“X” marks the spot, and with Xavier Allen, that’s in the cylinder of the basket.
The sophomore point guard for the Mattituck High School boys basketball team, who has a knack for putting the ball in the basket, goes by a couple of nicknames.
“They call me X or X-Man,” he said. “Usually on the court, if I’m just playing bad, they’ll call me Xavier. If I’m playing great, they’ll call me X-Man or X, so that’s how I know how I’m doing in a game.”
On Saturday, he was X-Man, scoring, passing, even rebounding as the Tuckers pulled away to an 83-60 non-league win over Southold in Mattituck. Allen had 26 points with the aid of three three-pointers. He might have surpassed his season-high of 31 points, but shot 7-for-14 from the foul line.
Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood said Allen, who entered the game with an 18.9 points average, put in “tremendous effort” in the offseason “and it’s showing now.”
For the Tuckers, Allen is the irreplaceable one.
“He’s the one guy we can’t not have in the lineup,” Ellwood said. “Everyone else, we can replace. We can’t replace X. We have some depth at the bigs. We have some depth at the other guards, but he’s worked at his game since last year. I’m lucky [to] have a guard like that.”
As part of his game Saturday, Allen also had 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Three other Tuckers scored in double figures. Isaiah Johnson, another sophomore guard, had 16 points (with four treys) and five assists. H’Nadahri Joyner, a 6-4 junior coming back from an ankle injury, was an inside force with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Trevor Poole added 12 points.
Southold received 21 points and five assists from Steven Russell and 20 points from Nick Grathwohl.
Both teams might find their respective records hard to believe — for different reasons. Mattituck improved to 9-2 while Southold remains winless at 0-9.
“We’ve pretty much won all the games we’re supposed to win and now we’re getting into the tougher part of the schedule,” said Ellwood, whose team’s only losses have come to Pierson and Greenport. “We still have some growing up to do, some maturing to do, but it’s nice to do it as you’re winning.”
Southold, on the other hand, has undergone a great deal of player turnover and is still searching for its first win.
“I think we need a commitment to defense and executing what we do in practice [in] a game,” coach Lucas Grigonis said. “I think right now our mindset in a game is that things will get better when we don’t really realize that you have to work for those things to get better. Zero and nine hurts, but you come back every day and you work hard. I don’t know if there’s one reason for us being 0 and 9. I think it’s a lot of little things that add up.”
Allen’s 14-point first quarter (he scored 12 of Mattituck’s first 13 points), spotted the Tuckers a 24-15 lead.
Three-pointers were flying from both sides. Mattituck shot 9-for-21 from beyond the arc while Southold went 8-for-23, with four threes by Nick Grathwohl.
Mattituck enjoyed superiority on the boards, with a 43-28 rebounding advantage.
“Mattituck is definitely playing quality basketball right now,” Grigonis said. “They matched up well against us. Obviously, they’re coached well, and they don’t take any plays off, which is the difference between their team and ours right now.”
Southold was without a healthy Max Kruszeski, who Grigonis called the team’s defensive leader. Kruszeski watched the game in street clothes after rolling an ankle in the last five minutes of practice Friday, said the coach.
Mattituck was missing Nick Perino because of an ankle sprain.
But there was the X factor. The Tuckers had X-Man on their side, and he’s a difference-maker.
“I don’t see a difference in his game play from the first to the fourth quarter,” Grigonis said. “I think he plays 32 minutes. I think he’s a good leader, and I think he does what he does on both ends of the floor to be a good teammate and to make it hard for his coach to take him off the floor.”
Nick Grathwohl said: “He just attacks you at every single point … He’s quick. He can shoot. He has handles. It’s tough to beat a guy like that.”
Allen was a starter last season for Mattituck, but things are different this time around. He said he feels more responsibility. “I have to be a leader,” he said.
That means doing what he does best, and among those things is putting up points.
“I like scoring,” he said. “I hear the cheerleaders say my name and stuff, so that’s always fun.”
Photo caption: Xavier Allen had 26 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists for Mattituck in its non-league win over Southold Saturday. (Credit: Garret Meade)