And now the post-Liz Dwyer era begins.
With its 45-26 loss to Carle Place in last year’s Long Island Class B final, the Mattituck High School girls basketball team bid farewell to Dwyer, their all-time leading scorer who graduated with 1,821 career points over five seasons.
But Mattituck has lost more than Dwyer. The Tuckers lost six players from last season’s 19-4 team to graduation and don’t return a single starter.
“The scoring is going to be hard to replace,” coach Steve Van Dood said. “You design so many things for [Dwyer] and so many things went through her that you do miss her. We’re looking for girls to step up and start filling in that scoring role.”
One of them, undoubtedly, will be junior point guard Mackenzie Hoeg, who performed well last season in her role as the first player off the bench. “She knows when to go to the basket and she knows when to drop back,” said Van Dood.
Expanded roles can be expected for the team’s four other returning players as well: senior center/forward Julie Seifert and senior guards Rachel Janis, Jaden Thompson and Dominique Crews.
Two seniors have returned to basketball after taking a season off, forward Ashley Perkins and guard Alexis Burns. Gabrielle Finora, a junior guard who missed last season with a knee injury, joins the team along with junior guard Sarah Santacroce, junior guard Miranda Hedges, junior forward Taylor Montgomery, junior forward Charlotte Keil, 6-foot-1 junior center Kathryn Thompson and freshman guard Emily Nicholson.
Van Dood, who is 158-102 going into his 13th season as Mattituck’s coach, said the Tuckers will play their same running, pressing style, although “we’re going to look at a more balanced scoring approach. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to play 90 feet of basketball.”
He said: “I think we’re going to be OK still. The JV we had last year was undefeated. They love what we do. They have fun. They love playing pressing basketball.”
Rebuilding is the word for young and inexperienced Greenport/Southold (4-12), which has no returning starters and an average age of 15.
What the Porters do have, though, is plenty of work ethic, and coach Skip Gehring loves that. “During the course of the summer, many of the younger girls [who] actually have a lot of skill, a lot of athleticism, literally worked out all summer with me, four or five nights a week,” he said.
Freshman shooting guard Adrine Demirciyan (13.2 points, 3.5 assists per game) made All-League as an eighth-grader. Shooting guard Samantha Dunne and point guard Brittany Walker are the team’s only seniors. The other returners are sophomore forward Julia Jaklevic and freshman center Amelia Woods.
Two junior transfers from Bishop McGann-Mercy have joined the team — forward Molly Tuthill and guard Cailin Duffy. Tuthill played for Mercy’s varsity team last season and Duffy was a junior varsity player. Also new to the team are sophomore shooting guard Jenna McFarland, eighth-grade point guard Skylar Mysliborski, junior guard Adrianne Portillo and junior forward Isabelle Higgins.
“To help speed the learning process along,” Gehring has scheduled scrimmages against traditionally tough teams such as North Babylon and Commack.
Greenport, which is now the host school for the combined team, will host five home games while three others will be played in Southold.
The team has been bumped up to Class B from Class C, and Gehring sees good things coming from the Porters.
“I believe that these girls have got the talent to play in upstate New York, to win the Long Island championship,” he said. “I believe they’re that talented. Literally, game to game, we’re going to be getting better and better.”
Photo caption: Junior point guard Mackenzie Hoeg, who was Mattituck’s sixth girl last season, takes on an expanded role with other Tuckers this season. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)