It had all the makings of a classic finish.
More than 500 fans packed the Pierson High School gymnasium on Saturday for the Suffolk County Class C girls basketball semifinal against Bishop McGann-Mercy.
“It was a great game,” Pierson/Bridgehampton/Bridgehampton Coach Dennis Case said. “It was amazing; the air and the intensity. The place was packed. It was rocking in there.”
As it turned out, Pierson/Bridgehampton/Bridgehampton and its supporters left the gym rocking just a little more than third-seeded McGann-Mercy as senior Amanda Busiello sank a three-point basket with 1 minute 30 seconds remaining to break a 30-30 tie, lifting the second-seeded Whalers to a dramatic 35-32 win.
Pierson/Bridgehampton (9-11) reached the Class C championship game for the first time in six years, as it took on the top seed, The Stony Brook School, in Tuesday’s final. Stony Brook won, 43-29, for its sixth straight county title.
In the semifinal, Busiello, an all-League VIII player who had scored three points up to that point, sank her game-winning shot from the top of the key.
“Amanda has come on in the second part of the season,” Case said.
Kaci Koehne sealed the game when she grabbed an offensive rebound — she had 17 boards in the game — after a missed foul shot with 6.5 seconds left in the confrontation.
One of the keys to the Whalers’ win was their defense. They played a diamond-and-one defense with Samantha James (game-high 13 points) limiting leading scorer and forward Amy Boden to three points, all on free throws.
“We tried to deny her the ball,” Case said. “Samantha James probably had the best game of her senior year.”
On the other side of the ledger, McGann-Mercy held Pierson/Bridgehampton senior point guard Sarah Barrett, who was averaging 15 points a game, to five points.
Dani Gehring, who finished with a team-high 10 points, scored all of the Monarchs’ nine points in the second quarter as the first half ended in a 19-19 tie.
In fact, the entire game was tight. The Monarchs managed to grab a 26-25 edge entering the fourth quarter. They had taken as much as a five-point lead in the third period, but Pierson/Bridgehampton downed the final two baskets in the quarter to pull within striking range.
“It was a very physical game, a very hard-fought game,” Case said. “It was a great game to watch. I was exhausted when I got home.”
The Monarchs finished the season at 9-9. McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton could not be reached for comment.