When you’re coming off the bench in a high school girls basketball game, playing time can be quite precious.
So, no one has to remind Mattituck’s Ashley Perkins or Alexa Burns that they must find ways to make an impact.
“I feel like I’m doing my part on the team,” Perkins said. “Everyone is supporting on the court. I feel great.”
Burns added, “I make the most out of it whenever I can.”
Which they did on Friday night, combining for 20 points as reserves in the Tuckers’ 58-47 home win over Port Jefferson in a Suffolk County League VII game on Coaches vs. Cancer Night.
“I am getting these girls in because I have faith in them,” coach Steve Van Dood said. “It was a close game, I got them in. They showed their mettle. They want to play.”
Each player reminded Van Dood why they should play more, not with their words, but with their actions.
“They’re a big part of our win,” said Mackenzie Hoeg, who led the Tuckers with 14 points. “Something that Coach Van Dood tells us is that whenever you get off the bench, no matter how much time is left, try to make an impact in the game, whether that was a steal or a point or an assist. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you are contributing to the team in some way.”
On Friday night, her teammates’ contributions turned into key baskets as they finished with season-highs in points.
Perkins, a senior, entered the contest averaging 2.6 points per game through eight league encounters. She had her 11 points dispersed through the opening three quarters for the Tuckers (11-3, 9-1), who had clinched a berth in the Suffolk Class B Tournament in a 47-43 victory over Babylon on Wednesday night. Perkins put in a rebound at the first-quarter buzzer to give the Tuckers a 19-6 lead, added three layups in the second period, including two in the final one minute and 21 seconds to place Mattituck at a 31-26 halftime advantage. She added a rebound basket midway through the third quarter to help the hosts hold the Royals (8-6, 7-3) at arm’s length.
The game was an emotional one for Perkins. A junior, Perkins dedicated the game to her grandmother, who passed away from cancer two years ago.
“I was playing for nanna,” she said. “I had that in the back of my head the whole game.”
While Perkins did not score in the fourth quarter, Burns, a junior, picked up the slack, tallying all nine of her points in the final 2:58 — four layups and a free throw — to keep Port Jefferson from having any thoughts of a comeback.
“I kept my head in the game. Nothing distracted me,” said Burns, who entered the endeavor averaging 2.7 points in seven league games.
“She really turned it on. She’s got to play more,” Van Dood said. “She made a good name for herself tonight, doing what she did, scoring under pressure, finishing and getting fouled. That was all good.”
What was not all good was that the Tuckers made 35 turnovers.
“That’s terrible, not good, not good at all,” Van Dood said. “That’s one thing we’ve got to work on. A couple of times we just threw the ball away, looking for an outlet pass, just playing at that hurried pace. That’s what happens when you press. You play in that hurried mode and you get the ball and you’re playing that hurried mode. Not everyone can play at that pace. It’s susceptible to turnovers and throwing the ball away.”
What was also all right was that the Tuckers shot a torrid 55.5 percent from the field as they were able to penetrate for many layups and close-range shots. Jaden Thompson, who threw her body around the court as a major pest on defense, contributed 11 points.
Lola Idir, Port Jefferson’s eighth-grade guard, led everyone with 17 points.
The Tuckers’ immediate goal is to defend their league crown, but they trail Pierson/Bridgehampton (11-3, 10-0). They will visit the Whalers in their regular-season finale on Feb. 9.
“That would be a big deal,” Hoeg said.