The irony was inescapable. Mattituck’s Xavier Allen, the top basketball scorer on Long Island this season, was having trouble scoring.
It was an unusual sight.
At halftime, Allen had more personal fouls (three) than points (two). After three quarters the senior guard, Mattituck’s all-time leading scorer, had mustered a mere four points.
Hard to believe.
What made things even harder for Mattituck was that, with the exception of Luke Woods, no one else was helping much to pick up the scoring slack. It wasn’t a good game overall for the third-seeded Tuckers. They struggled against No. 2 Southampton’s defense, shot poorly and lost, 70-46, in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game Monday night. Southampton avenged a playoff loss to the Tuckers last year. In the six games between the teams over the past two years, that was Mattituck’s sole win.
Allen finished the game with a season-low 13 points and his high school career with a school record 1,564 points, according to coach Paul Ellwood. The Tuckers finished their season with a 16-5 record.
Allen, nicknamed “X”, is the player with the target on his back, having averaged 31 points per game during the regular season. Southampton’s tenacious defense collapsed on him with ferocity whenever he got near the basket.
“It was a combination of him [having an] off night and their defense,” Ellwood said. “It was just frustrating on all ends, just not with ‘X’, just the whole team, execution. I just kept looking at my coaches like, ‘I don’t know who this team is.’ It was very frustrating. It was one of the more frustrating nights I ever had.”
Woods, a sophomore point guard, scored a game-high 17 points and drilled three three-pointers. Rashad Lawson added eight points and 10 rebounds.
Southampton (15-5), which will face No. 1 Center Moriches (19-1), the League VII champion, in the county final in Centereach Feb. 19, had five players in double figures. Artemi Gavalas led the way with 15 points, all from three-pointers. Sincere Faggins netted 14 points. Dakota Smith had a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Zy’aire Pittman added 11 points and 10 assists, and LeBron Napier had 10 points before fouling out with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left to play.
The game had long since been decided by then, thanks in large part to Southampton’s smothering defense, a source of pride for Mariners coach Herm Lamison. “One of the things I pride myself on as a coach is defense,” he said, “and, you know, coming into the game, [Allen was] the leading scorer in Suffolk County … You got to pay attention to a guy who can score the ball so many different ways, and I think we paid enough amount of attention to him today and, you know, made his looks very difficult.”
Allen opened the game by making only one of his first eight shots. He went 6-for-17 for the game, 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Allen left the gym after the game before he could be interviewed.
Mattituck never got in sync, shooting 26.7% (16 of 60). Southampton, on the other hand, hit an even 50% at 29-for-58, including 9-for-18 on three-point tries.
“We just didn’t make shots,” Ellwood said. “We weren’t getting the best shots. We were standing, looked frozen looking at the zone a little bit. We weren’t doing the things we worked on in practice.”
The Tuckers weren’t helped, either, by the absence on the court of senior forward Chris Nicholson, a regular starter recovering from a concussion. He watched the game from the bench in street clothes.
Mattituck never really got into the game as Southampton opened with a 13-2 lead, capped by successive layups by Napier, Pittman and James Malone.
Southampton had some scoring issues of its own in the first half, though, and led by only 10 at halftime, 28-18, when it could have been more.
An Allen jump shot and two free throws by Woods trimmed the Southampton lead to 33-25 with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter. But Faggins scored seven points during a 15-5 run that made it 48-30.
Southampton scored the final seven points for the final — and largest — margin of the game: 24 points.
“I was looking forward to a fun game and it just didn’t happen,” Ellwood said. “You wait for these moments. You don’t take them for granted, and then on a big stage, you want to see the kids shine. Every guy, to a man, is a little better than they showed tonight.”