When they were youngsters, the two cousins played basketball together. On Tuesday night, Mattituck’s Xavier Allen and Center Moriches’ Ahkee Anderson played against each other in a clash of unbeaten teams. They both shot the lights out and, family or no family, there was no questioning the intensity of either of them.
Allen rang up a career-high 41 points, and Anderson had a stellar game as well with 29. Anderson also had a heck of a supporting cast in his favor as host Center Moriches rocketed its way to a high-octane 102-68 win in the Suffolk County League VII game.
Both seniors have similar builds, are exceptional players and likely have college basketball in their futures.
The two have been opponents at the varsity level before. This time the difference was Anderson was wearing Center Moriches white and red instead of Greenport purple and gold. He transferred to Center Moriches before the current school year.
“We’re close outside the court; on the court now, we’re enemies,” Allen said. “We don’t like each other on the court. We haven’t said anything to each other. We probably won’t talk for a while.”
The two weren’t seen exchanging words after the game. Even when they posed together for postgame photos, they both wore their game face, staring seriously at the camera.
The game drew a large turnout. No surprise there, given that Center Moriches (11-0, 3-0) is ranked first among Class B teams in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association, and Mattituck (12-1, 2-1) is ranked 21st.
Allen and Anderson were the featured players in this family drama.
“I think X wants to prove himself just going up against this all-star team,” Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood said before the game. “I mean, guys who were All-Conference last year from other teams are here now and it feels like sort of the cards are stacked against him. So, I think he’s definitely focused. He was intense at practice last night, so he’s looking forward to the challenge.”
Allen, who entered the game leading the county with a 30.3-point average, showed his quality against powerful Center Moriches, a state semifinalist last year. He shot 14-for-28 from the field, made 12 of 13 free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Anderson, meanwhile, had a triple-double. He shot 11-for-18, with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“It was definitely a fun game,” Anderson, an All-State player last season, said. “… It’s always fun playing against X.”
Not that it always looked as if the two were having fun. They butted heads from time to time and fouled each other. “They were going at it the whole game,” said Mattituck point guard Luke Woods.
The most notable of those interactions came late in the third quarter when Anderson was called for a pushing foul on Allen. Allen, however, said something that drew a technical foul, sending him to the bench temporarily with his fourth personal foul.
“That’s just a friendly rivalry, though,” Anderson said. “We’re always going to go at each other.”
Center Moriches stormed out to a 20-2 lead for what amounted to an early KO.
The Red Devils bring a lot to the court. Five of them scored in double figures, including 6-5 forward Jaden Kealey, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Nae’jon Ward delivered 15 points, Emond Frazier 14 and Dayrien Franklin 10.
Rashad Lawson scored 12 points for Mattituck, which is off to the greatest start to a season in Ellwood’s 16 seasons in charge.
Ellwood raved about Allen’s progress. “Just incredible,” the coach said. “Every year he’s just exponentially grown. As good as he was last year as an All-County player, he’s gone multiple steps ahead. It’s hard to do that when you’re an All-County player. I haven’t seen a kid grow as much as him in the county in the last three years.
“People know who he is. My phone was ringing off the hook last week. College coaches were calling me like crazy because they’re starting to get a tape of him and seeing his numbers, and they want to know who he is and what he’s all about.”
So, how did it feel, playing against his cousin?
“I didn’t really feel anything,” answered Allen.
It wasn’t any different for him?
“No,” he said. “I just play.”
The cousins will meet again when Center Moriches visits Mattituck for the rematch Jan. 31.
“We’re brothers for life,” Anderson said. “That never will change, no matter what team we’re on.”