Not only did the Mattituck High School girls basketball team lose its all-time leading scorer, Liz Dwyer, to graduation last year, but the Tuckers lost all five of their starters from last season. One might have expected them to hit a number of stumbling blocks and experience a good deal of growing pains as they adjusted this season to life after Dwyer.
So, is that how things have shaken out?
At least that’s the way it appears on the outside, and the way it looks judging by the team’s record.
Mattituck picked up its fifth straight win Friday night with a 63-41 defeat of shorthanded Greenport/Southold in a Suffolk County League VI game at Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium.
“We’re playing pretty well right now,” coach Steve Van Dood said. “We’re winning games … We have some ups and downs, but for the most part we’re doing pretty well. Learning how to win is a big thing.”
When Mattituck (7-2, 5-0) managed only 28 points in a season-opening loss to West Islip, Van Dood worried about where the points would come from. That doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. “On any given night we can score 60 points,” he said.
On Friday they did that and more, with a splendid showing by Julie Seifert. The senior forward totaled 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
“She’s been playing amazing,” teammate Rachel Janis said. “She’s such a strong player. She leads us in rebounds. That’s her job and she’s done it real well.”
Seifert said her teammates made her job easier with their pressing defense in an attempt to slow down Greenport’s talented freshman guard, Adrine Demirciyan. Demirciyan finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, five steals and one assist.
Van Dood called Demirciyan a “very good player. That girl can play. I know she can light it up.”
Demirciyan has had to carry a heavy burden, though, for a young Greenport team with an average age of 15 (the same as its junior varsity team) that also starts an eighth-grader, Skylar Mysliborski.
“The part that she’s struggling with is everybody is keying in on her, and that’s tough because she’s a freshman,” said Greenport coach Skip Gehring, who has only three returning players from last season, none of whom were starters.
Making things more difficult for Greenport (1-5, 1-3) was the absence of reserve guards Cailin Duffy (vacation) and Jenna McFarland (foot injury). That left the Porters with only seven players to take on Mattituck. That number was then reduced to six when Julia Jaklevic fouled out with 4 minutes, 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The bulk of the damage had been done by then, though, with Mattituck leading 53-36 at the time.
So, how has Mattituck adapted to this post-Dwyer phase?
For one thing, the Tuckers are sharing the wealth. That was seen Friday, with Mackenzie Hoeg scoring 14 points, Dominique Crews adding 10 and Ashley Perkins coming off the bench for eight.
“It’s about balanced scoring, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Van Dood.
Van Dood, who has a 165-104 record in his 13th season as Mattituck’s coach, then made a rather eye-opening statement about his team’s depth. “I’m more confident in this roster than any roster I ever had,” he said. “Every girl has a replacement.”
Janis said: “On defense, everyone has a role and we all do it very well. We don’t rely on one player.”
Mattituck took the lead for good in the second quarter when a Seifert free throw tied it, 14-14, and sparked a 12-0 run, nine of those points coming from Seifert.
Crews drained a three-pointer with one second left in the second quarter, sending Mattituck into halftime holding a 31-19 advantage.
Mattituck wore down the Porters in the second half, shooting 13-for-19 from the field. For the game the Tuckers shot 53.2 percent.
“I think we did pretty good,” Seifert said. “She added, “I think obviously we can work on our shots, but our shots were dropping tonight.”
Indeed they were. So Mattituck added another mark to the win column.
Said Janis, “I think we can only go up from here.”
Photo caption: Mattituck forward Julie Seifert (15 points, 11 rebounds) looks for room to shoot while being guarded by Greenport/Southold’s Isabelle Higgins. (Credit: Garret Meade)