This could very well be the best Mattituck High School boys basketball team since the 2003-4 season. That was a season Coach Paul Ellwood remembers well, and he should. It was his first season as Mattituck’s head coach, and the Tuckers won the Suffolk County Class C championship.
Mattituck (6-12 last season) is now a Class B team with undoubted talent and chemistry. For the first time since Ellwood has been the coach, Mattituck has five returning starters, all seniors. Although the team doesn’t have a single star player, it is perhaps the deepest team in League VII. Ellwood said he can go with a rotation that is nine players deep without a significant loss in quality, and any of seven players could score 20 points on a given night.
Tom Ascher, a small forward, was an all-league player last season who was the team’s top scorer, averaging about 14 points per game. Yianni Rauseo, a forward, was the team’s top rebounder, grabbing about nine boards per game and earning all-league honorable mention.
The other starters who are back are point guard Connor Davis, shooting guard Steve Ascher (Tom’s brother) and 6-foot 5-inch forward Cody Huntley.
“All these kids played all last year, every game,” Ellwood said. “They’re all skilled.”
As is Mike Mangiamele, a senior who can play shooting guard or small forward. He started some games last season, too.
New to the team are seven upperclassmen: guards Jovan Booker, Austin Tuthill and Connor Eagan, and forwards Tom Sledjeski, Ryan Malone, Ryan Dinizio and Matthew Jacobs.
“We have great chemistry,” Ellwood said. “They don’t worry about their stats. They just want to win games and get in the playoffs.”
Qualifying for the playoffs, something Mattituck has done twice in the past 10 years, would be a big deal, especially with the Tuckers tangling against traditional League VII powers such as the Southampton Mariners, Center Moriches Red Devils and Wyandanch Warriors, not to mention the Hampton Bays Baymen and Babylon Panthers.
Since the conclusion of the last school season, the Tuckers have played 36 games in spring, summer and fall leagues and camps.
“They’ve come a long way,” Ellwood said. “I think they feel like it’s going to be a special year.”
The Greenport Porters (14-8), meanwhile, could be facing a strange year.
When discussing his team last week, Greenport Coach Al Edwards rattled off the names of his top four players. Dantré Langhorne, Tremayne Hansen, Jalen Shelby and Sean Charters are well-known names to Greenport fans. It was after citing those names, though, when Edwards ran into a roadblock. “After that,” he said, “everything is up in the air.”
Edwards said he couldn’t name 10 players who will be on the team. Greenport apparently doesn’t have anything near the depth it has had in recent years. Twenty-eight players came out for the varsity and junior varsity teams, and Edwards said he saw only saw 20 players at one time.
“It’s kind of a stressful thing, but nothing that I can control,” Edwards said. “That’s the way the hand is dealt.”
At the same time, Greenport has some players of undoubted quality, including the 6-5 twin towers of Langhorne and Hansen. Langhorne, a senior forward, was an all-state player last season. Hansen, a senior forward, and Shelby, a junior shooting guard, were both all-league selections. Edwards said the three of them are all potential college players. Langhorne, in particular, is a triple-double threat who is said to be stronger and smarter.
Charters, a junior, is expected to play point guard.
Greenport lost to the John A. Coleman Catholic Statesmen in March and failed to advance beyond the Class D Southeast Region semifinals for the first time in four years. The Porters had ousted Coleman Catholic from the playoffs the previous three years.
It will be difficult for Greenport, which is now a Class C team, to reach the regional phase again.
“We know what we’re up against,” Edwards said. “We’re big boys now. We’re growing up. We have a lot of young kids who have to grow up real fast.”
The Southold First Settlers’ 2009-10 record is easy to remember, perhaps as much for the one loss as the 18 wins that preceded the team’s two-point defeat to The Stony Brook School Bears in the Suffolk County Class C final.
Although Southold graduated nine of the 12 players from that team, Coach Jeff Ellis said he is not looking at this merely as a rebuilding season. With Sal Manno returning as the starting point guard and two other veterans back in junior guard Winston Wilcenski and 6-2 senior forward Alex Conway, the First Settlers have some experience to work around.
Kyle Clausen, a junior, will be one of the three guards in the starting lineup. Two junior forwards, Will Fujita and Alex Sinclair, and a freshman, Matt Stepnoski, are competing for the fifth spot.
Forwards Anthony Fedele and Julio Palencia are new to the team, as is guard David O’Day.
Manno may be asked for more offensive production. “He’s always been a good point guard,” Ellis said. “Last year we didn’t ask him to score a lot because we didn’t need him to. We had more scorers around him.”
Aside from the question of depth, Ellis said his biggest concern is who will step up and be the next leading scorer after Wilcenski and Conway.
“It doesn’t have to be one guy scoring a ton,” said Ellis, who will enter his 13th season as Southold’s coach. “It could be four guys scoring a handful each.”