TUCKERS 56, RED DEVILS 45
The Suffolk County League VII girls basketball championship is still up for grabs, and Mattituck has kept its foot stuck in the door.
The Tuckers, who began Saturday in second place, one game behind Hampton Bays and a half-game ahead of third-place Babylon, kept their title hopes alive with a win in a Center Moriches High School gym they have had a hard time in over the years.
After a first half that saw both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket, the outstanding questions were: When will shots start to fall and which team will break out of its shooting slump first?
Mattituck provided the answers in the second half, securing a 56-45 win and dealing a harsh blow to Center Moriches’ playoff prospects.
The Tuckers (9-8, 7-2), winners of four of their last five games, struggled with 8-for-38 shooting from the field in the first half. They had to be disheartened to find themselves trailing, 21-20, at the break despite leading for most of the opening 16 minutes. Coach Steve Van Dood evidently provided the motivating words at halftime because the Tuckers looked sharper in the second half when they put in 13 of 25 field-goal attempts.
Back-to-back layups by Liz Dwyer capped a 10-0 run that gave the Tuckers a 36-27 lead in the third quarter. Dwyer, who scored 20 points (the third time this season she has scored 20 or more points), made a layup in the fourth quarter for the game’s first double-digit margin at 46-36. Later, the Tuckers stretched that lead to as many as 12 points with 3 minutes 48 seconds to go after Lisa Angell sank a 3-point shot and Dwyer dropped in a free throw.
Dwyer, a freshman, is averaging a team-leading 15 points per game.
Katie Hoeg was a big boost for the Tuckers, registering 18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 2 steals. Angell, a senior, came off the bench to supply a career-high 10 points.
Kristina Baldanzo was the top scorer for Center Moriches (5-8, 3-5) with 17 points. Caroline Casey delivered 14 points and 11 rebounds while Tania Rowland came down with 10 rebounds for the Red Devils.
The playoff-bound Tuckers will close out the regular season on Friday night at Babylon. If they are to clinch at least a share of first place, they would need some outside help. Hampton Bays (14-2, 7-1) has two league game remaining, both on the road, against Wyandanch on Monday and Center Moriches on Tuesday.