Mackenzie Hoeg doesn’t start basketball games, but she often finishes them.
Hoeg has a clearly defined role on Mattituck’s team as the Tuckers’ sixth girl, typically the first one off the bench. While she would prefer to be a starter, she’s OK with her current role.
“I actually don’t mind,” she said in an interview before a practice last week, adding: “Obviously, I would want to start, but the sixth position is OK because right when I come on I feel like I’m doing something right away and getting right into the games and being able to play good defense.”
When one of Mattituck’s five starting seniors gets into foul trouble, runs into difficulty or just needs a breather, it’s Hoeg’s time to step up and check in at the scorer’s table. And when the 5-9 sophomore guard gets on the court, she usually does good things.
Alert. Quick. Intelligent.
Those are some of the words coach Steve Van Dood used to describe Hoeg.
“As the sixth player, her job is to definitely offer us a spark plug from the bench, definitely,” he said. “She does move well off the ball. She’s shooting a lot better this year. She’s a very good defensive player. She’s fast on her feet. She gets herself in good positioning on defense.”
Defense may be the greatest value Hoeg brings. Her athleticism works well with teammate Jane DiGregorio when Mattituck turns on its pressing defense.
“Overall, I think it’s mainly my defense that’s really helping me in the games and helping us,” said Hoeg.
Known primarily for her prowess on the lacrosse field, Hoeg has been a valuable piece in the girls basketball team’s ascent to third straight league and county championships. Her ability to provide help off the bench — along with others such as Julie Seifert and Jordyn Maichin — has helped the Tuckers in their bid for a third straight Long Island title. (They are to play Nassau County champion Carle Place Tuesday in a Southeast Region Class B semifinal at Half Hollow Hills West High School).
Hoeg has made a rapid rise in basketball, playing for the junior high school team in seventh grade, the junior varsity team in eighth grade and then reaching the varsity level as a freshman. She played as a freshman, but has seen more playing time this season, averaging about four points, four rebounds and three steals per game.
“I think she’s great,” DiGregorio said. “Throughout the season she has grown so much. She’s grown. She can drive and get to the rim, I think, better than most of us can … She’s got a pretty good jump shot that we’re starting to see more toward the end of the season.”
Van Dood said: “The future is bright for her. It’s encouraging to have her progress the way she is.”
Mattituck will have a decidedly different look next season, with the Tuckers graduating six seniors, including starters Alex Beebe, Mackenzie Daly, Liz Dwyer, Chelsea Marlborough and DiGregorio.
That means, in all likelihood, an enhanced role awaits Hoeg, who should be a steadying influence next season. “Yeah, probably just a little bit,” she said.
DiGregorio said: “I think Mackenzie is going to have a whole new role and a whole new perspective on basketball and even lacrosse, too, because she goes from being such an underclassman to it’s basically her team. She’s here to take over.”
Hoeg, the only sophomore on the team during the regular season, is evidently well-liked by her teammates. “She’s hard not to like,” DiGregorio said. “She’s so funny and so personable.”
Hoeg said she is enjoying playing basketball. She said, “I think the best part is just being able to spend [time] at practice with the girls every day.”
The Tuckers have at least one more game, and that is Tuesday against Carle Place. Hoeg isn’t expected to start, but there’s a good chance she will be on the court when the final seconds ticked off.
Photo caption: Mackenzie Hoeg, a 5-9 sophomore guard, has embraced her role as Mattituck’s sixth player. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)