Hard work pays off as Pierson reached NYSPHSAA Class C semis
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Pierson went 0-0 last season because the Sag Harbor school district canceled the boys basketball team’s season as a ‘high-risk’ sport in the pandemic.
But the Whalers shook that off to win the Suffolk and Long Island Class C titles and reach the NYSPHSAA Class C semifinals. The Whalers finished this season 23-3 after Friday’s 66-62 loss to Section IV’s Newfield.
"It just speaks to their work ethic," coach Will Fujita said, citing his eight departing seniors in particular.
"When we didn’t have a season, we decided to do an AAU season in West Hempstead," he added. "For us, that’s an hour and a half every other weekend, two days a week. And they wanted to do it. . . . Not all those guys get minutes that you see in the game. But the value that all of them bring to the program is going to be something that I hope paves the way for these younger guys to watch and learn from. So I’m very, very grateful for the experience that I had with them. It’s tough. They’re wonderful kids."
Manhasset makes time to win
Manhasset had to do some special preparation before it emerged victorious over Poughkeepsie in its state Class A boys basketball semifinal. The game was played at 9 a.m., many hours earlier than any contest it had played previously. So coach George Bruns held practices Wednesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. instead of after school.
"It can be a real shock to the system to play at such a different hour," Bruns said. "We all had to recalibrate for it."
"Even though some of us played 9 a.m. games in AAU, these practices helped," senior point guard Mike Notias said. "We did our film work after school."
Manhasset (24-1) encountered one last-minute problem before the game: the team bus driver was locked out of his own bus. Bruns had the team take the seven-block walk to the players entrance at Cool Insuring Arena. He called it "an invigorating morning stroll."
Baldwin practices self-discipline
Every coach wants his team well-rested before playing in a state tournament, however boys basketball players like watching the NCAA Tournament and it can run quite late. Baldwin coach Darius Burton gave his team two orders when they got back to the hotel from dinner on Thursday. "The first thing we wanted was everyone in their rooms at 10 p.m., but we knew that they’d want to watch," Burton explained. "The second thing we needed was all lights out by 11:15."
Baldwin’s lot was a little easier than Manhasset because the Bruins played an evening semi final, where they fell to Mount Vernon.
"The teams that come here have a lot of self-discipline, so the [NCAA] Tournament might not be as much of a problem as one would think," Bruns said.
Manhasset junior Liam Connor explained "no one wants to miss a great game like Wisconsin and Colgate played [Friday], but we’ve been on a mission to win and nothing gets in the way."