MUSTANGS 47, TUCKERS 45
It was Sarah Brand’s birthday, but it was Brand who marked the occasion by providing her teammates on the Mount Sinai girls basketball team with a gift, a non-league triumph over Mattituck, presented in a dramatic package.
Brand, a junior guard, celebrated her 17th birthday on Tuesday by hitting a three-point shot with 4/10ths of a second left, giving Mount Sinai a dramatic 47-45 victory on its home floor. Mattituck was unable to advance the ball beyond the mid-court line before time expired.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Mount Sinai coach Kevin Walsh said. “I told her in the locker room, I hope she enjoys that moment because a lot of people play a lot of basketball in their lifetime and never make a shot like that at that moment in the game.”
Mattituck, leading by 45-44, lost the ball on a held-ball call while Tuckers coach Steve Van Dood tried to call a timeout. The possession arrow pointed in Mount Sinai’s direction. After the Mustangs called timeout with 3.2 seconds to go, they set up one final play. A play that the Mustangs were introduced to in practice two or three days earlier called for Marisa Colacino to make the inbounds pass to a flashing Alexandra Rose, who would then feed the ball back to Colacino for the shot. Rose was unable to find her way open, though, so Colacino turned to one of the play’s options: Brand.
Thanks in part to a critical screen set by Rose, Brand was wide open at the top of the key, at least a foot beyond the three-point line. Described by her coach as a streaky shooter known more for her driving ability than her jump shots, Brand said that when she released the shot, she thought she had just fired an air ball.
It was anything but. The ball swished through the net without touching the rim.
“I didn’t believe it,” the soft-spoken Brand said of the first game-winning shot of her career. “Yeah, that was pretty exciting.”
It was only the third win in 13 games this season for Mount Sinai, which is 1-6 in Suffolk County League VI.
“It’s a great feeling,” Colacino said. “It’s amazing.”
Amazing. That might be one word the Tuckers (5-7, 3-3 League VII) would use to describe it. They had led for most of the game.
“That’s a real tough one to lose,” said Mattituck center Lauren Guja.
After a reporter told Van Dood that Brand’s winning shot looked good from the moment of its release, he said: “Judging by the way the season’s been going, I had a feeling it was going in, too. Amazing. I’ve aged 20 years.”
The Tuckers started off well, building a 16-3 lead early in the second quarter that they later stretched to a 15-point margin when a Shannon Dwyer basket made it 23-8.
But Mount Sinai, which shot 1 for 6 from the field in the first quarter, hit 8 of its next 16 field-goal attempts to pull itself back in the game.
Colacino, whose three-pointer had cut Mattituck’s lead to one point at 45-44, led all scorers with 18 points. She also had 5 assists.
Brand’s game-winner gave her 11 points. Rose provided Mount Sinai with 9 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.
Mattituck received 14 points and 9 rebounds from Guja as well as 9 points from Alexa Orlando. Allie Wilcenski, Mattituck’s top rebounder, missed the game because of illness.
Without Wilcenski, Van Dood started Dwyer down low with Nicole Murphy on the wing. The coach said young players like Sydney Sanders, Katie Hoeg, and sisters Courtney and Nicole Murphy turned in good minutes. Nonetheless, the desired result evaded Mattituck.
“We just seem to have a hard time winning on the road, and that’s the sign of a young team, too,” Van Dood said. “I’m tired of saying young team. That’s really getting to me.”
Mount Sinai, meanwhile, could enjoy the way things played out, a rough start with a remarkable ending.
When Brand’s shot dropped, Walsh didn’t offer much of a reaction except a smile of relief.
“That’s the memory of a lifetime,” he said. “I don’t think she realizes what she just did and how cool that is. I hope she enjoys this day because, wow. It’s like the ending of a movie.”