One of the most valuable things to come out of this productive summer for the Mattituck boys basketball team is its proven ability to pull out close games. That’s a wonderful quality, and was best illustrated in the team’s 1-point wins over Miller Place and Greenport during the Town of Brookhaven Summer League regular season.
That knack for winning the close ones doesn’t seem to work against Westhampton Beach, though.
During the regular season, Westhampton Beach handed Mattituck an 8-point loss. Things were even tighter when the teams met again in the small schools final on Thursday evening, with Westhampton Beach prevailing by 4 points, 31-27. The defensive struggle at St. Joseph’s College’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center saw Mattituck’s lowest point output of the summer in the Brookhaven League.
Points were hard to come by. Through the first 15 minutes of running time, the scoreboard read 5-5, a score more fitting for a game played by elementary school-age players than two high school varsity teams. The Tuckers allowed only 13 points in the first half, and still trailed by 3 points because of Mike Frangeskos’ 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The teams stayed within 5 points of each other the whole way until Frangeskos sank a pair of free throws, putting the Hurricanes ahead, 29-27, late in the game for the seventh lead change.
Another two foul shots by Luke Dyer gave Westhampton Beach a little more breathing room with 13.9 seconds left.
Both teams had their offensive struggles, with only about one-third of the shots finding their way through the basket. The shooting from the field was almost identical: Westhampton Beach shot 10 for 29 and Mattituck went 9 for 29.
“It was tough,” Mattituck’s sophomore point guard, Parker Tuthill, said. “We couldn’t get a flow to our offense, but defensively we were doing good. We stopped them a lot. We just couldn’t execute on offense.”
Frangesko led all scorers with 12 points. Dyer contributed 7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block for the Hurricanes, who picked up their 10th win in 12 league games.
Gene Allen was Mattituck’s top scorer with 6 points. He also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
“It was a tough game,” Allen said. “It’s always a tough game when we play them.” He added, “Every time we play them, it’s hard to execute.”
What was Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood’s assessment of what he saw?
“It was hard for us to get looks,” he said. “We struggled to get anything going. … I think they had problems with our press, but we just didn’t score enough to get into it.”
It’s wise not to read too much into summer league results, but the fact that Mattituck (9-3) reached the championship game is evidence that it has done some things right.
The Tuckers also competed in a summer league in Southampton, going 7-7 in that league. By playing in both leagues, the Tuckers saw more playing time and had more opportunities to show what they can do.
“You never know what you’re going to get out of it,” Ellwood said of summer-league ball. “Sometimes the team grows. I think a lot of guys down in the pecking order got a lot of [playing] time and improved. I found roles for them on the team and how they can help us.”
Ellwood believes the Tuckers will be in a better situation when they start preseason practice for the school season than they were a year ago. It’s easy to see why. Mattituck returns its top three scorers (Will Gildersleeve, Allen and Chris Dwyer), its leading rebounder (Allen) and its No. 1 assist man (Joe Tardif) from last season.
Although the Tuckers have young players, they have basketball experience. Not a bad combination.
Among the developing young players who have looked good is Tuthill, who was the starting point guard for Mattituck’s 16-1 junior varsity team last season. “He had some games where he was just lights out,” said Ellwood.
The coach continued: “Parker’s going to be a tremendous player. He just needs to get a little meat on the bones. The only time he struggles is when bigger kids get physical with him. Other than that, the skill set is there. He can shoot. He’s going to grow up and get stronger. He’s going to be a handful. … He’s going to be a great player for us for the next three years.”
More encouragement comes from junior Josh Conklin and senior Tyler Reeve, who have provided the team with inside grit.
“Our front line was a weakness last year, so we addressed that with those two guys,” said Ellwood.
Playing in a league final, even if it is a summer league, has benefits, but Tuthill’s competitive fire may have made it difficult for him to sound upbeat after the league final.
“It’s a good experience,” he said, “but it would have been better if we had won.”