Not all losses are equal. Some are more or less painful than others. This one could be filed in the “less painful” category for the Mattituck High School girls basketball team.
Not that losses don’t hurt and any athlete with an ounce of competitiveness doesn’t mind losing, but sometimes the other team is just plain better, no ifs, ands or buts about it. That understanding can make a loss a little easier to digest.
One got a sense in the early moments of Thursday’s Southeast Region Class B final that Mattituck had its work cut out for it going up against Irvington, the fine-tuned Section I champion from Westchester County. Mattituck had managed to scratch to within two points by the end of the first quarter when it trailed, 14-12, at SUNY/Old Westbury’s Clark Athletic Center. But then Irvington went to work, putting its speed and excellent ball movement to good use. By halftime the score was 34-19 Irvington. The second half was a mere formality.
When all was said and done, Irvington had won handily, by 25 points: 62-37.
And it wasn’t as if Mattituck didn’t do all it could. The Tuckers simply ran into a superior team. No shame there.
“They were very good,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said. “I mean, I’ve never seen such ball movement on a girls basketball team. … That was a good team we came across. Some of the best basketball comes out of that Hudson Valley.”
Last year Mattituck reached its first regional final, losing by 13 points to Marlboro. It was Marlboro’s shooting (50 percent from the field) that won that day. Irvington did it with tenacious, suffocating defense and a lightning-quick transition game.
Sound familiar? That is basically how Mattituck won its second straight Long Island championship. The thing is, Irvington had speed on its side in this matchup and it made all the difference.
“They were really fast,” marveled Mattituck guard Jane DiGregorio, who is quick herself.
And Irvington was smart. The Bulldogs knew who to look out for on Mattituck: Liz Dwyer. They hounded Mattituck’s top scorer, holding her to 14 points, eight below her average.
At each stage of the playoffs, the competition gets tougher and tougher. Irvington left no doubt that it deserved to advance to the state final four that will be held at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy Match 17-19. Kelly Degnan, a junior, went 9-for-12 from the field for a game-high 20 points and was joined by eight other Bulldogs in the scoring column.
“They weren’t missing many threes, either,” Dwyer said. “They were quicker on defense. We could not box out so overall they definitely deserved to win tonight.”
Mattituck loses only one player from this team to graduation: Corinne Reda. That means the Tuckers should be well-positioned for another run at a regional championship next season.
“I think the season was an overall success,” Dwyer said. “We got as far as we did last year, then we got stuck at this place, but next year, I think we can definitely get over this hump. I think we can definitely get here again next year, maybe even further.”
That thought certainly eases some of the sting the Tuckers may have been feeling.
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Liz Dwyer splits a pair of Irvington defenders to put up a shot in the regional final. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Bob Liepa is the sports editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].