Van Dood sees tough non-league games as good preparation

When the Mattituck Tuckers girls basketball coach, Steve Van Dood, looked at the rugged non-league portion of the schedule his team faced this past week, he realized that even though it was going to be difficult to come away with some victories, it was going to prepare his team for the coming league schedule.

While the Tuckers (2-4) lost three lopsided games in a row, Van Dood’s team finished this brutal stretch in the schedule by edging the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers, 29-27, on Tuesday night in Sag Harbor.

Mattituck, sparked by the one-two punch of Katherine Wilcenski (11 points and 10 rebounds) and Lauren Guja (eight points, 11 rebounds and six assists), jumped out to an 11-4 lead and was on top, 19-8, at the half. Pierson/Bridgehampton (0-6), led by Sarah Barrett’s 17 points, staged a furious fourth-quarter comeback, but the Tuckers held on for the win.

Van Dood said Wilcenski, who returned from a serious knee injury last season, “is getting better and better. She is getting more confident every game.”

Guja, a sophomore, is increasingly playing a bigger role for the Tuckers.

“Lauren has really stepped up,” Van Dood said. “She is breaking the press. She is rebounding. And as a sophomore, she is only going to get better.”

The Tuckers opened the busy stretch last Thursday with a 57-32 non league loss at Kings Park. Meghan Eckel paced the Kingsmen (2-0) with 12 points, 11 steals and 10 assists. Kings Park took a 12-2 lead and was on top, 30-14, by halftime. Guja finished with 13 points for Mattituck.

In the opening round of the Under Armour Tournament at St. John the Baptist on Saturday, the Comsewogue Warriors (3-0) used an 11-0 first-quarter run, then outscored Mattituck by 17-2 in the third quarter and went on to win easily, 43-25. Samantha Kane had 11 points and seven rebounds while teammate Michelle Rubino had nine points, 12 steals and six assists to power Comsewogue to the win. Stefanie Loverde netted six points for Mattituck, while Guja had five.

Mattituck then faced St. John the Baptist (3-0) on Sunday and the host school went on a 17-2 first-quarter run en route to a 40-15 win. Kristen McMahon’s 11 points and Allysia Rohlehr’s 10 points sparked St. John the Baptist to the lopsided win. Guja had eight points and Wilcenski had four.

Despite the three one-sided losses, Van Dood was looking at the bigger picture.

“We had a good enough record last year that we could schedule these tough non-league games,” he said. “These games will help get us ready for Wyandanch and Center Moriches. We will be better prepared for our league schedule.”