Say this about the Wyandanch Warriors, they are fast. They don’t waste any time moving the basketball up the court on the transition. As soon as the Warriors gain possession through a defensive rebound or a steal, they dart the ball forward and the result is often a lightning-quick layup.
That mix of speed and skill is a Wyandanch tradition. So is qualifying for the high school girls basketball playoffs.
The Warriors achieved the later by relying on the former. Wyandanch clinched a playoff berth while at the same time eliminating the Mattituck Tuckers from postseason contention on Friday night. Neither was a surprise, given where the teams stood.
With a team that is blessed with scoring balance, Wyandanch Coach Warren Fuller doesn’t know who the high scorer for his team will be from game to game. On Friday night it was Lorenza Birt’s turn. Birt, a junior guard, scored a career-high 18 points to go with six assists and led four Wyandanch players who scored in double figures in a 65-47 defeat of Mattituck at Cutchogue East Elementary School.
“It’s a great feeling, and I’m happy for these kids, too, because these kids had to come up with their own identity this year,” Fuller said. “A lot of people were wondering how we may do. I think they’ve come out and they’ve done some really good things.”
Despite not practicing the previous two days because of the recent snowfall, Wyandanch showed no signs of rustiness as it won its fourth straight game and brought its record to 9-5, 5-1 in Suffolk County League VII. On the defensive side, the Warriors badgered the taller Tuckers (3-11, 0-6) and forced them into turning the ball over 32 times. Many of those turnovers were translated into points as the Warriors raced the ball down the court for layups. Offensively, they ran the fast break the way Wyandanch teams have been doing it for years.
“Not many teams can run with us, and I feel if we use our speed to our advantage, we can slow other teams down,” Wyandanch senior forward Lineker St. Hilaire said. “They’ll get out of breath quicker than we do.”
Mattituck Coach Steve Van Dood has seen it before. “Wyandanch is so fast, they’re two passes ahead of you every time on steals,” he said. “They don’t even throw it to a girl, they just throw it up. I’m telling you, they don’t look for a girl, they just know to throw it across halfcourt and there will be a girl there.”
St. Hilaire supplied 15 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, three assists and a block. The Warriors also received 14 points from Dejanae Mike and 11 points and 12 rebounds from Jada Sellers. Jalicia Robinson was responsible for 10 of Wyandanch’s 20 assists.
Mattituck was led by Claire Finnican’s 10 points. Lauren Guja added nine and Alexa Orlando eight.
Wyandanch never trailed. The Warriors led by eight points after one quarter, 20 after two, and 21 after three. The Warriors showed the sort of focus that has put them in a position to battle the Center Moriches Red Devils for the league championship and, possibly, the Suffolk Class B title as well.
“Everyone focuses,” St. Hilaire said. “Everyone knows when it’s game time, it’s game time, no foolishness. We know when it’s time to play, it’s time to play.”
In order to grab a playoff spot, the Tuckers would have needed to win their last six league games, a tall order in anyone’s book.
“We’ve been working hard,” Guja said. “We just couldn’t make it.” She added, “We’re still going to go hard and try to make our record better than it is.”
With the Tuckers being ousted from the playoff picture, their younger players may see more playing time. “You have to think about the future,” said Van Dood.
Young players such as sophomores Claire Finnican, Allie Wilcenski, Orlando and freshman Shannon Dwyer have been a source of encouragement for the Tuckers to believe that better days are ahead.
Meanwhile, the Warriors aren’t done. They are still working at earning the best playoff seeding they can get.
Said Fuller, “There’s always something to play for.”