TUCKERS 53, PANTHERS 35
Wilcenski may be the biggest name in Mattituck High School basketball history. Not only is Don Wilcenski the all-time leading scorer for the Mattituck boys team, but his daughter, Allie, is making a name for herself playing for the school’s girls team.
Allie Wilcenski’s play on the court presents a sharp contrast to her affable demeanor off of it. Off the court, Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said, “She’s always smiling and always happy.” But when Wilcenski walks onto the court she brings her game face. “You can see some fire,” said Van Dood.
That fire is an elementary feature of a player who rebounds like Wilcenski does. It was her rebounding ability that earned her a spot as the first or second player off the bench last season.
This season the 5-foot-11 junior forward has not only earned a starting position, but she has added more scoring to her game. She was the leading scorer for Mattituck’s summer league team, impressing Van Dood with her development.
“I’ve never seen a girl grow up as much as she did this summer,” he said. “She’s going to the basket strong, and it’s paying off.”
Wilcenski played what might have been the best game of her high school career on Friday night when Mattituck opened its Suffolk County League VII season in impressive fashion, thrashing Babylon, 53-35, at Mattituck High School. She totaled 14 points (doubling her per-game average), 12 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 blocks and 1 assist.
“Allie, great,” Mattituck guard/forward Shannon Dwyer said when Wilcenski’s name was mentioned. “She knows how to get people riled up on the team in a good way. Even when you have like an awful shot, she’s there for the rebound usually.”
If Wilcenski needs advice from someone close to her, she doesn’t have to look far. Don Wilcenski is the team’s assistant coach. That doesn’t mean she receives any preferential treatment, though, said Van Dood.
“There’s no favoritism with Allie,” he said. “In fact, we’re even tougher on Allie. It’s like a teacher’s child. She knows we’re going to be tougher on her because of that. Maybe that’s why she’s playing so well.”
Allie Wilcenski said she enjoys playing for her father. “I get tough love, but it’s fun,” she said.
And what about playing with the same last name that her father linked with Mattituck basketball during his playing days? Does that bring pressure?
“A little bit,” she replied. “I don’t think anyone expects me to be that good.”
Friday was a feel-good night for Allie Wilcenski and her teammates. The Tuckers (3-2, 1-0) had nice scoring balance. Alex Berkoski put up 11 points and Lauren Guja had 10 before fouling out with 5 minutes 51 seconds left in the game. Dwyer and Alexa Orlando both added 8 points and 5 assists apiece.
Mattituck opened up a 12-0 lead and coasted, thanks in part to its pressing defense. Babylon (0-5, 0-2) didn’t get on the scoreboard until Emily Funk made a layup 4:14 into the contest. With 50-percent field-goal shooting, the Tuckers built a 32-16 lead by halftime. On top of that, Mattituck dominated the boards, outrebounding Babylon by 41-25.
“It was a good night,” said Dwyer.
Van Dood liked what he saw. “It’s definitely a huge win for us,” he said. “It just puts us in the right direction.”
Funk, a junior point guard, was the game’s high scorer with 22 points. Devyn Antolini added 9 for Babylon.
Babylon coach Chris Ryan has been encouraging Funk to take aim at the basket when she gets the chance. He said: “I tell her: ‘You got to shoot. You got a beautiful shot. You got to shoot more.’ … I’m thrilled with how she’s playing.”
Van Dood sounded thrilled by the way his team performed Friday.
“It’s fun to watch a team effort,” he said. “They’re not forcing shots. They realize, ‘If I distribute the ball, I’m going to get it back.’ ”
For Mattituck, perhaps it’s a sign of more good things to come.
“I think it was a good league opener because it showed all the younger girls on the team that we have a shot at this,” Dwyer said. “We could do this. We got everybody’s hopes up a lot.”