Despite not returning a single starter this season, the Mattituck High School girls basketball team didn’t hit many bumps in the road this season. But then, on Wednesday, the Tuckers ran into a wall.
The fourth straight meeting between Mattituck and Carle Place in a Long Island Class B final didn’t go the Tuckers’ way. It wasn’t even close.
A basket by Julie Seifert early in the game tied the score at 2-2 for Mattituck. After that, though, it was all Carle Place.
The Frogs, showing superior speed and marksmanship, were led by the inspired play of sophomore forward Erin Leary. They defended tenaciously. They caused 29 turnovers. They shot exceptionally well.
And they whipped Mattituck, 66-25, at Farmingdale State College.
Carle Place used a 38-5 run to pull away to a 50-9 lead early in the third quarter. The Frogs shot a sizzling 19-for-37 (51.4 percent) from the field in the first half.
And here’s a thought: Carle Place did all of this with two 1,000-point scorers sitting on its bench. Seniors Leah Burden (knee) and Abby Selhorn (foot) were both injured.
Not that Carle Place (16-4) needed them, at least on this evening.
Leary scored 16 of Carle Place’s first 25 points. She finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Giana McKeough (12 points, six steals, five assists, four rebounds) and Caitlin Leary (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Frogs.
Mattituck (17-6), meanwhile, struggled mightily with its offense. The Tuckers were held to one field goal each in the second and third quarters. They shot 4-for-26 (15.4 percent).
“We did not shoot well at all today,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood told reporters.
Almost half of Mattituck’s points came from the foul line, where they sank 12 of 24 free throws. Seifert led Mattituck with nine points, seven of her points coming on free throws. Sarah Santacroce was Mattituck’s next highest scorer with four points.
“They did a very good job,” Seifert said of the Frogs. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to answer back with our shots.”
It was the fifth Long Island championship and second in a row for Carle Place, which will play Irvington in a Southeast Region final Saturday at Pace University. The winner of that game will advance to the state final four to be played March 15-17 at Hudson Valley Community College.
“They have a lot of year-round players and they were good shooters,” Van Dood said. “I knew they were going to be good, it would be a tough game for us. We had a couple of gameplans, we changed up our defenses, but it was hard to stymie them. It was hard to get a stop. It seemed like they just kept going.”
After Carle Place stormed to a 37-point halftime lead, a Mattituck comeback looked like a near impossibility.
“The momentum wasn’t in our favor,” Mattituck senior Rachel Janis said. “Our shots weren’t falling and we just got down on ourselves.”
Mattituck senior Jaden Thompson said: “They’re definitely a faster team than we usually expect, so that was definitely one thing that was a little difficult for us today. At certain points it got a little frustrating.”
Mattituck won its first two Long Island finals against Carle Place in 2016 and 2017 before the Frogs triumphed last year. It has developed into a sort of mini-postseason rivalry.
“This year it’s kind of a cast of new characters on both teams,” Carle Place coach Tim O’Hagan said before the game.
Mattituck lost all five of its starters from last season, including the school’s all-time leading scorer, Liz Dwyer, and Carle Place was minus two top players because of injury. That, of course, didn’t stop the Frogs. “The reason I like this group is there’s a no-excuse mentality,” said O’Hagan.
Mattituck turned in what might have been a surprisingly productive season to some, but not Seifert.
“Those people that left, they were great and they had a lot of things that really built Mattituck basketball into what it is today, but … we didn’t have any doubts,” she said. “It’s such a negative outlook to go into a season thinking you’re not going to do good. We worked in the offseason, did summer league and everything, and we were ready for it.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Jaden Thompson, right, and Emily Nicholson console each other after the Tuckers’ loss to Carle Place in the Long Island Class B final at Farmingdale State College. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)