Settlers outlast Tuckers in sloppy 30-28 road win

One thing is certain.

Neither the ball nor a video of Southold High School’s 30-28 victory over Mattituck will be sent to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The game was close, but it was far from a classic.

In fact, it was downright ugly at times.

Yet, the Settlers enjoyed a beautiful ending, managing to overcome a seven-point deficit in the final quarter in a non-league encounter in an enemy gymnasium.

“Getting a rivalry win is always nice,” Southold head coach Lucas Grigonis said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve won in Mattituck. The last time I can recall is my senior year.”

He was kidding.

“I’m sure it’s somewhere between that,” said Grigonis, who graduated in 2005. “It’s important for the kids to get this one in our last preseason, non-league game and to see the results of all their hard work. One of our MOs this year is to always outwork our opponent. It may not be pretty, but the quality of the win is there.”

Two guards ensured the hard work paid off. Junior Jake Steinfeld scored all of his eight points in the final period, and senior Jack Sepenoski contributed seven of his game-high 13 points in the final frame.

“We focused on the little things,” Steinfeld said. “That’s what led us to the win. And that’s how I feel about how the season should go forward.”

“We showed a lot of heart and determination to come out and win,” Sepenoski said. “We can use this as a springboard.”

Thanks to that fourth quarter.

The Settlers (2-2) found themselves facing a seven-point deficit at 21-14 after Alex Clark put in a lay-up 53 seconds into the period.

Then Steinfeld and Sepenoski took over, combining to score all but one of the visitors’ 16 fourth quarter points.

Southold went on an 11-2 tear that was bracketed by two Steinfeld three-point baskets. The final one, with 2:13 seconds remaining, lifted the Settlers into a 25-23 lead they never relinquished.

“It gave us a lot of confidence, especially to finish that game strong and composed,” Steinfeld said. “We hit some big shots and played good defense.”

Grigonis had nothing but praise for Steinfeld’s efforts.

“He’s coming out of his shell,” the coach said. “He has a little chip on his shoulder from losing a few games last year. Let’s look forward. Let’s move forward.”

Steinfeld converted two key free throws in the final 18.5 seconds to seal the game.

“It takes a different type of person to handle that pressure,” Grigonis said.

Sepenoski sank two lay-ups in the surge, one off a turnover, before canning three free throws down the stretch.

“We were just moving the ball better and creating more shots for me,” he said.

“I’ve been coaching for 14 years,” Grigonis added. “I’ve coached a lot of good kids, good quality athletes. Jack is amongst the top of them because of that intangible that you cannot teach. He never gives up.”

Southold went to the foul line 14 times in the period, converting just six attempts. But it was just enough.

After Steinfeld put away a free throw with 5.6 seconds remaining, the Tuckers (3-3) had one final shot to tie or win. Brady Dwyer’s three-point attempt at the buzzer didn’t go in.

The Settlers started the game going 0-for-14 from the field, but finished the first period with only a 6-3 deficit — all their points came on foul shots — because Mattituck kept throwing the ball away. Junior forward Brady Woods scored Southold’s first field goal on a lay-up 29 seconds into the second quarter.

“Mattituck wasn’t playing that great, either,” Grigonis said. “We weren’t worried. We just felt we were going to find ourselves somewhere in the game.”

Better late than never.

Tuckers head coach Paul Ellwood summed up his team’s performance in one word.

“Terrible,” he said.

Mattituck Senior guard Tommy McGunnigle, who connected for a career-high 20 points in a 64-55 non-league win over Greenport on Dec. 12, got into foul trouble early and finished with just four points. Junior guard Justin Fox and Clark led Mattituck with six points apiece.

“We just played rushed and hurried,” Ellwood said. “We couldn’t catch a ball, rebounds, passes. We were stagnant on offense. It was just one of those nights for both teams.

“If you would have told me we’re holding them to 30 points I would have taken it. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”