Mattituck played a tremendous first quarter, and not a bad first half, for that matter. Overall, it wasn’t a bad showing by the Tuckers at all.
And yet, when Monday night’s Suffolk County League VI boys basketball game ended, Mattituck had a 39-point loss to show for it.
That said more about host Center Moriches, though, than it did about Mattituck.
Defending Long Island Class B champion Center Moriches has height, pressure defense, sharp outside shooting — and a third straight league championship. Red Devils coach Nick Thomas said the team has won at least 10 league crowns.
With its 90-51 defeat of Mattituck, Center Moriches (13-5, 10-0) clinched at least a share of the League VI title. Southampton (12-4, 8-2) sits in second place.
Center Moriches is a team without an apparent weakness.
“Their only weakness is themselves right now in our league,” Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood said. “The only team that can beat Center Moriches is Center Moriches.”
Thomas grinned when he was told it looks as if his team has no weakness.
“We were battle-tested early,” he said. “We played probably the hardest schedule of any public school on Long Island and it’s really starting to pay off. Our kids are immune to competing at a high level now and they just don’t know quite how good they really are. I’ve talked to them about how much they raised their floor and where we started off. Now it’s just about how high our ceiling goes.
“It’s all about keeping the train on the tracks and staying humble and hungry.”
Not even a 26-point performance by Mattituck junior Xavier Allen was enough to overcome Center Moriches.
“I redeemed myself,” said Allen, who had 11 first-quarter points and 20 by halftime. “It felt pretty good. It really did. I had to redeem myself because every time we played them they always pressured me, but I showed college coaches I can handle pressure.”
Center Moriches is imposing. The Red Devils, winners of nine straight, sent out a starting five that included 6-6 Sean Braithwaite Jr., 6-5 Micah Snowden and 6-4 David Falco Jr. That height and length causes problems for other teams.
Mattituck (8-9, 3-6), which lost its third straight game, hung with Center Moriches for much of the first half. It was 19-17 Center Moriches after one quarter and 33-28 for the Red Devils late in the second quarter.
“Our first quarter was just great. X just wasn’t missing,” Mattituck’s Chris Nicholson said of Allen.
Center Moriches has a way of wearing a team down, though. The Red Devils then turned it on, breaking the game open by going on a 32-2 run for a 65-32 advantage. TyQuon Nix had eight of his 16 points during that onslaught.
“We had a hard time with that three-quarter court 3-2 trap,” Ellwood said. “It gave us a lot of problems.”
Referring to Center Moriches’ long reach, he said: “There were open people. We just couldn’t find them.”
Snowden (18 points), Braithwaite (17) and Falco (11) also scored in double figures. Braithwaite and Edmond Frazier had six assists apiece while Dayrien Franklin and Nix added five assists each.
Allen rose to the level of the competition, but it just wasn’t enough.
“He played great,” Ellwood said of Allen, who scored 28 points against Elwood/John Glenn last week. “X comes out and plays hard every night. When he’s on, he’s going to put up a lot of numbers. He’s had a great season.”
The next highest Mattituck scorer after Allen was Trevor Poole (seven points, 10 rebounds).
Center Moriches forced Mattituck into committing 25 turnovers, 14 more than the Red Devils.
“They [present] so many matchup problems for us,” Ellwood said. “They just had us so spread out, it was very difficult for us to get them out of rhythm on offense. They pretty much got whatever they wanted out of every set.”
The loss leaves Mattituck needing to win two of its final three regular-season games in order to get into the playoffs. Those games will be against Hampton Bays at home Friday, at Port Jefferson Feb. 4 and at home to Babylon Feb. 6. The Tuckers beat all three of those teams the first time around.
Asked how he feels about his team’s playoff chances, Ellwood answered: “Good. I feel good about it. I’m not discouraged. We’re going to be fine. The guys, they’re resilient. We’ll bounce back.”