Where is the respect?
That is what the Mattituck High School girls basketball team must have been wondering when the latest New York State Sportswriters Association ranking of the top 25 Class B teams in the state came out and the Tuckers were nowhere to be found on the list.
Having won the first Suffolk County and Long Island championships in their history, the Rodney Dangerfields of New York girls basketball reached their first regional final on Saturday night as one of only eight Class B teams in New York still standing.
After that game — a 74-61 loss — the Tuckers readily acknowledged that Section IX champion Marlboro had earned their respect, particularly because of its uncanny sharp shooting.
Marlboro (22-2) gave its loud contingent of visiting fans a lot to cheer about at St. Joseph College’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center in Patchogue. The Dukes, behind inspired play from Missy Sadler, knocked down shot after shot with regularity. They made 50 percent (27 of 54) of their field-goal attempts, nailing down 7 of 12 three-point attempts in the process. A number of those shots found nothing but net.
Mattituck guard Mackenzie Daly called Marlboro “the best shooting team I’ve ever come across. Every shot they took, it seemed like it went in.”
Marlboro shot its way to its first regional title since 1984, according to coach Marion Casey. The Dukes will play in a state semifinal on Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Marlboro won state championships in 1982 and 1984.
The result capped the most successful season Mattituck (20-3) has ever had. The Tuckers entered the gym before the game in high spirits, laughing and smiling. They had a lot to feel good about — until they saw Marlboro connecting on one shot after another.
“We couldn’t even get rebounds because they were just shooting and it was just going through,” said Katie Hoeg, a senior guard who played her final game for Mattituck.
Sadler was the driving force for Marlboro, seemingly doing everything — hitting jump shots, making steals, grabbing rebounds. The Orange County Community College-bound player was a major thorn in Mattituck’s side, collecting 24 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and two assists.
“It was typical Missy,” said Casey.
And, if Sadler wasn’t enough, Marlboro also received double-digit scoring from Talaya Lewis (17 points), Taylor Felicello (13) and Julia Rusk (12). Felicello also had 10 assists.
“We tried locking up their shooters, but other girls stepped up,” said Mattituck guard Jane DiGregorio.
Comebacks are said to be Marlboro’s style, but a comeback wasn’t necessary this time.
Marlboro, ranked 10th in the state, was coming off a shocking 61-60 upset of No. 1 Irvington. In that game the Dukes overcame a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
On Saturday, Sadler had 11 points in the first quarter, including four straight baskets (a trey from the wing, a putback off a missed free throw, a layup off her own steal, and a pull-up jumper) that spotted the Dukes a 13-5 lead, capping an 11-0 run. She also sank a foul-line jumper and converted a layup off a steal to kick-start a 9-0 burst, making the score 25-12.
Mattituck gave Marlboro a variety of defensive looks. Nothing worked.
Mattituck twice cut the Marlboro lead to nine points in the third quarter, but the Dukes were relentless as they scored 10 more points than the Tuckers have allowed in any other game this season.
“We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said. “They just had an answer for everything.”
Marlboro’s impressive shooting accuracy overshadowed a 28-point performance by Mattituck’s Liz Dwyer, who hit 10 of 14 shots from the field.
Hoeg totaled 13 points, eight rebounds, five blocks, four assists and one steal before she fouled out with 2 minutes 29 seconds left in the game. She was serenaded by Mattituck fans chanting her name.
Corinne Reda added 10 points.
What is Dwyer’s take on Mattituck being snubbed by the state ranking?
“I think it fuels us,” she said, adding, “Hopefully we’re ranked next year, but you never know.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Liz Dwyer, who hit 10 of 14 shots from the field and scored a game-high 28 points, takes aim while being guarded by Marlboro’s Julia Rusk. (Credit: Garret Meade)