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.
"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."