TUCKERS 53, PANTHERS 50
With its place in the high school girls basketball playoffs already booked, Mattituck really didn’t have so much to gain as it had to lose on Tuesday night. It was Babylon that lost a lot, though — a chance to get into the postseason.
Mattituck played just well enough to knock Babylon out of playoff contention with a 53-50 defeat that the Tuckers made a lot more difficult than it ought to have been. A last-second block by Tiana Baker enabled the Tuckers to survive Babylon’s comeback attempt and hold on for their sixth win in seven games despite a 31-point performance by Babylon guard Kristen Altieri.
A free throw by Katie Hoeg put Mattituck (11-6, 6-3 Suffolk County League VII) ahead, 51-45, with 27.8 seconds to go in the game. But Babylon still had plenty of fight left. Samantha Hubert converted a conventional 3-point play for Babylon (5-11, 3-6) before Baker (7 of 14 field-goal attempts) sank a pair of clutch free throws for her 16th and 17th points and a 53-48 Mattituck lead.
Meghan Nerney of Babylon then banked in a shot, making it a 3-point game.
Following a timeout, Mattituck turned the ball over for the 24th time, giving Babylon possession with 4.2 seconds to go. Shayne Antolini’s attempt at a game-tying shot, though, was blocked by Baker as the final buzzer sounded.
It was a happy ending for the Tuckers, who celebrated Senior Night at Mattituck High School. Prior to the game, the team honored its three seniors — Christine Bieber, Shannon Dwyer and Molly Kowalski. After the seniors were escorted onto the court by their parents, they received a hug and flowers from coach Steve Van Dood. Addressing the seniors during the ceremony, Van Dood told them that their leadership was a “key component of the team’s success. … Your legacy will always stay with our program.”
The Tuckers may very well have been boosted by those words, judging by how they played in the first quarter. They came out strong, building a 19-8 lead a couple of minutes into the second quarter.
But then the Tuckers fell into a funk that they couldn’t entirely emerge from. Babylon, behind Altieri’s 9-for-19 shooting from the field, recovered to take the lead four times.
During Altieri’s 12-point third quarter, the junior even produced a rare 4-point play, hitting a free throw after being fouled while knocking down one of her three 3-pointers.
The Tuckers didn’t make things easier for themselves. They were sloppy at times, telegraphing passes, throwing other passes away, and shooting a dismal 6-for-15 from the foul line. The last thing they needed was foul trouble, which bit them when Liz Dwyer fouled out 33 seconds into the fourth quarter. Her older sister, Shannon, joined her on the bench after picking up her fifth personal foul with 16.4 seconds to play and 11 points next to her name in the scorebook.
Hoeg turned in a nice statistical line: 12 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot.
Emily Guerra pulled down 11 rebounds for Babylon. Antolini had 8 assists to go with 7 points.
In order to clinch a playoff spot, the Panthers needed to win Tuesday’s game as well as their final regular-season game against Hampton Bays.
Van Dood said the win didn’t help the Tuckers as much as a loss might have hurt them as far as their playoff seeding is concerned.