MONARCHS 61, TUCKERS 41
After an admittedly less than stellar game against Hampton Bays, McGann-Mercy sophomore Nykel Reese was feeling the nerves before Friday night’s anticipated league showdown with defending Long Island champion Mattituck.
He turned to his most trusted source, his mother, for some last minute advice.
“She calmed me down,” Reese said. “I’m a momma’s boy.”
The 6-foot-3 forward then went out and compiled the best statistical game of his young career — a triple-double highlighted by 10 blocked shots.
He also scored a game-high 17 points with 13 rebounds in a 61-41 victory as the Monarchs picked up their first League VII victory. The Tuckers, meanwhile, fell to 0-3.
For all his offensive success (he’s scored double figures in five of Mercy’s seven games), it’s been on the defensive end where Reese has left the biggest impression.
“He has great timing,” said Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood. “Tremendous player for a sophomore.”
Reese blocked several shots on the perimeter, including closing out on 3-point shooters. He also had more traditional blocks as he swatted away shots put up by Mattituck’s players driving to the hoop.
Reese said he enjoys the defensive end more so than offense.
“I love defense,” he said with a wide smile on his face. “It gives you this adrenaline rush when you block somebody’s shot. It’s awesome.”
Reese has been a key component for the rejuvenated Monarchs, who are now 3-4 on the season after winning just one game all of last season. Their two losses in league, to Southampton and Hampton Bays, were both close games.
Friday night’s game inside the sweltering gym at McGann-Mercy High School was very much a close game until the fourth quarter. The Monarchs led basically the entire game but could never pull away thanks to an inordinate number of turnovers (25 through three quarters).
The Tuckers closed to within one point on a pair of free throws by Tyler Connel 31 seconds into the fourth quarter. The rest of the game belonged soley to Mercy.
The Monarchs surged to their biggest lead of the game in a two-minute span as they scored 12 unanswered points. Junior Joe Crosser (14 points) leaked out for three uncontested layups during the run to effectively take the game over for good.
“I think we did run a little bit out of gas,” Ellwood said. “Tom Sledgeski and Eugene Allen both basically played 32 minutes. I was worried about that because it was so hot.”
The Monarchs held Mattituck (1-6 overall, 0-3 League VII) without a field goal for the fourth quarter and closed the game on a 20-1 run.
“I thought we were going to take control of the game a little sooner,” said Mercy coach Mike Clauberg. “The game plan was to do what we did in the second half from the get-go.”
The Monarchs stepped up the full-court pressure late in the game and it helped force some turnovers that led to easy transition baskets.
“I wanted to save it for the end and it worked,” Clauberg said.
The Tuckers got a team-high 16 points from Sledgeski, who has shouldered the offensive load for Mattituck throughout this season. He came into Friday’s game averaging 18.6 points in his last three games.
Sledgeski did most of his damage in the paint, showing off a nice touch around the basket. He also had several blocks on the defensive end.
Allen scored eight points for Mattituck. As a sophomore, Allen has been asked to play a big role for the Tuckers this season at guard.
“He and Tom have to be our horses for us to stay in games,” Ellwood said. “Tom made a bunch of great moves tonight. He was a little unlucky.”
The Tuckers had several chances to either tie the game or take the lead, but couldn’t get the big basket to swing the momentum. Once Mercy hit them with a run in the fourth quarter, the Tuckers couldn’t recover.
“There was a lot of anticipation for this game,” Reese said. “So we just wanted to come out and give it all we had.”
The Monarchs also got a big effort on the offensive end from sophomore Asaiah Wilson with 16 points. He scored back-to-back hoops late in the second quarter after Mattituck had closed to within a point at 19-18. Both teams were in a drought for three minutes before he hit a jumper with 1:54 left. He then put back an offensive rebound 17 seconds later to push the lead back to five.
Mattituck’s only lead of the game came on the opening possession when Allen hit a 3-pointer. The Monarchs scored the next five points and aside from one tie, led the rest of the game.
“We needed this because we’re 0-2 [in league], we’re at home, Mattituck has the same record, so we really had to come away with a win today,” Clauberg said. “I think the added pressure added to a little slow start.”