LINDENHURST TOURNAMENT | TUCKERS 51, LADY MUSTANGS 41
Two games into the high school girls basketball season, the Mattituck Tuckers have learned a couple of valuable things about themselves. Not only can they win without Lauren Guja, but they can come back from a sizable deficit to win.
Mattituck, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, recovered to take a 51-41 triumph over Our Lady of Mercy in the first round of the second annual Lindenhurst Tournament on Tuesday. The Tuckers (1-1) will play host Lindenhurst (1-0) in tomorrow night’s championship game, Lindenhurst was a 52-27 winner over Amityville in its tournament opener. The Bulldogs won last year’s tournament.
“It’s great to see that we can fix our mistakes and come back and we’re a team that can win,” said Mattituck forward Courtney Murphy.
Mattituck took the lead for good when a pair of free throws by Alexa Orlando made the score 29-28 with 3 minutes 59 seconds left in the third quarter. The Tuckers twice stretched that lead to as many as 10 points as momentum swung their way.
After a three-point shot by Our Lady of Mercy’s Gabriella Genna cut Mattituck’s lead to four points at 45-41, Alex Berkoski canned a big jump shot for a 47-41 Tuckers lead.
“That was the dagger,” Our Lady of Mercy coach John Kiffel said. “I mean, if she misses that and we score again, it’s a different game.”
Katie Hoeg and Berkoski both knocked down two free throws apiece in the final minute to seal the victory.
This is a different season for Mattituck, minus Guja. The senior forward, who had been the team’s top player, did not come out for the team this season.
“That was a little bit of a monkey wrench in the system, her not playing, but I think you got to work with who comes, and we’re doing a good job with that,” said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood.
Guja was a reliable player in the post for the Tuckers, a steady supplier of points and rebounds. But the Tuckers have to put the past behind them and move on.
“She was definitely a big part, but I think it’s O.K. because our chemistry is good together,” Mattituck forward Shannon Dwyer said. “We miss her, but we can work together. We can get the parts together and make it work.”
They did just that on Tuesday.
Dwyer was a force, leading Mattituck with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out with 2:40 to go. Allie Wilcenski added 13 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals.
Samantha Lynch scored 14 first-half points for Our Lady of Mercy (0-2). She didn’t play in the second half because of a cut to her face that required stitches, Lady Mustangs coach John Kiffel said.
As it was, the Lady Mustangs were already without one of their best players, Shannon Brady, a junior point guard who has been a starter since she was a freshman. It is hoped that Brady returns from an ankle injury next week.
“It’s a big miss for us,” said Kiffel.
In Brady’s absence, Marilyn Lehmuller, normally a shooting guard, played the point. The junior provided 11 points and 9 assists.
“Honestly,” Kiffel said, “I thought she played an unbelievable game.”
Our Lady of Mercy also received 12 points from Renee Rios.
Turnovers bedeviled Mattituck in the early going. “We may have been a little frazzled,” Dwyer said. “We got it back.”
The Tuckers made defensive adjustments, throwing a mix of defenses at the Lady Mustangs. Mattituck went from a man-to-man to a 1-3-1 to a full-court press to a 2-2-1. Our Lady of Mercy, which hit on 8 of 14 3-point attempts, was guarded more closely on the perimeter in the second half.
Something else helped Mattituck: free throws. The Tuckers shot 19 of 29 from the foul line. Foul shooting cost Mattituck in its season-opening 45-42 loss to Centereach on Saturday.
“We really emphasized foul shooting, and I think tonight it really paid off,” said Van Dood.
Now the Tuckers are in the win column.
“Just having a win is great,” Courtney Murphy said. “I think as a team overall we played really well today and just having this win under our belts, it boosts our confidence.” She added, “We’re making it work, and it’s really great to see.”