GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — In the end, Pierson had to settle for just being here.
This boys basketball team from Sag Harbor looked like it could be bound for the state Class C championship game, taking a nine-point lead over Section IV champ Newfield early in the fourth.
But the Whalers watched the advantage slip away. This semifinal ultimately slipped away from them on a tiebreaking layup by Zach Taylor with about 11 seconds left. Pierson ended up falling, 66-62, Friday at Cool Insuring Arena.
"It’s tough to lose in the final four," coach Will Fujita said. "But at the same time, I think I have enough perspective to understand that what we’ve done this year is a great accomplishment."
Cecil Munshin scored 21 and Wilson Bennett had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Long Island C champs — two of the eight seniors on a 23-3 team that had been trying to claim the program’s second state title and its first since 1978.
"It’s very difficult," Fujita said about losing these seniors. "I have been reflecting a lot about the time that we’ve spent together, because I started teaching at Pierson six years ago. So these guys were in seventh grade.
"… We fell a little bit short of what we set out to do when they were 12, 13 years old. But I think that the comprehensive body of work that they’ve put together over the last six years has been tremendous."
Newfield (22-4) led 62-60 before Bennett sank two free throws, tying it with 37.7 seconds left.
But Taylor took a feed inside and converted it, giving him 15 points and the Trojans the edge.
After a timeout, Newfield’s Derek Pawlewicz intercepted a long inbounds pass, then clinched it, nailing two foul shots with 5.4 seconds remaining.
So the Trojans will chase their program’s first state title when they face Stillwater of Section II Saturday night.
"They’ve been to final fours; they won sectionals," Newfield coach Mike Nembhard said. "But they never put the roof on the house."
His team started constructing a lead quickly, shooting ahead 22-11 after one quarter.
Then the game started spinning. Munshin scored eight in a 21-3 run to open the second, good for a 32-25 Whalers lead.
They led by 10 in the third and 56-47 with seven minutes left. Nembhard said he had to switch defensively from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man. The Trojans responded with a 15-4 run for that 62-60 lead.
"My hat’s off to Pierson," Nembhard said. "They’re a great team. They’re coached by a great coach. But I’m just thankful that we got the ‘W.’ "