Girls Basketball: Tuckers seal playoff place, Wilcenski sprains ankle

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Shannon Dwyer, shooting while Wyandanch's Symphony Paschall tries to obstruct her view, scored a game-high 21 points as the Tuckers secured their fifth playoff berth in seven years.


Mission accomplished.

The Mattituck girls basketball team could say that after securing its fifth playoff berth in seven years Friday night. True, the Tuckers got the job done with a 56-41 defeat of Wyandanch, but, perhaps characteristic of this up-and-down season for them, it came with some bumps along the way — and an injury.

Mattituck’s leading rebounder, Allie Wilcenski, fell to the floor 1 minute 42 seconds into the game. After blocking two shots within seconds of each other, Wilcenski apparently turned her left ankle, sustaining what Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood believes to be a mild sprain. She spent the rest of the game on the bench. After the game she was seen moving with the aid of crutches and her left foot wrapped.

“She rolled it, but it didn’t look as bad as I thought it was,” Van Dood said. “I didn’t see any heavy swelling.”

Van Dood was hopeful that with rest, Wilcenski will be able to play in Mattituck’s final regular-season game at home on Wednesday night against Center Moriches. The Tuckers (8-9, 6-5 Suffolk County League VII) will have a playoff game on Feb. 18.

Some of Wilcenski’s teammates expressed faith that she will be back on the court soon. “I think she can bounce back,” forward Lauren Guja said. “She’s tough.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Lauren Guja brought Mattituck 12 rebounds to go with 6 points against Wyandanch.

Wilcenski has been averaging 10 rebounds per game, but her teammates pulled through in the rebounding department in her absence. Guja grabbed 12 rebounds and Shannon Dwyer hauled in 11 boards to go with her game-high 21 points as Mattituck outrebounded Wyandanch, 46-33.

With Wilcenski out, Alexa Orlando and Courtney Murphy, a freshman, got more playing time, and the Tuckers relied heavily on Dwyer, a sophomore, to move from guard to forward.

Nicole Murphy, a junior guard, said a different top player emerges every game for the Tuckers. “We share the ball around and we share the glory,” she said.

Dwyer said: “There’s always someone you can count on, and you’re not sure who it’s going to be every game. There’s always that one that sparks.”

In this game it was Dwyer. A hybrid who can play guard or forward, Dwyer has good basketball instincts and seems at her best when she’s attacking the basket.

“She’s an enigma,” Van Dood said. “I had her pegged, even people like [former Georgetown player] Jim Christy were telling me she’s a point guard. And then she shows up as a forward and sometimes she’s a guard. She made some really good rebounds tonight.”

Mattituck’s foul shooting was a concern. After making only 2 of 16 free throws in the first half, Mattituck expanded its 26-18 halftime cushion in the second half when Dwyer scored 16 of her points. The Tuckers finished shooting 5 of 20 from the foul line. In their previous game, a loss to Hampton Bays, they made 11 of 13 foul shots.

Go figure.

But Mattituck scored the final 12 points of the third quarter, the last 6 of those points coming from Dwyer.

Alex Berkoski chipped in 10 points and 6 assists in the Coaches vs. Cancer game at Mattituck High School. Proceeds from the game go to support the American Cancer Society.

Wyandanch (3-14, 3-8) dropped its third straight loss despite 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 steals from Lorenza Birt. Jaliela Robinson and Brianna Lampkins added 9 points apiece, all of Lampkins’ points coming on 3-point shots.

This is a new era for Wyandanch, whose former coach, Warren Fuller, retired after 36 years with the Warriors. What is it like following in the footsteps of Fuller, who has won more career games than any coach in the county?

“I’m not trying to follow his footsteps,” the team’s new coach, Angelique Shannon, said. “I’m trying to create my own. Those are shoes that I don’t think anyone in the county or even New York State can fill.”

Shannon said the Warriors know they aren’t headed to the playoffs, “but we wouldn’t have minded knocking [Mattituck] out of the playoffs.”

The result means Mattituck will not have to face any do-or-die drama against Center Moriches on Wednesday night, but Van Dood said his team is striving for a No. 3 seed in the Suffolk Class B Tournament.

Mattituck players said they felt pressure to win Friday. Now they can breath a sigh of relief to have a postseason to look forward to.

“I think some people had their doubts,” Nicole Murphy said, “but now that we’re in it, I think we can show that we’re in it to win it.”

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