It was an imperfect end to a perfect league season.
The basketball game itself was anything but a beauty, but from Mattituck’s standpoint, the sparkling 14-0 league record it was left with when it was all over is a work of art.
“Sometimes it’s not always pretty, but as long as we get the ‘W’,” said Mattituck forward Liz Dwyer.
League VII champion Mattituck closed out its regular season with a 10th straight win, 56-35 over Center Moriches Thursday night. Dwyer led the Tuckers (17-2 overall) with 20 points on 6-for-14 shooting in the sloppy affair, giving Mattituck’s all-time leading scorer 1,762 points for her five-year career. Fellow senior Jane DiGregorio added 14 points to help send host Center Moriches (1-17, 1-13) down to its 12th straight defeat.
Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood expects his team to be paired with Babylon in the Suffolk County Class B final when Section XI releases the playoff brackets later this week. That game would be played Feb. 19 at Suffolk County Community College in Selden.
“It seemed like everything was on auto pilot a little bit,” said Van Dood, reflecting on a season in which Mattituck’s only losses came to Brentwood (in its season opener) and Shoreham-Wading River. “We had some adjustments here and there, but any game that got close, I totally felt confident in the girls that were out there.”
Mattituck’s all-senior starting lineup of Alex Beebe, Mackenzie Daly, Chelsea Marlborough, DiGregorio and Dwyer is a big reason for that confidence. That group has been together for three seasons. “I had total confidence in that group because I watched them do it so many times for so many years,” said Van Dood. He added, “Those girls were ready to go, right from day one.”
DiGregorio said: “Having five starting seniors is something that a lot of teams don’t have. I think we’ve always been the young team, and to finally have age and experience, it’s really nice.”
It was a sluggish start to a sloppy game, though. Center Moriches interim coach Phil Tozzi, who handled the pregame honors for center Ali Hogan and guard Maddie Juliano on Senior Night, watched as his side led for most of the first quarter. But then Mattituck righted its course. Dwyer scored five points during a 13-0 spurt that put the Tuckers ahead, 18-7.
Mattituck was up by nine points at halftime. It wasn’t until a Dwyer layup near the end of the third quarter when the Tuckers stretched that lead to 20 at 45-25 before closing out the win.
“Winning is always part of the plan,” said Dwyer, who had her typical complete-game performance with seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks. “We hate losing.”
Jemini Sensabaugh led Center Moriches with 15 points.
Asked about the perfect league season, DiGregorio said: “It felt really good because, you know, it’s our last season. I really want to make it count. I didn’t want to leave anything behind and have to regret anything going into college, so I wanted to make sure that this last season was perfect.”
Dwyer, who entered the game with an 18.9 points average, said, “I would say that this is the first time that every starter knows what other starters are thinking.” She used the words “scrappy” and “fast” to describe her team. “You can’t say that we don’t fight,” she said.
Coming off back-to-back Long Island championships, Mattituck is driven to make a bid for its first trip to the state final four.
“I think just knowing that we were one game short last year is definitely good fuel for the fire,” Dwyer said. “It keeps us going to want to actually get the state experience.”
Are the Tuckers ready for the postseason?
“I think we definitely need this week to work,” DiGregorio said. “I think we have a lot of work and a lot of improvement to do to just clean things up and make things perfect.”
The Tuckers should know a thing or two about perfection.
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Mackenzie Daly floats a shot over Center Moriches’ Ali Hogan. (Credit: Garret Meade)