Mattituck sees athleticism, competition for positions

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Courtney Murphy, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, shot on the side during Monday's practice.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Courtney Murphy, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, shot on the side during Monday’s practice.

While her Mattituck teammates drilled and scrimmaged on the basketball court during Monday’s practice, Courtney Murphy was off to the side, doing her own thing.

“Oh, how I’d love to be out there,” Murphy said. “I’d give anything to be out there right now.”

As it is, Murphy is hampered by a left ankle that is sprained in two places. She sustained the injuries while playing soccer this fall.

“It’s been almost six weeks and it’s still not healed,” she said. “This first week [of practice] is like a test week to see how much I can handle. … It’s still not where I would like it to be and it’s frustrating to wait. I have to wait for it to get better.”

In the meantime, Murphy jogs a little, does some shooting on a side basket and dribbles a lot “just because I need to do something,” said the junior forward, who wears a brace on the ankle that she ices after practices. “I can’t just sit and not do anything.”

Murphy is anxious to hit the court at full strength and compete for a starting position. Last season she was one of the first players off the bench along with Molly Kowalski.

The Tuckers return six players from last season’s 11-8 playoff team. Another six players are new to the team. Shannon Dwyer, a senior forward, and Katie Hoeg, a sophomore point guard, are the only returning starters.

That being the case, there are positions to be won, and the competition is expected to be tight.

“It’s all up for grabs,” Kowalski said. “You really have to earn it.”

As Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood put it, the Tuckers are “young, young and inexperienced.”

And by that, he meant inexperienced at the high school varsity level. They are not new to basketball.

“All the girls we have are all year-round players, every single one of them,” Van Dood said. “They all play the summer league, do the right things.”

Mattituck had the third-ranked offense in Suffolk County last season when it averaged about 54 points per game. What the Tuckers lost in height they have gained in speed. They are athletic and quick, which is why they will turn up the speed this season. That means steals, pressing defense and transition basketball. A new rule change requiring teams to advance the ball over the mid-court line in 10 seconds suits the Tuckers just fine.

“We can probably create some turnovers in the front court and do well that way,” Van Dood said. “It’s an exciting game to watch.”

Speaking of excitement, Dwyer is an exciting player to watch. Last season she was 14th in the county in scoring average with about 14 points per game.

“That’s going to be our player right there,” Van Dood said, looking on as Dwyer drove the lane for a layup during a scrimmage. “She is unbelievable.”

Sam Perino can shoot from the outside while Murphy and Kowalski provide an inside presence. Tiana Baker, who was the junior varsity team’s leading scorer last season, may also be a key figure in the offense.

The Tuckers, however, took a hit with the graduation of Allie Wilcenski, their top rebounder.

“They got to share the rebounding,” Van Dood said. “Allie was double-doubles every game almost last year, so we’re going to miss Allie on the boards.”

Murphy likes what she has seen from the team through the first several practices. “I think we look really good,” she said. “They have a lot of talent and a lot of potential to work with. … I’m excited for this season. I think we can do some great things.”

It wasn’t all that long ago when Kowalski was one of the newcomers on the team. Now she is one of the veterans.

“It’s different because Courtney, Katie and I, we kind of were the young ones a few years ago,” she said. “… It’s weird to think that we’re on the other end now.”

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