Girls Basketball: With blowout, Tuckers near 6th playoff bid in 8 years

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s Courtney Murphy finding an opening to shoot while being defended by Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Julianne Cintron-Leonardo.


The losses have been one-sided, mind-numbingly one-sided for the Bishop McGann-Mercy girls basketball team. Just look at some of the results: 53-15 to Mount Sinai, 61-19 to Mattituck, 70-16 to Huntington, 55-10 to Babylon, 51-11 to Southampton. And then there was the biggest loss of the bunch: 72-14 to Hampton Bays.

Make room for another: 52-11 to Mattituck on Thursday night.

For the coach of a young, undersized team that is light on playing experience and depth, Jacki Paton may surprise some people in that she is not about to jump off a bridge. Far from it. Paton said that for all of those losses by her winless team, there have been a thousand good things to appreciate.

“It’s been a very good season,” she said. “They’re working as hard as they can, and we are young. We’re young not only age-wise, but definitely experience-wise, but they’re giving a hundred percent every day, and every day they do get better.”

“Everything is building blocks,” she continued. “So, if we can build and every day get a little bit better, ultimately, that’s success, isn’t it?”

In a game that carried little mystery beyond when McGann-Mercy would score its first point and whether the Monarchs would reach double figures, Mattituck rolled on its home court. The Tuckers (8-5, 5-2 Suffolk County League VII) need only one more win to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth time in eight years.

“That’s an achievement,” said Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood.

The difference between the teams was seen from the start of the Coaches vs. Cancer game, which raised money for cancer research. For most of the first half, the outstanding question was whether or not Mattituck would pull off the nearly unheard of feat of taking a shutout into halftime. The Tuckers had bolted to a 28-0 lead before McGann-Mercy (0-12, 0-7) finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a jump shot by Mary Reiter with eight seconds left in the second quarter. The Monarchs managed only 2 points in the third quarter from a layup by Delaney Macchirole.

McGann-Mercy, which entered the contest averaging 19.4 points per game, didn’t reach double figures until Meghan Kuehas banked in a shot during the game’s final seconds.

The Monarchs lost one of their eight players when Julianne Cintron-Leonardo, a freshman forward, took a hard fall near one of the baskets, injuring her left ankle with 7:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Cintron-Leonardo had her ankle wrapped and exited the gym on crutches. Paton said she did not know how severe the injury is.

“She’s a tough kid, and she went down hard,” Paton said. “Normally after a couple of seconds she bounces right back up. I’m sure it’s a nice sprain. She’ll run through a brick wall for you. She’ll give you her heart and soul, 100 percent, a tough rebounder.”

Allie Wilcenski led 10 Mattituck scorers with 13 points and Courtney Murphy put in 11.

The top scorer for McGann-Mercy, which was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, was Macchirole with 4 points.

While Mattituck shot 54.5 percent (24 off 44) from the field, McGann-Mercy hit only 14.8 percent (4 of 27) of its shots.

Van Dood said it was a plus that he was able to give all 13 of his players at least one quarter of playing time. Mattituck’s bench produced 22 points.

“I think we got to see a lot of good things from a lot of the girls who don’t usually get a lot of [playing] time,” said Wilcenski.

“Some of the younger girls did a good job,” said Van Dood, who cited Molly Kowalski, Katie Hoeg, Megan Daly and Murphy by name. “It was an opportunity for them to show us something and see what we have for the future. Maybe they can move a peg up … in the pecking order.”

Mattituck’s players put a lot into the organization that surrounded the Coaches vs. Cancer event. Van Dood said players cooked, baked, did art work and tied pink balloons to the chairs the players sat in during the game. Before the game, in keeping with team tradition, Mattituck players announced to the crowd someone they know who has been affected by cancer who they are playing for.

“It’s a shame, but everybody knows somebody who was affected by it,” Van Dood said. “I think that hits home with the kids.” He said that in playing for a good cause and winning, “it’s a win-win for everybody.”

For the Monarchs, though, a win on the court still eludes them.

“I respect them a lot for coming out every game and still trying,” said Wilcenski.

McGann-Mercy junior guard Savannah Schwack said team morale is good, regardless of the win-loss record. “It’s been tough, but we’re working as hard as we can,” she said. “If someone does something wrong, we just give them a high five and tell them to try better.”

Thursday’s game may not have brought the result Paton was hoping for on her birthday, but she sees the big picture.

“They come out positive,” she said of her players. “They come out knowing that they put in a hundred percent, but they care about what they’re doing and they’re getting better, and they’re not only getting better as players, they’re getting better as people.”

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