FARMINGDALE — No one had to remind forward Yianni Rauseo as to why the Mattituck Tuckers could never get their act together in their 49-34 loss to Port Jefferson in the Suffolk County Class B-C-D boys basketball final last Wednesday night. Regardless of the result, the Tuckers knew they had at least one more important game left in the season.
“We played [with] the mentality like we had another chance. ‘This game doesn’t really mean anything,’ ” Rauseo said after Mattituck suffered through a cold-shooting performance from the opening whistle to the final buzzer. “But we should not have played like that at all. We were sluggish, really lazy.”
The fact that the game was taped for television couldn’t have made the Tuckers feel any better, either.
“It’s disappointing that this is going on TV and a lot of people are going to watch it and think: ‘Oh wow, that Mattituck is not that great. League VII is not that great,’ ” Rauseo said.
Mattituck (15-6) had a chance to redeem itself, taking on Malverne (18-1) in the Long Island Class B championship game at SUNY/Old Westbury on Wednesday night.
“The next game is an elimination game,” Mattituck center Cody Huntley said. “We should have definitely come out ready to play. We needed a lot more intensity than we had today. Hopefully we’ll realize we’ll have to come out ready to play next week. Hopefully that will help us out.”
Yet, Port Jefferson faced a similar situation at Farmingdale State. The Royals (14-8), who lost to the Harborfields Tornadoes, 57-49, in the county small schools title game on Friday, had qualified for the Long Island Class C final.
Royals Coach Michael Riley said he asked his team: “Fellas, first of all, do you want this game? Saying and doing it is two different things. Tell me what you want to do. Is this just about running up and down the court, putting on a little show and we’re looking forward to next week? Or do you really want to play? They told me ‘We’ve got to play this game, coach, because we didn’t like how we wound up with Mattituck last year.’ That was their motivation.”
The game’s tone was set early on. Port Jefferson bolted to an 8-0 advantage. The Tuckers missed their first nine shots before Rauseo converted a rebound with 2 minutes 12 seconds left in the quarter.
“Everyone else was shooting,” said Rauseo, who finished with a team-high 12 points. “I figured I would drive.”
As poorly as it played, Mattituck battled back to 8-6 (Rauseo scored all the Tuckers’ points) before Port Jefferson point guard Terell Rose pumped in a three-pointer at the end the quarter.
“We were quick getting out to the shooters,” said Rose, who led the Royals with 16 points while adding nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. “We made them take some difficult shots they are not used to taking.”
The Tuckers sank only 3 of 14 shots in the opening period and only 6 of 31 in the first half as the Royals grabbed a 28-14 halftime lead.
“That was phenomenal,” Riley said of the defense. “I didn’t think it would come out like that, but I could live with it.”
For the game, the Tuckers shot 22 percent (13 of 59).
“We didn’t execute,” Mattituck Coach Paul Ellwood said. “We shouldn’t have been settling for jump shots. We said it a million times during the game. ‘Let’s try to reverse the ball, enter it, get into the gaps.’ We did none of those things.”
Part of the reason was the 3-2 defense the Royals threw at Mattituck.
“The middle was open a lot,” Ellwood said. “We just didn’t enter it. So they stayed in that defense. You have to throw it in the paint and make them pay. Until we do they didn’t get out of it. We never did, so they had an easy night. They didn’t have to think too much.”
The Tuckers had a week to get this game out of their system and prepare for their Nassau County counterparts.
“They’ll be there,” Ellwood said. “It’s already behind us. These kids bounce back. They know they had a bad outing. It’s going to be a completely different style against Malverne. Malverne doesn’t change for anyone. They’re going to be man in our face. I don’t think we’re going to have to deal with the zone against them.”