Just two games into its high school girls basketball season, and Mattituck already knows it needs to turn over a new leaf as far as turnovers are concerned.
Turnovers have been the bale that has cursed the Tuckers in both games. They committed 30 of them in a 54-43 home loss to Deer Park Nov. 23. The Tuckers saw a slight improvement Tuesday night and actually won the turnover battle with visiting Westhampton Beach, but lost the game, 43-28, in the second of six non-league games in preparation for the Suffolk County League VII regular season.
“The story of today — turnovers,” coach Steve Van Dood said after Mattituck (0-2) turned the ball over 24 times, which was still seven less than Westhampton Beach (1-1).
“I mean today, you saw, there’s still a lot of turnovers,” he said. He added, “It’s a game of possessions and we’re turning the ball over.”
Van Dood said: “You can’t throw the ball into heavy traffic like we did. I mean, how many times did we throw the ball with two shirts guarding our players and we just threw it at them? We can’t do that.”
Things were compounded by Mattituck’s abysmal shooting. The Tuckers opened the game shooting 1-for-13 from the field in the first quarter. They went 2-for-13 in the second, 3-for-10 in the third and 3-for-17 in the fourth. It added up to a 17-percent shooting percentage.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop,” Van Dood said. “I think we could have been up 10 at halftime with all the missed layups that we had.”
Another impact was the presence of Emily Nicholson, one of Mattituck’s best and most veteran players, sitting on the end of the bench the entire second half for an undisclosed health issue. The senior guard had five first-half points (enough to make her Mattituck’s second-leading scorer) before she left the game.
“She just wasn’t feeling well at halftime,” Van Dood said. He said he expected her to play in Wednesday’s home game against Shoreham-Wading River.
Aaliyah Shorter, who led Mattituck with 10 points, said Nicholson “has the heart and she has the passion, yeah. She puts it all in one.”
“I do get worried about her, but the one thing I know about Em is that she always comes back,” Shorter continued. “She always comes back and she comes back stronger.”
Nicholson’s importance to the team is unquestioned. Van Dood said, “You saw what happened when I took her out of the game.”
What happened was things started to click for Westhampton Beach, which shot 39%. The Hurricanes reeled off a 17-5 run for a 31-19 lead late in the third quarter. Olivia Rongo scored 10 of her game-high 20 points during that stretch. The senior forward also collected 14 rebounds, five steals, two assists and a block.
Mattituck pulled no closer than within nine points the rest of the way.
The Tuckers went with a starting five of guards Katie Schuch, Abby Woods and Nicholson and forwards Mia Kahn and Shorter.
In describing her team, Woods said Mattituck is “fast, athletic. We just need to work together. We have what it takes. I think we just need time to put the pieces together.”
What do the Tuckers need most right now?
“I think our team just kind of needs to like connect more like as a team, not even on the court, like off the court, too,” Shorter said. “Like we all need to like talk to each other and be like, ‘OK, so do you understand this play?’ Like make sure that everybody comprehends what’s going on and then in the game, just put it to work.”
As for the turnovers, at least Mattituck took a step in the right direction, closer to where it wants to be in that statistical category.
“I say to them all the time, victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes,” Van Dood said. He said, “Every possession matters and what you do with that possession matters.”
That has become only too crystal clear to Mattituck.