Dan White, who coaches Pierson High School’s boys basketball team, said following a barn burner in Sag Harbor with Bridgehampton’s Killer Bees that he couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Arguably White would have said the same thing even had his team lost, which it didn’t. The Whalers, whom the Bees played toe-to-toe throughout almost the entire game, rode Forrest Loesch’s hot hand that day to a 70-61 victory.
Pierson hit 14 shots from beyond the arc, and Loesch, the team’s unstoppable senior, had eight of them, in 13 tries, an empyrean percentage from that range. The muscular redhead was also a big factor under the boards. White said during a brief conversation Monday that while he didn’t have the stats in front of him, “he must have had at least 10 rebounds.”
Asked after the game if he had been “surprised” by Loesch’s deadly perimeter shooting, White said no, that he’d always known that Loesch could hit from the outside as well as take it to the hoop (with excessive enthusiasm in some cases last year, resulting in foul calls). “The scouting report on Forrest this year was to deny him the rim and make him knock it down from outside,” said White. “Well, he is.”
Pierson and Bridgehampton, which, in Josh Lamison, Tylik Furman, Jerome Walker, Anajae Lamb, and Elijah Jackson, has a formidable crew as well, may meet again this winter, in the playoffs’ C-D game, though White’s focus now is on Stony Brook, with which the Whalers shared the League VIII lead as of earlier this week, each at 8-1. They are to play tomorrow, at Stony Brook, at 5:30 p.m.
The first time around, on Dec. 18, the Whalers defeated the Brooksters 66-58 at home. Pierson also defeated the Bees in their first clash, at the Beehive, 68-41, on Dec. 11, but Furman, Bridgehampton’s sophomore point guard, who injured a knee in the summer, was not in that one.
Saturday’s showdown was played before a packed Pierson gym. Hardly a parking space in its environs could be found if you were a latecomer.
The place was in full cry throughout, with the stands on each side of the court alternately shaking and shouting as the baskets poured in. At the half, it was Pierson 31, Bridgehampton 30.
With about three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter, the Bees, thanks to successive baskets by Lamison, who’d received a nice baseline bounce pass from Jackson, Furman, who converted a Bees steal, and a 3-pointer by Walker, took a 40-34 lead, prompting Bridgehampton’s side to break into a clamorous “Let’s go Bridgies! Let’s go Bridgies!” chant.
Alas for the Bees that margin wasn’t to stand up as the Whalers replied with two 3s sandwiched around a converted steal to wrest the lead back, at 42-40. A 3-pointer from the perimeter by Loesch with 12 seconds left in the third enabled the home team to take a 48-46 lead into the fourth.
The Bees got the lead back again, at 49-48, on a Walker 3 when the fourth period began, but Loesch, who was to finish with a game-high 30 points, came right back with one of his own, and thereafter the Whalers never trailed on their way to the hard-earned 70-61 win.
“We couldn’t defend the 3,” Joe Zucker, who is one of the Bees coach Carl Johnson’s assistants, said as Bridgehampton’s glum players walked off the floor. “Still, it was a high-quality high school game.”
“Loesch and number 1 [Pierson’s point guard, Ian Barrett, who finished with 12 points and 9 assists] hurt us,” said another of Johnson’s assistants, Kevin McConville, as he walked by.
“I love to play Bridgehampton, and I love the rivalry,” White said in reply to a sportswriter’s question in the game’s aftermath.
“Bridgehampton has a lot of history, we’re trying to create some here too. You know that when both teams are healthy it’s going to be a dogfight. . . . To my mind there’s no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”