It was difficult, almost impossible, for the Mattituck High School girls basketball team not to look ahead to its regular-season finale, a showdown with Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island on Thursday night that will determine the Suffolk County League VI champion(s).
“We definitely got that in the back of our minds and want to prove to Pierson who we are,” said Mattituck forward Ashley Perkins.
Even before Mattituck’s Senior Night game against Hampton Bays Tuesday night — a 49-13 romp by the Tuckers — second-place Mattituck was contemplating its rematch against first-place Pierson. Pierson headed into its game against Greenport/Southold Tuesday night a win away from clinching at least a share of the league title, holding a 15-3 record, 14-0 in the league.
Regardless of the result of that game, Mattituck (16-3, 14-1) ensured it has at least a share of the league title to play for when the teams meet again Thursday in Sag Harbor. Mattituck has won three successive league championships and seven overall.
“I just think it’s important because we need to get another year up” on the banner, Mattituck forward Julie Seifert said. “It’s about keeping tradition here.”
Pierson is responsible for the single blemish on Mattituck’s league record. When the teams played on Jan. 14, Pierson prevailed, 47-38, as Mattituck struggled with 29-percent shooting.
“I think we’re going to go in there fighting hard,” Perkins said. “We’re going to do our best. I think we’re going to do great.”
Still, first things first. And the first matter of business on Tuesday was handling Hampton Bays (0-19, 0-14).
Prior to the game, Mattituck’s six seniors, whose teammates created personalized posters for them, were announced and escorted to center court by their parents.
“We were talking about who was going to cry and who was not going to cry,” said Seifert.
Coach Steve Van Dood, in his pregame remarks during the ceremony, said: “This team had a lot on them. They came in after the best team in Mattituck history … There was a lot of pressure on their shoulders.”
Then Van Dood told his players, “I want you to take this moment in.”
Mattituck’s all-senior starting lineup then helped the Tuckers fly out to a 20-6 lead and roll from there. Hampton Bays was held to three points in the second half. It was similar to a defensive effort earlier this season when Mattituck limited Center Moriches to two points over the first three quarters.
Perkins, shooting 6-for-8 from the field, finished with a career-high 13 points as well as 10 rebounds. Seifert shot 6-for-11 and supplied 10 points and seven rebounds.
Rebecca Heaney was the leading scorer for Hampton Bays with seven points.
Mattituck started seniors Alexis Burns, Dominique Crews, Rachel Janis, Jaden Thompson and Perkins, with another senior, Seifert, coming in off the bench. It was just the sort of Senior Night Mattituck’s seniors were hoping for — all the pomp and ceremony, along with a win in what possibly could be the Tuckers’ final game in their home gym this season.
“I knew it was going to be [a good performance] because, honestly, who likes to lose on Senior Night?” Seifert asked. “Nobody does.”
Not all was good for Mattituck, though. Sarah Santacroce took a shot to her nose and headed to the locker room 62 seconds into the second quarter. The junior left the gym early in the third quarter.
Afterward, Van Dood said a concussion was ruled out for Santacroce, an occasional starter. “She’s our spark plug,” he said. “We’re going to need her.”
While Mattituck’s primary focus is on the Suffolk Class B title, the Tuckers made it clear they want to add another league crown to their résumé.
“It’s important,” Van Dood said. “We don’t like relinquishing anything.”
Not that the Tuckers are taking anything for granted. They recognize what Pierson is capable of doing.
“We really can’t take them lightly because they have a lot of dual threats,” said Seifert.
Nonetheless, Perkins sounded confident.
“I think we’re going to give Pierson a run for their money,” she said. “I think we’re going to do great.”
Photo caption: Julie Seifert, one of Mattituck’s six seniors, shot 6-for-11 for 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. (Credit: Garret Meade)