Abby Woods just about matched her season points-per-game average of 7.8 in Mattituck’s 49-33 girls basketball win over Hampton Bays on Monday night.
She scored eight points, but there was another important number that you wouldn’t find in the box score. The freshman guard made a game-high seven steals to help spearhead the Tuckers in their Suffolk County League VII home game.
While it’s always fun to score baskets and rack up the points, Woods admitted she has taken a lot of pride in her defense.
“My dad always tells me: ‘Steal, steal, steal. Get steals, get steals,’ ” she said. “I think it keeps my adrenaline up, getting steals.
“I just try to play my best. I try to work on defense. When the score isn’t close, scoring isn’t my top priority. I just focus on my defense.”
That’s just fine with coach Steve Van Dood, whose Tuckers (12-6, 11-3) secured second place in the league and a home Class B playoff game in two weeks.
“I think she did a really good job,” he said. “It’s hard to believe she’s a ninth-grader. Sometimes she shows it and we’ve got to remind her of that. ‘Abby let’s go, let’s play aggressive.’ I told her during one of the timeouts, ‘When you play aggressive, everything starts from there.’ Then she started playing on her toes, not on her heels. When Abby plays on her toes, that’s her best basketball.”
The game wasn’t some of Mattituck’s best, but it was good enough for the win.
“Turnovers, that’s our game,” Van Dood said. “Just make stops and steals and score on them and take care of every possession.”
To be fair, Woods was far from a one-girl show on defense for the Tuckers, whose press forced 38 turnovers by the Baymen (1-17, 0-14), 35 by the end of three quarters.
“Our press works very well against these types of teams,” said guard Katie Schuch, who contributed eight points and three assists off the bench. “I think it can work better if we just got more intensity.”
With the playoffs looming in two weeks, the Tuckers need to be as sharp as they could. Van Dood made sure all 13 players got some serious minutes as 10 made the scorebook.
“It was important because everybody has to get their shots to see if somebody can do really well in the playoffs,” Schuch said. “We could have a star player that we didn’t know about.”
The Tuckers’ star player, leading scorer and senior Mackenzie Hoeg, gave the team a bit of a scare when she rolled an ankle early in the second quarter and was forced to sit out the remainder of the half.
“We rested her up a little bit, but she was ready to come in in the second half,” Van Dood said. “We had the trainer look at her, and she said she was ready, fit as fiddle. She has been wearing a brace all year. So, she’s been having issues with that. We’ve been monitoring it. She’s a tough kid, too. She’ll play hurt, so we’ve got to be careful. We did the right thing. We got her in for a little bit. We kept her point average up, which is nice and still rest up, too.”
In limited playing time, Hoeg, who returned to play at the start of the second half, finished with a team-high 13 points and added six steals and five rebounds.
The Tuckers rolled to a 10-0 advantage before Baymen point guard Rebecca Heaney sank a foul shot with 5 minutes and 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
“We came out and scored 18 right away and let up a little bit,” Van Dood said of Mattituck’s 18-8 margin at the end of the opening period.
Hampton Bays moved within 20-13 early in the second before the Tuckers went on a 12-2 tear for a 32-15 halftime lead.
“They were moving the ball well,” Van Dood said. “We have an unselfish team, so one more pass was working out well for us. The press got us a couple of opportunities for some open layups.
“We didn’t lose too much putting those girls in and it bodes well for the future.”
Hampton Bays center Kaitlyn Mounts led everyone with 22 points, scoring 18 in the second half and all 10 of her team’s points in the fourth quarter.