As much as balls bouncing and sneakers squeaking, a soundtrack of the Mattituck High School boys basketball team’s 2016-17 season would have to include the sounds of coughing, sneezing and sniffling.
Tucker Johansen was the first one to fall victim. Others followed suit — Ryan McCaffery, Ryan Shuford, Tyler Seifert and Xavier Allen among them. Coach Paul Ellwood, one of the few spared so far, said most of his players have been bitten by the flu bug since Dec. 23. Johansen had recovered, only to fall ill yet again.
That explains a lot.
A brutal combination of injuries and illness has taken its toll. Mattituck was missing five players Wednesday in a loss at Babylon, a game in which the Tuckers managed a mere 22 points.
On Friday at Port Jefferson High School, Mattituck had to play without Hnadahri Joyner (knee injury), Johansen (flu) and Allen (flu). That accounted for Mattituck’s 14th different starting lineup in 16 games.
And yet, despite it all, the Tuckers are still in the playoff hunt, although their 67-44 loss to Port Jefferson didn’t do them any favors.
Port Jefferson (9-5, 4-1 Suffolk County League VII), which defeated Mattituck (6-10, 2-4) by seven points in the first meeting between the teams, won by a much larger margin the second time. That was thanks in part to Port Jefferson’s 8-for-19 shooting from three-point distance and 49-percent shooting from the field.
Kris Cheslock, Thomas Mark and Jack Collins put up 14 points each while Brian Mark supplied 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Cheslock also grabbed nine rebounds as the Royals outrebounded Mattituck, 33-29. It was only the third time this season that the Tuckers were outrebounded.
Port Jefferson never trailed and closed the first quarter on a 10-3 spurt for a 17-10 lead. It was a six-point game at halftime, thanks to a three-pointer by Mattituck’s Joe Mele at the buzzer ending the first half.
Cheslock scored seven points in the opening 1 minute, 27 seconds of the third quarter, a quarter in which Mattituck shot 2 for 11 and was outscored, 17-7. For the game, Mattituck shot 29.4 percent.
Perhaps Mattituck’s two best performers, Mele and Carter Montgomery, came off the bench. Mele led the Tuckers with 16 points. It was a game-time decision on whether Montgomery, who had been sidelined two weeks with a sprained left ankle, would play. He did, producing six points and eight rebounds.
Photo caption: Joe Mele came off the bench to provide Mattituck with a team-leading 16 points against Port Jefferson. (Credit: Garret Meade)