Featured Story

Girls Basketball: Tuckers claim second straight LI championship

With a Long Island Class B girls basketball championship on the line, Carle Place eighth-grader Erin Leary received a pass from Leah Burden in the right corner and let loose a shot as time expired. It hit nothing but net.

Initially, some on the Mattituck side believed it to be a three-pointer.

Liz Dwyer’s heart sank. “I almost started crying,” said the junior forward.

Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood consulted with one of the game officials who told him the shot was a two-pointer. With that, the Tuckers rushed onto the court to joyously celebrate their second straight Long Island title (against Carle Place again), courtesy of a thrilling 48-47 triumph at SUNY/Old Westbury’s Clark Athletic Center on Monday night.

Within a matter of a few seconds, heartbreak had turned into euphoria for the Tuckers (20-3).

“I looked at the ref and said, ‘Was that a three?’ ” Mattituck senior forward Corinne Reda said. “And he shook his head no and I started crying. I had tears of joy.”

Dwyer drained one of two free throws with 2.0 seconds left for her 26th point of the game, extending Mattituck’s lead to 48-45. It proved to be a huge free throw.

Carle Place (14-9) called a timeout with 1.8 seconds left to set up the final shot. A video replay showed that Leary’s right foot had crossed the three-point arc when she launched her attempt.

“I thought it was a tied game,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said. “I was pulling my hair out on the side over here and the Suffolk County official came up to me and said, ‘We gave it a two.’ ”

Carle Place coach Michael Bello said the officials made the right call. “There was no question her foot was on the line,” he said.

Following a sluggish first quarter marked by turnovers galore and missed shots by both sides, things improved in the second quarter, and both offenses picked up in the third quarter. Dwyer found her shot and knocked down a couple of threes as part of her eight-point quarter.

“I did get hot, thank goodness,” said Dwyer, who shot 7-for-14 from the field and 4-for-7 from three-point distance. “That really helped us. Once I hit those, our momentum started to pick up.”

It was a third quarter in which Mattituck shot 6-for-12 from the field and took a 34-29 lead.

“I think after halftime all the girls just started realizing that if we don’t win this, we’re going home, there’s no practice tomorrow,” said Reda, Mattituck’s sole senior, who pulled down nine rebounds.

But Carle Place wasn’t done. Far from it.

The Frogs fought back furiously in the fourth quarter, which saw the score tied three times and a couple of lead changes, including a three by Leary that put Carle Place ahead, 45-44, with 2:07 remaining.

But Dwyer had an answer for that 17 seconds later, a power move to the basket that restored Mattituck’s lead. A free throw by Jane DiGregorio with 23.1 seconds to go made it 47-45.

Burden had 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and a block. Carle Place wasn’t helped by the fact that one of its top players, guard Giana McKeough, sat out most of the first half with a pair of early fouls. She still turned in 12 points.

Mattituck had a handicap of its own. Its first-string point guard, Mackenzie Daly, sat out her fourth straight game with an injury. She said she has swollen hematoma under her left kneecap that cannot be drained. It is not know if she will be available for the Southeast Region final that will be played Thursday at SUNY/Old Westbury.

The matchup was an intriguing one that could have been seen as a case of juniors vs. sophomores. Among Mattituck’s eight juniors are four starters: Alex Beebe, Chelsea Marlborough, Dwyer and DiGregorio. Young Carle Place starts four sophomores from a roster that includes six 10th-graders and a pair of eighth-graders.

Carle Place was seeking its fourth Long Island title, having won crowns in 1991, 1992 and 2015.

Speaking of Leary’s final shot, Bello said: “I knew it was good and I knew her foot was on the line. It hurts. You work so hard to get back here and you miss by that much.”

On the other side of the court, the Tuckers were all smiles.

“What a great game,” Van Dood said. “A crazy game, one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in.”

[email protected]

Photo caption: From left, Jane DiGregorio, Alex Beebe and Liz Dwyer celebrate Mattituck’s second straight Long Island championship Monday night following its one-point victory over Carle Place at SUNY/Old Westbury. (Credit: Garret Meade)