Girls Basketball: Tuckers learn tough lessons in preseason loss to Sachem North

This early in the season, it isn’t always necessarily about wins or losses, but learning the character of a team.

On Thursday night, head coach Steve Van Dood learned much about his Mattituck High School girls basketball team in defeat.

Despite facing a 17-point deficit early in the second half against a team with a much larger student population, the Tuckers battled back and came within a possession of winning the non-league game before dropping a 32-30 decision at home.

“They had the ability to fight back. The girls showed a lot of heart, showed a lot of desire,” Van Dood said. “I’ll chalk this up as winning experience for us because that’s a big school.

“Typically, our shooting usually comes later in the season as we practice more. That we were in the game with a big school … that bodes well for us.”

Sachem North (2-0 overall, 0-0 league), a Class AAA school, competes in Suffolk County Division II. Mattituck (0-2, 0-0), a Class B school, plays in Division IX.

The loss certainly was a confidence booster.

“We have the whole season to go so I’m actually very excited,” said senior guard Ella Suglia, who led the Tuckers with nine points and 10 steals. “This being our second game and coming back from so down, I think that shows great progress.”

Added senior guard Abby Woods (six points): “A close game is definitely fun like that. That’s the most fun thing in basketball. It’s being able to look at my teammates and say, ‘Hey, who’s ready to give 100 percent right now?’ “

The Tuckers did.

It was a sloppy game, especially in the first half. The teams combined for 74 turnovers, 45 by Mattituck.

Senior guard Ella Suglia brings the ball upcourt. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

If the Tuckers could have cut down on those just a bit and converted their foul shots — they were 8 for 18 from the line — the outcome might have been different.

Mattituck took an early 4-0 lead on baskets by Woods and Sage Foster (six points, 12 rebounds, seven steals). The Arrows took a 6-4 lead and never relinquished it as junior guard Julia Beccari sank two free throws with three minutes and 39 seconds remaining.

The second quarter was a tough one as the Tuckers were outscored 17-2 while Sachem rolled to a 23-8 halftime advantage. Beccari’s basket with 7:21 left in the period increased the deficit to 17 points before Mattituck found itself.

“The tempo we were playing out was way too fast for ourselves,” Suglia said. “That we slowed it down in the second half made a difference.”

The Tuckers started to catch fire the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Arrows 11-6 to move within 29-19.

“After halftime we reflected on our first half,” Suglia said. “Okay, we can slow it down. We can do this. We can do that better. Let’s try this. Let’s try that. We also stepped up our aggression and I think that threw off the other team.”

After Sachem extended its lead to 32-21 with 4:01 left in the fourth quarter, the Tuckers went on 9-0 run the rest of the game. Woods sank two foul shots to pull the hosts within two with 1:05 to go.

There still was plenty of time to go ahead, but Mattituck could not convert on its opportunities while Sachem missed four foul shots down the stretch.

“We just couldn’t cash in,” Van Dood said.

Van Dood was heartened by the defensive play of Suglia, who held Beccari to eight points after she tallied 28 in Sachem’s season-opening 38-33 win over Half Hollow Hills West on Tuesday. Brooke Leach led Sachem with 13 points.

During a timeout with 55.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Van Dood reminded his team how well the team it played against a much larger school.

“We can get where we want to be with our hearts, if we continue to put in the work and determination,” Suglia said. “It feels good because when we get into our league games, I think the team and the coaches are all going to be confident … that we’re going to make it.”

Mattituck will test itself against two more large schools — Miller Place and Sayville (both Class A) — before visiting Greenport/Southold in its league opener on Dec. 13.