Early in the Long Island Class B girls basketball final, it was evident that neither team was going to be given a free pass to the Southeast Region final.
But both sides were awarded free throws in a physical game, and Mattituck made the most of them.
Mattituck handled its foul shots better than Carle Place, and as a result the Tuckers captured their first Long Island championship on Tuesday. A critical basket by Brianna Perino and two clutch free throws by Corinne Reda down the stretch propelled Mattituck to a hard-fought 37-33 triumph. Afterward, the Tuckers bench emptied and jubilant players charged out onto the court at St. Joseph College’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center in Patchogue to hug each other and celebrate.
“I almost started crying,” Reda told reporters afterward.
Asked if it was the biggest win in program history, Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood answered: “It has to be. A close win in a Long Island championship. How does it get better than that?”
The Tuckers may find out Saturday when they will return to St. Joseph’s College to play in the regional final. They will face the winner of tomorrow’s game between Irvington of Section I and Marlboro Central of Section IX.
Although Mattituck (20-2), playing in its first Long Island final, led for much of the game, Carle Place (14-7) never allowed the Tuckers to pull away to more than a five-point lead, which they did on three occasions. The Frogs, for their part, were able to leapfrog the Tuckers twice for brief leads and they tied the score six times.
Points were hard to come by for both sides, which also exchanged a fair amount of turnovers. Mattituck won despite shooting a grisly 28.9 percent from the field and not hitting one of its eight attempted three-pointers. Carle Place shot 27.1 percent.
The big difference-maker came at the foul line, where Carle Place, which sought its fourth Long Island crown, stumbled, going 4 of 14. Mattituck went 15 of 24 from the line.
Mattituck’s Liz Dwyer was asked if free throws were the deciding factor.
“How much did we win by?” she asked. When told four points, she said, “Yep.”
Carle Place did a good job keeping a tight rein on Dwyer, who made 2 of 7 field goals. But the sophomore also sank 7 of 10 free throws to leave her with 11 points.
Reda, a junior, also shot 7 of 10 from the foul line and had 11 points to go with nine rebounds.
Shortly after being reinserted into the game, Perino made a running bank shot for her only points of the game and Mattituck’s only field goal of the fourth quarter. That snapped a 33-33 tie with 1 minute 25 seconds left to play.
Then, after a Carle Place player dribbled the ball off her foot, Dwyer recovered it.
Dwyer said she wants the ball in crunch time. “I like the pressure,” she said. “It fuels me.”
Following a Mattituck timeout, Reda was fouled and made one of two free throws for a 36-33 lead with 7.8 seconds to go.
“It was so nerve-wracking,” she said.
Following a Carle Place timeout, the Frogs turned the ball over again on a Reda steal. Reda was fouled and once again made one of two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to seal the victory.
Elissa Frein and Abigail Selhorn led Carle Place with eight points apiece. Kacey Burden added seven points and 13 rebounds.
Van Dood liked seeing Dwyer draw two charging fouls, even if it means it will cost him. The deal is, for every charge one of his players takes, he owes her a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.
“So Liz, I owe you a couple of bets there, the bacon, egg and cheese,” he said to her afterward.
Dwyer replied, “You owe me a lot of bacon, egg and cheese.”
Van Dood concurred, saying, “I probably owe you about six now.”
Mattituck’s Katie Hoeg was held to three points, but she got enough help from her friends. “I didn’t really play that well,” she said, “and it’s just so amazing to see the other girls reach their potential and really step up when it counts and, you know, make that moment that everybody can remember forever.”
Reda said, “Now it’s just a dream come true.”
Photo caption: Emily Mowdy jumps into the arms of Liz Dwyer, left, as Jane DiGregorio joins in the celebrating after Mattituck won its first Long Island championship with a triumph over Carle Place. (Credit: Garret Meade)