TUCKERS 46, MARINERS 15
The tide can shift quickly at a small school, where one player can lift a program, or one graduating class can leave a void that takes several seasons to fill.
Consider two years ago, Southampton boasted one of the best teams on Long Island, and not just for small schools. The Mariners played teams like Long Island Lutheran in non-league that season, which ended with a trip to the state semifinals.
The Mariners are still in a rebuild mode as they enter the 2014-15 season. And it made for an easy night for the Mattituck girls in their league opener Thursday at Mattituck High School.
The Tuckers’ starting five raced out to a 14-0 lead and Mattituck never looked back in a 46-15 victory, the third straight win for the Tuckers.
“It goes to show, things go full circle,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said of Southampton’s rise and fall. “It’s amazing.”
The Tuckers know what it’s like to see their fortunes change. Their top returning player from a year ago, Tiana Baker, transferred to St. Anthony’s High School. At a small school like Mattituck, losing one player can be a tough blow. But so far through five games, the Tuckers have shown they still plan to contend for a league title and possibly return to the Class B county finals, where they lost a year ago to Hampton Bays.
The blowout against Southampton afforded Van Dood the opportunity to rotate in all his players. The game got continually more sluggish as it progressed. By the time the final horn sounded, the few fans left in attendance almost needed a reminder to applaud.
The Tuckers did what they needed to at the start, using their pressure defense to force turnovers and create easy baskets. Southampton had four turnovers before getting a field goal attempt.
And when the Tuckers ran their offense, a constant mix of screens and cuts, they capitalized with points in the paint.
“We said, let’s run the offense all the way through and hopefully we can get to the point where we’re getting some easy looks off screens,” Van Dood said. “I think we got some assists off that and it worked good for us.”
The Tuckers got a balanced attack on offense, led by eight apiece from Liz Dwyer and Katie Hoeg. Nine different players scored. Courtney Murphy and Hannah Fitzgerald both scored six.
After the first quarter, Van Dood went mostly to the bench players, usually leaving either Dwyer or Hoeg in to help keep things running smoothly.
“They help the others get better,” Van Dood said. “I thought that’s nice to see. They’re kind of more mentors, where they’re looking to make girls better, looking for girls off passes instead of thinking about scoring.”
Mattituck led 18-2 after the first quarter and 31-6 by halftime. The Tuckers shot just under 50 percent from the field (14-30) in the first half.
Both of Mattituck’s losses this season have come against tough opponents in non-league, Lindenhurst and Amityville. The Tuckers will get two more tests next week with non-league games against Sayville and Islip. They’ll get one more league game in, against Wyandanch, before the holiday break.