For starters, it wasn’t a bad beginning for the Mattituck Tuckers. Not bad at all.
The first high school boys basketball game of the season for Mattituck was a testament to both its chemistry and depth, two factors that could take the Tuckers far.
The Tuckers opened their season in impressive fashion on Friday night, rolling over the Bridgehampton Killer Bees, 72-26, in a non-league game at Mattituck High School. And that was with the Tuckers playing without their first-string point guard, Connor Davis.
“It shows that we’re the real deal,” Mattituck’s senior small forward, Yianni Rauseo, said. “We can get a lot of points per game and rebounds, assists, steals, everything.”
The team still has two other capable point guards in Steve Ascher and Mike Mangiamele. They filled in for Davis, who watched from the bench with a strained hamstring.
As it turned out, the Tuckers didn’t need Davis as they cruised to a 41-14 lead by halftime. Mattituck, using an assortment of defensive packages that included a mix of zones as well as full-court and half-court traps, held Bridgehampton to only three points in the second quarter and two in the third, which ended with the score 52-16.
All 12 healthy Mattituck players played and 10 made it into the scoring column, led by senior guard Tom Ascher with 20 points. Tom Sledjeski added a career-high 13 points and Rauseo had 12.
“It just proved that we do have the depth we were talking about,” Tom Ascher said. “We can play eight or nine deep and press all game if we have to.”
Rauseo said, “When someone is tired, they just raise their hand and we just put another person who’s as good as them in.”
The top scorers for Bridgehampton were Nate Hochstedler and Anajae Lamb with eight points apiece.
Season-opening games have the potential to be sloppy affairs, but that wasn’t the case with Mattituck, a Suffolk County League VII team. With many of the team’s players having played together since their CYO days, familiarity is not a problem.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mattituck’s play was sharp. “They looked like they were in mid-season form,” Mattituck Coach Paul Ellwood said of his players.
The Tuckers certainly made an impression on League VIII Bridgehampton and its coach, Carl Johnson.
“I knew they were going to be tough, but I didn’t expect them to be this good,” Johnson said. “They seem to have everything that you need to win the championship. They’re very deep. They have size. They have quickness. They have shooters. I mean, what more can you say? They play as one. I think they’re going to go a long way this year, so League VII better watch out.”
After Mattituck began to pull away to a comfortable lead, Ellwood said, he didn’t want to see the game turn into a “slopfest,” as he put it. His players didn’t disappoint, though, and maintained discipline throughout the contest. They surely gave their enthusiastic fans plenty to cheer about. They even chanted Davis’ name from time to time — and he didn’t even play.
“Most coaches, they lose their point guard, they go crazy, but we got a lot of guys who can pick up the slack, and it’s good,” Ellwood said. “They’re getting experience, and Connor’s going to be back. We’ll be even stronger.”
Ellwood said Davis, a senior, would probably not play in the team’s next game, either, on Tuesday against the Southold First Settlers.
What did Ellwood like best about the opening game? Perhaps the fact that it is over and done with.
“It’s good to get that one out of the way,” he said. “It’s nervous no matter who you are playing. You could see it in the kids. They were so nervous; I was nervous. I was telling my wife, I don’t know why I was so nervous tonight. I don’t know, I guess it’s because I have a lot of hopes for this team. I wanted everything to go well and get the ball rolling in the right direction and we did that tonight.”