The Mattituck High School boys basketball team didn’t lose a lot from last season in terms of numbers, but in terms of a player, the Tuckers lost a lot. A heck of a lot.
Sure, the Tuckers graduated only two players, but one of them was Gene Allen, and what a player he was. Allen was a two-time All-Conference forward who averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds per game last season, leading the team in both categories. For his high school career, he showed remarkable balance, finishing with 660 points and 662 rebounds.
So, how do you replace a player like that?
“It’s a good question,” said senior Will Gildersleeve.
The Tuckers have begun taking some early steps toward trying to answer that question. It will not be easy filling the void Allen left.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Gildersleeve said. “I think we’re definitely just as fast. A lot of people have to step up.”
He continued: “Really, scoring-wise, we can score. We’re going to miss him on the rebounds. That’s the main thing I’m worrying about, rebounding. Scoring-wise, we’ll be alright.”
Aside from Allen and Tyler Reeve, the Tuckers will return the bulk of their team, which still has talent and speed to work with, and perhaps an enhanced role for their big man, Josh Conklin, who didn’t see much playing time last season. What the team needs is some tinkering to come up with a different formula for winning.
Tom Ascher, an assistant coach for Mattituck’s summer league team who helped the Tuckers win a Long Island championship in 2011, knows a thing or two about winning. When asked for his thoughts about life after Allen, Ascher said: “You got to use a lot of different players to really fill that. Back when we won the Long Island championship, we didn’t have one person that rebounded a ton. Everyone just ended up rebounding.”
More team rebounding and fast breaks down the court can help. “You don’t have to have just one person throwing the ball down the court — and you don’t need a dunk, either,” said Ascher.
Mattituck’s rebounding wasn’t what it might have liked Tuesday night in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game involving two 0-4 teams. It was Hampton Bays that made it into the win column with a 41-39 victory at Eastport/South Manor High School. The Baymen beat the Tuckers on the boards, 32-20, and by 13-4 on the offensive end.
Despite seeing its coach, Pete Meehan, ejected 4 minutes 24 seconds into the game after a pair of quick technical fouls, Hampton Bays led most of the way and held on as the Tuckers whittled away at the lead down the stretch.
A pair of baskets by Hampton Bays’ Antonio Kull around a creative layup by Mattituck’s Jon Dwyer made the score 41-37 Baymen.
The Tuckers cut the margin to 2 points on a bucket by Jay Reeve. After Kull missed a free throw, Mattituck’s Parker Tuthill chucked a last-second attempt from beyond the half-court line, missing the mark as time expired.
“It would have been nice if that went in,” said Mattituck senior Chris Dwyer, Jon’s older brother.
Matt Rinaldi paced Hampton Bays with 13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 steal. Tyler Carbone grabbed 11 rebounds.
Jon Dwyer was the top Mattituck scorer with 8 points.
The Tuckers know not to make too much out of the summer league. It’s seen as a good opportunity for younger players to adjust to the speed of the varsity game and for players to sharpen their skills, but not much more than that. For instance, the Dwyer brothers, Gildersleeve and Tuthill were the only Tuckers on the floor Tuesday who played for the school team last season.
“There’s a lot of people missing, so it’s hard to judge,” said Gildersleeve.
The real time for judgment will come in the winter when the school season heats up. By then the Tuckers will need to come up with a solution to playing without Allen.
What is Ascher’s best advice?
“You just got to hustle, rebound,” he said. “I’m sure the chemistry’s there and if not, it’s going to come back. Keep moving. It’s not about the individual, it’s about the team.”