Senior nights are known for emotions and tears, but the only visible emotion on Mattituck’s side Friday night was joy. And there were no tears, just smiles.
For good reason, too. In the final regular-season home game for Liz Dwyer and the rest of Mattituck’s seniors, they won and in the process clinched a share of the Suffolk County League VII girls basketball championship.
“I’m not sad,” Dwyer said after Mattituck ran off its ninth straight win, 50-40 over Bishop McGann-Mercy. “It’s kind of exciting for our future. It’s Senior Night, but it’s not the end.”
Indeed, the future looks bright for the Tuckers (16-2, 13-0).
Prior to the game, Mattituck recognized five of its seniors — Alex Beebe, Mackenzie Daly, Jordyn Maichin, Chelsea Marlborough and Dwyer — and their parents. (The team’s sixth senior, Jane DiGregorio, was away on a college visit).
During the pregame ceremony, coach Steve Van Dood read out to the crowd the achievements of his seniors over the past three seasons. It’s an impressive list: a 56-9 record, a 27-2 home record and two Long Island championships. Add to that the most recent addition: a seventh league title and third in a row.
“It’s unbelievable to say that we did that,” said Marlborough.
The most senior member of the team, Dwyer, added to her legacy as Mattituck’s all-time leading scorer. Despite dealing with foul trouble, the forward put up 17 points on 5-for-16 shooting to raise her career total to 1,742 points. She also had five rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal.
“She’s a very smart player,” Mercy coach Meaghan Smith said. “She’s very persistent. She knows her abilities. She knows when to shoot and when to drive.”
Mattituck made a strong start, shot out to a 15-3 lead and never trailed. Mercy (12-5, 10-2) trailed by as many 14 points twice in the third quarter before clawing its way to within three points at 40-37 with an 8-0 burst.
But Dwyer showed her leadership in the final couple of minutes, making a layup and going 4-for-4 from the foul line during that time. A pair of Beebe free throws iced it with 9.1 seconds left.
“I want to leave my best good impression here and feel good about the time I spent here in this gym,” said Marlborough (seven points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals).
Daly finished with 10 points and six assists.
Mercy senior Melina Santacroce pulled down 19 rebounds to go with 14 points. Sarah Penny added 10 points for the Monarchs, who had won six in a row since their previous loss, which was also to Mattituck.
Because of illness and other commitments, Mercy had only seven players available, including Cailin Duffy, who was brought up from the junior varsity team but didn’t play. In addition, Mercy played its first game in 11 days.
“We knew that we had to keep it tight,” said Mercy’s Karina Ellis.
Smith said: “We didn’t do what we needed to do. We didn’t take care of the ball, but we’re moving past that.”
Although Mercy can still earn a share of first place, Smith said the Monarchs have their sights set primarily on the Suffolk Class C title. “We’re looking forward to playing [Mattituck] again in that small school championship,” she said.
Mattituck believes it has bigger things ahead, too, namely a third successive Long Island crown.
“We like spending time with each other so we’re going to keep going at it,” Van Dood said. “The more we keep winning, we stay together.”
Dwyer, who has committed to play tennis for Southern New Hampshire, said she has recently decided she wants to pursue basketball at the NCAA Division II school as well. In the meantime, she has some unfinished business with a special group of seniors.
Dwyer said, “We’ve been together so long, our bond, we’ll be friends together for life.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Liz Dwyer (17 points) looks for shooting room under the long arms of Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Melina Santacroce (14 points, 19 rebounds) while Gianna Santacroce watches. (Credit: Garret Meade)