NEWBURGH, N.Y. - It was a blowout, and then it wasn't.
And even though the Pierson-Bridgehampton girls basketball team could not complete its climb out of a 21-point second-half hole, a 45-35 loss to Pine Plains on Friday in the state Southeast Regional Class C championship game encouraged a team that started one junior and four sophomores.
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"I knew this game was going to be tough as soon as we walked into this gym," Whalers coach Kevin Barron said. "I knew we weren't going to have a lot of fans, but they brought it today and I'm proud of them."
Pine Plains (15-7) brought a loud group of fans who packed one side of Kaplan Center on Mount St. Mary College's campus and led 35-14 less than three minutes after halftime. Pierson-Bridgehampton forward Erica Selyukova had picked up her third foul going against Ashley Starzyk and Bella Starzyk in the post, and the Whalers (9-11) had trouble finishing defensive possessions without her crashing the glass. The Starzyks scored 11 points each.
"There were spurts in the game where we did a very poor job boxing them," Barron said.
But the Whalers gained possessions another way, by forcing turnovers. Sophomore guard Nia Dawson scored five points in a 10-2 run fueled by steals to cut the gap to 14 before Brooke Hapeman's buzzer-beating three-pointer gave Pine Plains a 40-23 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"We knew we wanted to go out with a fight," Dawson said.
So the Whalers fought, even after Pine Plains extended its lead back to 20 with 5:07 left. The Bombers did not score again, and Pierson-Bridgehampton closed the game on a 10-0 run.
"The effort just never died," Barron said.
Dawson, Selyukova and Barron agreed that these Whalers had never played in such a loud setting. The experience, they said, will only help a team that returns all but one player who logged at least a minute in the regional.
"This game's going to come into my head when I'm practicing and getting ready for next year," said Selyukova, a junior.
Though they could not complete the comeback this year, the Whalers hope to make a different sort of comeback in 2016.
"We came back right at the end and only lost by 10," Barron said. "We'll be right back in this spot next year."