to-back 3s by Doyle and Sloane upped the margin to 14 and had Pierson’s fans in an uproar.
East Hampton’s scoreless skein, which had lasted for 5 minutes and 13 seconds, wasn’t broken until Cameron Yusko, who’d come off the bench, went to the hoop, drew a foul, and, following a Pierson timeout, capped the 3-point play at the foul line.
Thereafter things went better for the Bonackers. Working out of a “weave” to counter Pierson’s man-for-man defense, Danny McKee dropped in a 3 for 38-30, and a putback by King of a Serra miss made it 38-32.
The momentum continued to shift in the fourth quarter as Yusko, who’d been fouled by Doyle, made both free throws and McKee and Serra netted back-to-back shots, McKee having received the ball from Yusko, and Serra having converted a steal.
Serra’s basket tied the game at 38-38 with 6:46 on the clock, and East Hampton, with Serra going to the hoop and with McKee capping the 18-0 run with a 10-footer that rolled around the rim before going in, led 42-38 with 3:53 to play. It was East Hampton’s turn to cheer now.
Doyle and Loesch had picked up their fifth fouls by then and were on the bench. East Hampton’s Pat McGuirk was soon to follow.
Later, White said that had it been a league contest he would have taken more care once Doyle and Loesch had got into foul trouble, “but it was a nonleaguer, it was East Hampton, and we wanted to win, so I let them play.”
Still Pierson fought on. A follow by Weingartner of his miss made it 42-40, and after McKee hit a 2 from inside the top of the key, one of the Whaler subs, Sam Miller, drew a foul and made both ends of the one-and-one to pull the Whalers to 44-42.
John Nolan made the front end of a one-and-one with 1:20 to go, and King made the front ends of two others for 47-42, the honking of a vuvuzela — resulting in the offender’s eviction — preceding his final try.
“We didn’t handle the end of the game well,” Bill McKee said later. “Our defense was set up to deny them a 3, and they [Weingartner] hit it.”
Weingartner’s bomb, with 35.4 seconds to play, prompted a timeout after which East Hampton inbounded the ball. But Lukas Wheeler stole it and drove to the hoop to tie the score at 47-47 with 10.5 seconds remaining.
East Hampton then got the ball out to the very quick Bahns, who raced down the court, but his contested layup didn’t drop, nor did Gilbride’s 3-point buzzer-beating attempt, which hit off the front of the rim.
Two free throws by Weingartner after Bahns had made one put Pierson up 49-48 midway through the four-minute overtime period, and a basket by Sloane, who had fought his way through traffic, put the Whalers up by 3.
King missed a shot at the other end of the court, though East Hampton came up with the rebound and Serra, who’d received a pass from King, knocked down a 3 with 1:32 remaining.
“That’s where we lost it,” said White. “If we’d gotten that defensive rebound, we could have spread it out and run the clock down.”
With 25.3 seconds left, and the score still 51-51, Bahns was fouled as he was shooting. He missed both free throws, however, and Weingartner rebounded his second miss. At the other end, Miller let slip through his hands a pass to him under the basket, and, with 6.6 seconds remaining, King took off. Gilbride caught up with him at the midcourt line and reached in, drawing a foul call that was to prove fatal for the Harbor team as King went to the line and calmly made both tries.
Haunted momentarily by his mistake, Gilbride slammed his chair after the final buzzer sounded, but White was quick to point out that the loss was the team’s — which had committed 30 turnovers that night — not one player’s.
King led East Hampton with 17 points, Serra had 14, McKee 11, Yusko 5, Bahns 3, Nolan 2, and Rich Dalene 1.
For Pierson, Doyle, Sloane, and Weingartner each had 12, Loesch had 6, Miller 4, Gilbride 3, and Wheeler 2.