RED DEVILS 40, TUCKERS 38
What the game lacked in artistry, it more than made up for in drama. It wasn’t always pretty, but it sure was exciting down the stretch.
With two of its starters sitting on the bench after having fouled out, Center Moriches held on for a 40-38 triumph over visiting Mattituck in a Suffolk County League VII girls basketball game on Thursday night. Mattituck had numerous chances to tie the score or go ahead in the fourth quarter, including a last-second putback attempt by Allie Wilcenski that missed before the final buzzer. The Tuckers shot 3 of 11 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, failed to hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute, and missed 22 free throws altogether.
“Need I say any more?” Mattituck’s stunned coach, Steve Van Dood, said in reference to the failed foul shots.
The game marked the end of the first half of the league season. Mattituck (5-6, 3-3) is still on a playoff pace, but it isn’t going to be an easy loss for the Tuckers to shake off.
“Their two best players fouled out of the game, and we can’t make a free throw,” Van Dood said. “It was the worst loss I think I ever suffered. I can’t believe it. I’m afraid to even say anything right now because I don’t want it to go into print. The girls did not show up.”
Shannon Dwyer, who was Mattituck’s scoring leader with 10 points, said: “It was pretty tough, but I feel like we all really tried, though. We gave it our all.”
Center Moriches sank 5 of 7 free throws in the fourth quarter, including a pair by Victoria Martin that snapped a 37-37 tie with 43.9 seconds to go.
A free throw by Nicole Murphy pulled Mattituck a point closer with 11.8 seconds remaining, but Center Moriches added another point on a foul shot by Pamela Schenk with 6.5 seconds left.
The Tuckers still had a chance to pull even with 2.3 seconds to go, but Alexa Orlando missed a pair of free throws.
“That’s how it’s been, very, very exciting,” Center Moriches coach Kelley Watts said. “Our games are not dull at all.”
Center Moriches (4-3, 3-3) lost two of its best players, juniors Takia Plummer and Vanessa Lewis, after they picked up their fifth personal fouls in the fourth quarter.
“It was so painful. I just wanted to be out there,” Plummer said. “Cheering from the bench, everyone’s got to do it sometimes.”
Mattituck’s top player, Lauren Guja, then fouled out herself with 75 seconds left.
Claire Brady led Center Moriches with 10 points while Plummer and Lewis added 8 each.
Wilcenski pulled down 13 rebounds to go with 6 points, 4 blocks and 2 steals.
Center Moriches won a Long Island championship last season, but the Red Devils are not the same team. Four players remain from that championship team, and one of them, Kelsey Glanzmann, is sitting out her entire senior season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Three sophomores were in the Center Moriches starting lineup on Thursday, and they helped the Red Devils stay afloat after their most experienced players fouled out.
“It just goes to show you that my young kids who are coming into the game are really learning to handle that pressure and still be able to play,” Watts said. “When they had their backs against the wall, they really came through tonight.”
Watts played for Rutgers University where she was a teammate of the famed Sue Wicks, whose No. 15 has been retired at Center Moriches High School.
The Red Devils have been finding ways to win for Watts. They did so on Thursday despite shooting 29.3 percent from the field and being outrebounded by 34-24.
At times it seemed as if neither side wanted to win, serving as its own worst enemy. Mattituck turned the ball over 35 times, and Center Moriches had 27 turnovers.
“It was like one team would get a steal and then we’d turn it over, and they’d get the ball and they’d turn it over, and it just got to a point [where] somebody had to take control and calm the game down,” said Plummer.
Points were hard to come by in the early going. The first quarter ended with the score 6-6. It was 18-18 at the half. The game’s largest margin was four points.
At the midpoint of the league season, Mattituck finds itself at .500 in league play, with wins over Wyandanch, Bishop McGann-Mercy and Babylon, and losses to Center Moriches, Southampton and Hampton Bays.
“For a young team, I’m happy to be in the position we are in,” Van Dood said. “Three and three is not all that bad, but [by] the same token, we let one slip away. We just lost a game we were supposed to win. Maybe it’s karma, I don’t know.”