It’s been quite a start for the Mattituck boys basketball team.
The Tuckers are 9-0 after Friday’s 87-45 non-league home victory over Greenport, but they realize it could go all for naught if they don’t continue that when the Suffolk County League VII schedule starts next month.
“Besides confidence and bragging rights, these wins don’t mean anything,” said senior guard Xavier Allen, who led the way with 31 points and 15 rebounds. “We can go into the season 9-0 and we can come out of the league oh and whatever. This doesn’t really mean anything. We really have to grind for this. I’d rather be 9-0 in the league than 9-0 in non-league.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with a perfect record to begin the season. According to coach Paul Ellwood, the Tuckers haven’t enjoyed a start like this in more than two decades. Ellwood, who has been involved with the program since 1999, said he had a 7-0 start with his 2003-04 squad.
Winning certainly has helped Mattituck’s confidence.
“We just feel great right now going 9-0,” said sophomore point guard Luke Woods, who finished with 22 points. “We feel like no one can stop us. Until we lose, we’re going to have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”
Allen agreed, saying that this was a “statement season.”
“It helps a lot because when we go into these bigger games against Center Moriches and Southampton, we know we can fight and play against these guys,” he said. “We weren’t doubting. Last year we were doubting maybe a little bit. This year, us going 9-0, everyone knows we’re ready. We’re going in there to fight. We’re not going in there to just to play a basketball. We’re going to win. We want to make a championship.”
The Tuckers average 81.2 points a game and have broken 80 five times. After Saturday’s final non-league game against Shelter Island, the real challenge begins against Babylon on Jan. 7. That will begin a grueling month of 10 league games through Feb. 6.
“We’re definitely a contender, a playoff team,” Ellwood said. “I like this team. We can score. This is the highest scoring team I’ve ever had. We like to play up tempo. We’re going to get better as the year goes on. I’m just a little concerned about our depth. We can’t afford to have an injury.”
After turning the ball over five times in the opening two minutes and 13 seconds, Mattituck found itself and rolled to an 11-0 advantage. The Tuckers’ ball-handling improved that they made only one turnover in the middle two quarters before committing one midway through the fourth period.
The Tuckers turned the game on its head with a 21-0 surge that spanned both sides of halftime. Senior forward Chris Nicholson scored four of his 12 first-half points during 12-0 spurt for 46-22 halftime advantage. Junior forward Rashad Lawson (12 rebounds), contributed seven of his eight points as Mattituck began the third quarter on a 9-0 tear.
Jahmeek Freeman (19 points) kept the Porters afloat by canning four of his treys within a 2:27 span in the second quarter.
“We got everybody involved. We started off a little slow but not unexpected after we handled pretty easily last time,” Ellwood said of an 87-44 win on Dec. 6. “We were talked about a letdown and not having any intensity. Once we got into the flow, we were good. We had a pretty solid game all around.”
While life is looking up for the Tuckers, the Porters have struggled to a 1-7 mark in the wake of All-County guard Ahkee Anderson transferring to Center Moriches for his senior year. Coach Ev Corwin hasn’t used that as an excuse. Last season Greenport lost in the state Class C semifinals.
“We’re going to have our ups and our downs,” he said. “With a team like this, with all this youth, I want to see us get gradually better and surprise some people later on. We’ve played some good teams in our non-league schedule. Everything we’re doing here, whether we win or lose, it’s all a learning process. I’m always frustrated to lose, believe me, and I want them to be, too.
The rebuilding is not going to take too long. We’ll be back. There’s no doubt about that.”
Top photo caption: Mattituck’s Xavier Allen goes up for a shot against Greenport. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)