Lately, that’s the way it has been for the Mattituck High School girls basketball team. Injuries have been hitting the Tuckers hard from all directions, and yet they continually find ways to prevail.
Coach Steve Van Dood was heartened before Monday night’s 47-30 home win over visiting Center Moriches about the return of Emily Nicholson, who had suffered a concussion Dec. 12 in a game against Southampton. “Having Emily back is huge for us tonight,” he said. “I’m so happy she’s playing again.”
It wasn’t long before that happiness turned to concern. Nicholson’s return lasted a little over a quarter before the sophomore guard went down on the court in obvious pain. After the game, Van Dood said he understood that the problem was a tight hamstring, “not a tear or an ACL. We’re going to keep a very close eye on that. We have to keep that girl healthy. I think she’s had her share of injuries, and [hopefully] that’s all behind us, but it seems like every game we’re getting an injury.”
Aniah Thompson (ankle) and Sarah Santacroce (coming off an illness) were unavailable.
Such is life these days for second-place Mattituck (7-4, 6-1 Suffolk County League VII).
“Every game I’m missing a starter,” said Van Dood. He added, “We’ve been missing girls for a lot of games now and we’re still finding ways to win because we have different leading scorers every night.”
Van Dood counted seven Tuckers who have been the team’s top scorers in games this season. That speaks to Mattituck’s depth and also the contributions of young players like freshman guard Abby Woods and sophomore guard Kate Schuch, who were brought up from the junior varsity team in early December and were both in the starting lineup Monday.
Meanwhile, Mattituck has been winning. Since their only league loss to Port Jefferson, the Tuckers have rolled up league wins over Babylon, Southampton, Smithtown Christian, Greenport/Southold, Babylon again and Center Moriches.
“We had bad luck with injuries this year, but no matter what, we are a force to be reckoned with,” said forward Kathryn Thompson.
Nicholson buried a three-point shot for a 16-11 Mattituck lead just moments before falling to the floor 2 minutes and 24 seconds into the second quarter. It had appeared as if she banged knees with a Center Moriches player.
That was the last thing the Tuckers wanted to see, especially with the way Nicholson’s game has progressed. “She’s at a whole new level right now … going to the rim confident shooting-wise,” said Van Dood.
That three-pointer by Nicholson gave her eight points and ignited a 22-1 run in which seven Tuckers scored.
“We’re playing as a team instead of individual players, and when you pass to each and boost each other up, that’s really what you need in a team,” Kathryn Thompson said. “You can’t play individually.”
Mackenzie Hoeg, who has a lot to do with the win streak, was the top scorer Monday with 17 points. She shot 8-for-14 and also had five assists.
Rebounding and altering shots is Kathryn Thompson’s business. She did her job, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking four shots.
“I think she did very well,” Woods said. “She always comes out energetic and strong.”
Kathryn Thompson’s teammates worked to try to get her on the scoresheet. The senior, not known for her scoring prowess, made a close-range bucket while being fouled for the game’s final two points with 33.8 seconds left.
“I was ecstatic,” she said of the basket. “I was like, ‘One’s going to go in,’ and I had a great feeling about that one.”
Center Moriches, coached by former New York Liberty player Sue Wicks, received 10 points from Emma Morris and seven points and 15 rebounds from Lily Murphy. Megan Magill grabbed 10 rebounds to go with six points.
Both teams struggled with their shooting. Mattituck went 3-for-21 from the field in the first quarter and shot 29.4% for the game. Center Moriches (1-10, 1-6) suffered through a first-half stretch in which it missed 11 straight shots and finished at 20.8% for the game.
How much longer can Mattituck take this win streak?
That may be tough to say with the ever-present threat of injuries and big games coming up against Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island and Port Jefferson, but Woods was confident enough to say, “I think we’re going to have a good season.”