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Girls Basketball Preview: Two-time LI champ Tuckers want more

The Mattituck High School girls basketball team has never won a regional championship, but it has come close. For a second year in a row the Tuckers reached the Southeast Region Class B final this past March, only to be denied by Irvington.

“We’re right on the doorstep,” said coach Steve Van Dood.

Maybe this will be Mattituck’s year to make that breakthrough.

Coming off back-to-back Long Island championships, Mattituck (20-4) looks as good as ever.

“That was amazing that the girls did that,” said Van Dood, who is 139-98 going into his 12th season as Mattituck’s coach. “I think we have enough experience and enough girls coming back that it’s going to help us out, enough senior presence. The girls are bigger and stronger, and it’s going to bode well for us.”

It doesn’t hurt that Liz Dwyer is back for her fifth varsity season. The senior forward, who averaged 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.2 assists and 1.3 blocks per game last season, made the All-State ninth team for the second year in a row. She has registered 1,398 points and 645 rebounds over the course of her career.

Three other starters from last season — seniors Mackenzie Daly, Jane DiGregorio (9.0 points, 3.4 steals per game) and Chelsea Marlborough — are also back. Senior Alex Beebe and sophomore Mackenzie Hoeg saw substantial playing time last season.

Emily Mowdy and Jordyn Maichin are among the team’s seven seniors. Juniors make up the rest of the squad for the defending League VII champions: Dominique Crews, Rachel Janis, Julie Seifert, Jaden Thompson and Francesca Vasile-Cozzo.

“It’s almost like they didn’t miss a beat,” Van Dood said. “They’re playing very well together.”

No wonder. Corinne Reda is the only player Mattituck lost to graduation.

Mattituck won the Long Island championship last season even with its point guard, Daly, out for the entire playoffs with an injury.

“They’ve been through the wars,” Van Dood said. “They’ve been battle-tested, absolutely. This group has done it. They’ve rose to the occasion.”

Can they do so again? Stay tuned.

Southold/Greenport (10-10) is in full rebuilding mode. Among the players Southold lost to graduation were All-Conference Madison Tabor, a 1,000-point scorer, All-League players Toni Esposito and Angelica Klavas, not to mention Samantha Baldwin. Altogether, they produced about 35 of the 47 points per game the team averaged.

That means defense will be as important as ever for the First Settlers, who had a top-10 defense on Long Island, giving up an average of 41 points per game last season.

“We can still get in the playoffs, but it’s going to be relying a lot on defense,” said coach Skip Gehring.

It also means enhanced roles for the team’s two returning starters, senior forward Grace Syron (11 points, eight rebounds per game) and senior point guard Ale Cardi.

“Grace wasn’t the go-to girl last year,” Gehring said. “This year she’s going to be the go-to from the offensive point of view.”

The only other varsity experience comes from two other seniors, guards Madison Hilton and Liz Clark.

A big plus has been the addition of Annie Lincoln, a senior forward who didn’t play basketball last season.

Junior point guard Brittany Walker, junior shooting guard Samantha Dunne and sophomore center/forward Paige Watchel have been brought up from the junior varsity team.

“The girls have a lot of heart, a lot of desire,” Gehring said. “They are very, very tough. The younger players coming up have a real desire to play … and to want to win.”

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Photo caption: Mattituck’s Jane DiGregorio, trying to deny a pass to Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Mia Behrens last season, averaged 9.0 points and 3.4 steals per game. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)