MARINERS 69, TUCKERS 52
A chance to see the difference between the top two girls basketball teams in Suffolk County League VII presented itself Tuesday night when first-place Southampton played second-place Mattituck. So, what exactly was the difference?
Paris Hodges brought her career scoring total to 998 points by striking for 25 points in Southampton’s 69-52 win at Mattituck High School. The result clinched a playoff berth for the defending Long Island Class B champion Mariners (8-3, 6-0) for the fourth year in a row.
The game also gave Mattituck (7-5, 4-2) an idea of what it needs to work on for when the two teams play again on Feb. 8 in Southampton, the final regular-season game for both teams. Plus, should Mattituck join Southampton in the playoffs, it is possible the teams could meet yet a third time with a whole lot more at stake.
For one thing, Mattituck has to cut down on the turnovers (the Tuckers had 25 of them on Tuesday) and not miss layups and easy putbacks like it did in the first half. That sort of stuff can come back to haunt a team.
“You have to be perfect to beat a team like that,” said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood. He added: “We did all the things we needed to do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the layups. If you make the layups, that’s a different game.”
By the next time the teams face each other, Southampton should have two 1,000-point scorers on the court, with Hodges on the verge of the milestone. Kesi Goree, who became the fourth Southampton girl to score 1,000 points in the team’s previous game against Bishop McGann-Mercy, went to work on her next thousand on Tuesday. Goree totaled 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks before fouling out with 6 minutes 6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Others made significant contributions for Southampton as well. Cassidy Guida knocked down four 3-point shots and had 14 points. Noel Hodges, who is Paris’ sister, registered 12 points and 7 assists.
A hefty chunk of Mattituck’s offense came from Shannon Dwyer, the junior who provided the Tuckers with a career-high 24 points in addition to 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Dwyer, who said she played loose, also drew three fouls by Goree.
“She did a good job,” Van Dood said. “She’s not afraid to drive, and that’s what we need to do against a team like that. When you drive, things happen.”
Allie Wilcenski supplied Mattituck with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Aided by a 15-2 run, Southampton stormed out to a 25-10 lead before later stretching its advantage to as many as 23 points after consecutive 3-point shots by Sydney Katz and Guida made it 49-26 about midway through the third quarter.
But Mattituck gradually inched back closer and closer. The Tuckers used a 16-7 spurt to slice Southampton’s lead down to 8 points at 59-51.
“That was nice,” said Dwyer.
It didn’t last long, though. The Mariners scored 10 of the game’s final 11 points to wrap it up, with back-to-back treys by Guida and Paris Hodges helping to nail things shut. Dwyer called them 3-pointers “on demand.”
Southampton is a tough team to defend. It has an inside game and it has an outside game. Both are effective.
“We have a lot of dimensions,” said Goree.
But Southampton coach Rich Wingfield believes the key to his team is what it does when it doesn’t have the ball. “Defense is our bread and butter,” he said. “Once you stop [playing defense], momentum changes uniforms.”
With seven seniors, Southampton is a team that is built to win. Making a comparison to last season’s team, which wasn’t too shabby, Goree said: “We just got better. Last year we were great. Everybody worked hard over the summer. A lot of our girls played AAU over the summer. So, it was just like we were at a good level, and now we’re just like 10 times better.”
That has to be a sobering thought for Mattituck and the rest of Southampton’s opponents.