The Mattituck Tuckers know their ABCs. It’s just that like their opponents Tuesday night, the Mount Sinai Mustangs, they had never won a Suffolk County Class A-B-C title before.
Mount Sinai chalked that off its bucket list, though, thanks to some inspired play from Veronica Venezia and Gabriella Sartori. They scored 14 points each to help beat Mattituck, 59-42, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
Mount Sinai (21-1) will play Commack or Central Islip for the overall county title on Sunday at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus.
The alphabet soup of Suffolk girls basketball involves a scheduling curiosity. Had Mattituck (19-3) won Tuesday, it would have had to play that county final just one day before its Long Island Class B final against Carle Place (14-7) Monday at SUNY/Old Westbury. With that in mind, Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said, “I don’t mind losing this game so much.”
One player who can’t afford to see another loss is Mattituck’s sole senior, Corinne Reda. The team captain knows her high school basketball days are counting down and she wants to savor every moment that is left of them. “I know if we ever lose I’m done,” she said.
That urgency has shown in her play. “She’s playing better than she ever had,” said Van Dood.
The forward, shooting 4-for-11, scored nine points to go with seven rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block Tuesday.
“She really wants us to go far and you could tell she’s giving her all out there,” Mattituck junior Liz Dwyer said. “She does not want to the season to end. I don’t think anybody does.”
A big reason why the Tuckers lost the Suffolk small schools final for the second year in a row was Venezia, and it wasn’t just the senior center’s point production. Venezia was also responsible for 17 rebounds and five steals before exiting to applause with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left in the game.
“We didn’t see anybody of really this caliber all year, to be honest, their size and their physicality and their strength,” Van Dood said of Mount Sinai.
Another problem for Mattituck was turnovers. The Tuckers had 25 of them, 16 in the first half.
“It was just stupid things,” said Dwyer, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds and was guarded at various times by Brooke Cergol and Olivia Williams.
Mount Sinai took the lead for good in the opening minutes. Cergol’s three-pointer at the buzzer ending the first quarter spotted the Mustangs a 16-10 lead that they then stretched to 20-10 on two free throws and a basket by Venezia.
“We started off flat in the beginning but we got together and played our game,” said Venezia.
Mount Sinai led by as many as 12 points in the first half when consecutive layups by Margaret Kopcienski and Venezia made it 24-12. A pair of baskets by Jane DiGregorio down the stretch helped Mattituck cut Mount Sinai’s lead to 29-21 by halftime.
“They’re definitely a fast-paced kind of team,” Venezia said of the Tuckers. “They do have more than one player because they do drive and they’re very good.”
Dwyer was held to four points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, although she did come down with eight rebounds.
Sartori had five points during a 12-2 run that gave Mount Sinai a 41-25 cushion with 3:16 left in the third quarter. It was a quarter in which Mattituck shot 3-for-15 from the field.
“It doesn’t help when they get second and third chances and we can’t put the ball in the net,” Van Dood said. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Mattituck continues to be without the services of its first-string point guard, Mackenzie Daly, who injured her left knee in a scrimmage. Van Dood said Daly is awaiting MRI results and he isn’t sure if she will be available for the Long Island final.
Mattituck has a bigger game ahead and Reda doesn’t want it to be her last one for the Tuckers.
“I don’t want this to happen on Monday,” she said. “I’m going to talk to the girls on the bus and just light a fire under them.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Corinne Reda and Mount Sinai’s Olivia Williams during Tuesday night’s game. (Credit: Garret Meade)