Not even one of the best, if not the best, performances by a Mattituck High School basketball player in a quarter could rescue the Tuckers Thursday night.
Junior forward Liz Dwyer connected for a remarkable 18 points in the final period as the Tuckers suffered only their first Suffolk County League VII loss of the season, a 51-43 defeat at Port Jefferson High School.
A win would have given Mattituck (16-2, 14-1) the league championship over the Royals (14-3, 13-1). Instead, the Tuckers probably will share the title with Port Jefferson. It was disappointing for them, but they have greater goals in their sights: the Class B tournament, which begins later this month. Port Jefferson will compete in Class C.
The teams split the season series as Mattituck won the first game at home, 48-43, on Jan. 3.
Thursday’s encounter featured two of the highest scoring players in the county and that confrontation lived up to the hype. Port Jefferson forward-guard Courtney Lewis, who entered the game atop the leader board, averaging 27.2 points a game, finished with 27 points.
Dwyer, a junior forward who was sixth in Suffolk at 22.2 ppg, put her team on her back by tallying a game-high 31 points. In fact, Dwyer’s fourth-quarter performance was even more impressive. After Mackenzie Daly sank a foul shot with 6 minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Dwyer scored the Tuckers’ final 18 points, some by her talent, some by sheer willpower.
Mattituck endured its most difficult game of the season. The Royals played a tight 2-3 zone defense that stifled the Tuckers and collapsed on Dwyer in the early going.
Port Jefferson pulled away in the second quarter after taking an 11-9 edge in the opening period.
The Tuckers forced the Royals to commit seven turnovers in the quarter, but were stymied from keeping the game close due to 1-for-10 shooting from the field, scoring only five points. Translated: Port Jefferson extended its lead to 21-14 by halftime.
Mattituck pulled within 24-22 on Corinne Reda’s layup with 4:11 left in the final period before the Royals went on a 9-0 tear to grab a 33-22 advantage with 2:20 remaining. Lewis, who scored eight points during that run, completed the spurt in style as she converted back-to-back steals into easy baskets.
Then Dwyer went on her one-girl show with her 18 points. Lewis, however, kept the Royals out of striking distance by scoring 12 points of her own in the period.
The Tuckers will close out its regular season by hosting Center Moriches on Feb. 8. Port Jefferson has two more games remaining — at Center Moriches Feb. 7 and at home versus Pierson/Bridgehampton on Feb. 9.
Photo caption: Not even a game-high 31 points from Liz Dwyer, trying to shoot over Port Jefferson’s Gillian Kenah, was enough for Mattituck to avoid its first league defeat. (Credit: Garret Meade)