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Girls Basketball: Tuckers give big Brentwood a fight

Sometimes a gain can be made in a loss.

That was the case when Mattituck opened the high school girls basketball season with a non-league game against, gulp, Brentwood.

Yes, that Brentwood. As in Brentwood, the largest school in New York State. As in 2016-17 Suffolk County Class AA semifinalist Brentwood. As in League I Brentwood. As in Brentwood, the school with over 7,000 students.

Compared to Brentwood, Mattituck is like the little school on the prairie, with only several hundred students.

When it comes to basketball, though, the two schools are much closer. On Thursday they were separated by a mere three points — in Brentwood’s favor.

Mattituck came within a shot of tying the score, but Alex Beebe’s three-point attempt in the dying seconds was a bit long, bouncing off the back rim. Brentwood’s Ashley Richards came down with the rebound and the final buzzer sounded, leaving the Indians 49-46 winners at Mattituck High School.

For two-time defending Long Island Class B champion Mattituck, a League VII team, the game brought a lot of positives. Despite being smaller in size, the Tuckers played well, led by seven points at halftime, and gave Brentwood a fight. And this was with Mattituck’s first-string point guard, Mackenzie Daly, sitting on the bench in street clothes. Daly had informed coach Steve Van Dood earlier in the day that she had the flu.

This was the sort of non-league competition Mattituck wants to prepare for the playoffs. The Tuckers want to face teams like Brentwood, which they equated to Irvington, the team that knocked Mattituck out in a regional final last season.

“We definitely need this for the non-leagues because when we face teams like Irvington in the regionals, we weren’t prepared for that,” said Liz Dwyer, who led Mattituck with 25 points, shooting 7-for-15 from the field. “These are definitely going to help us get ready for that.”

Mattituck led through the first three quarters. Brentwood didn’t take its first lead until Tyleah Brown sank a bunny to break a 38-38 tie early in the fourth quarter. That was part of an 11-3 Brentwood run.

Mattituck never led again.

The Tuckers did pull to within 47-46 when Dwyer sank a free throw with 52.7 seconds left. But Brentwood’s Talia Drakeford and Richards each made a free throw to expand the lead. Brentwood’s Ty Zhea Hawkins finished with 25 points.

With her 25 points, Dwyer pulled to within 42 points of tying Stephenie Pisacano (Class of 2010) as Mattituck’s all-time leading scorer. Dwyer now has 1,423 career points, and one reason for that is her accurate free-throw shooting. She shot 9-for-12 from the line Thursday.

“I think it was a good start,” Dwyer said. “We played with heart. We hustled. I think we definitely outran them with our press and everything, but just the little things got us.”

Van Dood was upbeat about his team’s performance.

“This is great preparation for us,” he said. “We don’t get to see anything like this.”

“I was very happy, you know, considering we were down Mac Daly,” he continued. “She’s a big part of what we do. We run everything through her … We were in it the whole time. The girls played hard, scrappy. What wasn’t there to like?”

Beebe, who joined Jane DiGregorio, Mackenzie Hoeg, Chelsea Marlborough and Dwyer in Mattituck’s starting lineup, said: “I learned that we can play with these teams. We easily can, and we showed that today.”

The Tuckers, coming off a 20-4 season, could be even stronger than they were last season. Some big things could be in store for them in the near future. They seemed happy to be back on the court, playing again.

“We’re into it now,” Dwyer said. “There’s no going back.”

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Photo caption: Mattituck’s Chelsea Marlborough putting up a runner during her team’s season-opening game against Brentwood. (Credit: Garret Meade)