A wealth of talent and the power of positive thinking combined for what amounted to the greatest season in the Mattituck High School girls basketball team’s history.
“It was a great, great time,” coach Steve Van Dood said, recalling his team’s rise to its first Suffolk County and Long Island championships last season. “Every practice seemed to be meaningful. The girls really understood the purpose. It’s amazing what collectively people can do when they put their mind to something. That’s what it showed me.”
Now the question is: Can the Tuckers repeat as Long Island Class B champions?
“We just got to keep working hard,” said Van Dood.
It would appear the Tuckers (20-3 last season) are once again loaded and ready to go. The bulk of the team has returned, with the notable exception of the graduated Katie Hoeg. Hoeg was an All-State third team player and the League VII Player of the Year, averaging 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
What Mattituck does have is junior forward Liz Dwyer, who made the All-State ninth team. She averaged 18.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 1.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
“She’s canning the threes, stronger than ever,” said Van Dood.
But Mattituck also has a pressing defense that produces points with ball-hawking defenders Jane DiGregorio, Mackenzie Daly and Emily Mowdy.
“Our offense was driven by our defense, absolutely,” Van Dood said. “It’s going to be again 95 feet of basketball. We’re going to press and we’re going to press again.”
Those three juniors all saw substantial minutes last season along with senior forward Corinne Reda, junior guard/forward Chelsea Marlborough and junior guard Alex Beebe. DiGregorio and Reda were both All-League players.
How does Mattituck replace Hoeg?
With another Hoeg, of course.
“We got a little Hoeg coming up,” Van Dood said. “There’s one way — genetics.”
Freshman guard Mackenzie Hoeg is a new addition along with junior forward Jordyn Maichin, sophomore center Julie Seifert and junior guard Ashley Burns.
Southold/Greenport (4-13) will play a 94-50 defense this season. That 94-50 refers to the dimensions of an NBA court: 94 feet long, 50 feet wide.
What it all means is that Southold’s defense will start right under the opposing team’s basket. In order to overcome their height disadvantage, the Clippers will do their best to not allow opponents to get into their half-court offense.
“This year it’s going to be an 11-person rotation and focusing on man-to-man, full-court, hard defense,” said Skip Gehring, the Clippers’ fourth coach in four years. “That’s how we have to win this year. We are very, very athletic.”
Gehring believes that athleticism can take the Clippers far. “With the athleticism, the heart and the desire that we have, I honestly think we can win Class C in Long Island and [go on] to the states,” he said.
Spearheading that pressing defense will be All-Conference senior guard and returning team MVP Madison Tabor, senior guard Toni Esposito and junior guard Ale Cardi. “That’s an incredibly fast threesome,” said Gehring.
And they aren’t the only experienced ones. Senior forward Angelica Klavas and junior shooting forward Grace Syron were also starters last season.
Three seniors — Katie Tuthill, the 5-foot-11 Samantha Baldwin and Charise Stoner — will help fortify the frontcourt.
Liz Clark, a junior shooting guard, led the junior varsity team with 12 points per game last season. That JV team’s most talented player, however, was sophomore shooting guard Jules Atkins, according to Gehring. Also new to the varsity level is Madison Hilton, a junior defensive specialist.
“At a minimum, we really should be county champions,” Gehring said. “They’ve come in there to work hard. They want to be competitive. They want to win. As a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better attitude. The future for the Southold girls … is very, very good.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior forward Liz Dwyer made the All-State ninth team, averaging 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)