Pierson forward Charlie Culver drives the baseline for two points...

Pierson forward Charlie Culver drives the baseline for two points against Greenport, Wednesday, February 16, 2022 in the Class C Finals at Westhampton Beach. Credit: George A Faella

Pierson didn’t even have an abbreviated season like other basketball teams last winter after the boys fell in the Suffolk Class C final the season prior. The Sag Harbor district canceled that 2021 run due to the pandemic.

So after the top-seeded Whalers held off a furious charge by second-seeded Greenport to win, 68-52, and secure a county championship Wednesday night at Westhampton, Wilson Bennett wasn’t just thinking about the joy and satisfaction for this team.

The 6-4 senior forward was also thinking about players from the past.

"It feels great," said Bennett, who paced Pierson with 24 points. "It’s been a long time coming since two years ago on Valentine’s Day. This one was for the guys, the seniors last year, that didn’t get to have a season. It was for the team that lost to Southold two years ago on Valentine’s Day in the same game.

"We win for them. We win for ourselves."

Mostly, this team just wins. The Whalers are now 20-1. They advance to face Class D champ Bridgehampton in Suffolk’s overall tournament at noon Saturday at Sachem East. And they advance to face Carle Place for the Long Island championship in Class C at Centereach on March 9.

"We’ve had two ideas that we’ve tried to stick to this year," Pierson coach Will Fujita said. "The first is to be grateful for the opportunity to play, and the second is to be consistent in the things that we do. I think that over the course of the year we’ve been able to stay true to those.

"I went to Providence. I’m a big coach (Ed) Cooley fan. He has a slogan with the team this year. The slogan is: ‘Be Them Dudes.’ I think that’s kind of the persona this team is embodying right now."

These dudes jumped out to an 11-0 lead that became a 34-19 lead at the break. It swelled to 41-23 in the third quarter. And then it shrunk to 49-44 just 20 seconds into the fourth.

The Whalers responded. Bennett put in his own miss and Brendan Burke buried a three from the left corner. The five points served as the start of a 13-2 burst that extended the lead to 62-46. Dan Labrozzi, who scored 20 points, capped it with a couple of shots from in close.

"When they got it to five points, the guys didn’t waver," Fujita said. "They stayed consistent."

Jahmeek Freeman was at the forefront of Greenport’s comeback. The senior guard scored 11 of his 15 points to power the 21-8 run that got it down to five. Tucked inside that run was a nifty four-point play by Freeman on a three and a free throw.

"He can really catch fire," coach Ev Corwin said. "He’s like instant offense."

But Freeman’s run is over. Forward Donovan Lawrence led the Porters (14-8) with 17 points. He’s a senior, too. So is Corwin’s son, Ev, the point guard, who had 15. Center Jordan Hubbard was also a senior starter.

"I had four starters that were seniors, including my son," Corwin said. "It’s very emotional right now. Those kids grew up at my house. It’s sad for me that I’m not going to see them every day at practice. It’s a great group, and I’m sorry to see it end."

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