Girls Basketball: Experience helps Tuckers beat Porters in playoff battle of local squads

Experience counts.

Especially when it comes to the playoffs.

Mattituck is a perennial player in the high school girls basketball playoffs, which are a different animal than the regular season. The competition is tougher, the pressure is greater and the stakes are higher. Playoff wins are generally harder to come by.

Greenport/Southold found that out the hard way. The Porters, in contrast, made their first playoff appearance in four years Thursday night. And the fact that the Suffolk County Class B semifinal was played in North Fork rival Mattituck’s gym in front of a large crowd may not have made things any easier for the youthful Porters, who had two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup.

Experience helps, and experience was in Mattituck’s favor.

The defending county champion Tuckers used their veteran know-how, along with energetic defense, to frazzle the Porters and triumph, 49-36.

“We just played more like a team,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said. “You know, they had that ‘we’ concept instead of that ‘me’ concept.”

Mattituck minimized the impact of Greenport’s standout sophomore, Adrine Demirciyan, who got into early foul trouble and fouled out with 5 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game. She was held to nine points.

Meanwhile, Mattituck’s headline performer, senior Mackenzie Hoeg, supplied her side with 21 points, eight steals, four rebounds and three assists. She shot 8-for-14 from the field.

“Hoeg had something to prove tonight and I think she proved it well — with a capital ‘P’,” said Van Dood, who believes Hoeg should be the League VII Player of the Year. He said Hoeg “always has a great game. She knows how to dictate tempo. She knows how to get to the basket, and that’s what we needed.”

And then there was that nice supporting role played by Abby Woods. The freshman, who started the season on the junior varsity team, scored 13 points.

“Abby’s definitely a great finisher at all times, and I think she definitely played great defense today,” Hoeg said. “I just think being able to play more and getting more experience on varsity has just helped her tremendously, and she’s turning into a great player.”

And Woods did what she did despite rolling an ankle in the second quarter. Trainer Ray Ellis looked at the ankle and taped it at halftime.

“She played hurt and that shows a lot of heart,” Van Dood said. “When girls play hurt like that, it means a lot.”

Second-seeded Mattituck (14-7) is headed to its fifth straight county final as part of a march it hopes will lead to a fifth straight Long Island final. The Tuckers will play No. 1 Port Jefferson (14-3) — a 55-37 semifinal winner over Babylon Thursday — in the final Feb. 21 in Centereach. League VII champion Port Jefferson beat Mattituck twice during the regular season.

In Mattituck’s two league wins over No. 3 Greenport (12-9), the Tuckers prevailed by six and seven points. Thursday’s game wasn’t as close as either of those contests. Mattituck never trailed although Greenport twice pulled to within one in the first quarter.

Woods made two layups, converted a putback and hit a three-pointer from the top of the key as part of an 11-0 run that gave Mattituck a 19-7 lead early in second quarter.

Van Dood saw some nice back-door cuts, pick-and-rolls, long passes “and before you know it, we were accumulating a nice little lead.”

Demirciyan, face guarded by Sarah [Santacroce] and Kate Schuch, played only the opening 2:33 of the first quarter before heading to the bench after picking up her second personal foul. She was held scoreless in the first half before sinking a runner early in the third quarter for her first points.

“They depend on her,” Woods said. “We tried to take her out of the game. We tried to limit her points as much as we can.”

Brienna McFarland led Greenport with 11 points.

Mattituck hounded the Porters, making 19 steals and causing 26 turnovers. Greenport was held to 27.6% shooting.

“They never got in the flow and primarily because of, like I said, the starters are freshmen, sophomores, they’re young,” Greenport coach Skip Gehring said of his players. “First playoff game, so there’s a lot of nerves. For a lot of these girls, it was their first playoff game in any sport.”

They just happened to run into a veteran team that has been there before and was up to the occasion.

Said Van Dood, “I would say it was one of our best team efforts all season.”

Chalk it up to experience.