2011 Top Sports Story No. 1: Mattituck’s rise and fall on the hardwood

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck's Cody Huntley, right, and Steve Ascher share a hug with a fan following their regional semifinal triumph over Malverne.

It was a season defined by The Tip-In, possibly the biggest shot in Mattituck boys basketball history.

A season in which the Tuckers accomplished so much was highlighted by Steve Ascher’s last-second tip-in to topple Malverne in the Southeast Region Class B semifinal at SUNY/Old Westbury.

Malverne led for virtually the entire game, but was stunned by what happened in the final moments. Ascher went to the foul line with 4.2 seconds left and Malverne fans screaming at the top of their lungs. He coolly sank the first free throw to trim Malverne’s lead to 67-66. Then, after a Malverne timeout, Ascher’s second free throw bounced off the back rim. Mattituck’s Cody Huntley came down with the rebound, turned and put up a shot that ricocheted off the backboard and rim. Ascher was in place, though, to direct a high-arcing tip that glanced off the glass and fell through the net as time expired.

“I went up and I just tipped it,” said Steve Ascher, who finished with 22 points and 7 assists, both game-high figures. “I just didn’t know if it was going in or not. It went in and I jumped on the ground.”

Mattituck fans screamed. The Tuckers were Long Island champions for the second time in their history.

Mattituck held only two leads in the game: at 2-0 and at 68-67, the final score.

Ascher’s tip-in attained legendary status almost immediately.

“Come on, how can you not be amazed tonight?” Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood said. “If Duke would have done that that would have been amazing. What a storybook season.”

Moments after the game, while celebrating Mattituck fans chanted, “Matt-ti-tuck! Matt-ti-tuck! Matt-ti-tuck!”, Tuckers forward Yianni Rauseo was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. “It’s like a fairy-tale ending,” he said. “It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream.”

That dream came to a crashing halt in the regional final, a 75-59 loss to John S. Burke Catholic at Farmingdale State University.

In the final minutes, as each of the five Mattituck starting seniors bowed out of the game, they were greeted at the bench by Ellwood, who had some words to whisper in their ears.

“I just wanted to say something different to each kid, unique to that personality, and what they meant to me,” the coach said. “I just said something a little special to each one of them. Each one of those kids means a lot to me. I did a lot of stuff, was with them a long time. I’m so proud of them.”

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