Tuckers hang tough in early non-league loss

Before Mattituck High School took on Westhampton Beach in a girls basketball game Monday night, Caroline Little had scored a major personal victory.

Standing behind the scorers’ table during the varsity game, the senior read an email on her cellphone. Little’s eyes widened before she smiled. She had discovered that she had been accepted to attend the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

“It was just such exciting and such relief to finally see it on paper, especially because the Kelley School of Business, I think, is the No. 8 business school in the country,” she said. “I’m really excited for my future. I’m really proud the work I’ve put in for the past four years is finally showing itself.”

Little put in some hard work in the game, too, scoring a team-high 10 points in a 68-20 home loss.

Afterwards, the 5-foot-11 center still could not hide her excitement.

“I got accepted to my first school for college,” she said. “That’s my No. 2 option right now. I’m definitely very happy that I have that in my pocket.”

Head coach Steve Van Dood could not have been happier for Little, who plans to major in business management, with a minor in Spanish.

“That’s great news,” he said. “I’m very happy for her. You could see it carry onto the court.”

Little admitted that she was one tired player after playing the full 32 minutes. The Tuckers (0-3) started with only eight players because sophomore point guard Claire McKenzie was sick and junior center Jashlin Castaneda had an ROTC commitment. They finished with seven because Paige Rittberg left at halftime, also due to an ROTC obligation.

“It was a hard loss, but after halftime we were missing three of our key players,” Little said. “We did a good job at keeping calm, for the most part, and working through that.”

The game was a learning experience for the players in so many ways.

“I learned I had a lot more to offer the team that I thought I did,” Little said. “I learned how much stamina I have. Playing the entire game was exhausting, but I’m happy with the way I played. I learned a little bit about driving to the basket. Even if I’m not going to make the shot, at least it can get me on the line.

“As a team, we learned that there are a few things we need to work on, but it definitely is something there with our chemistry. We’re only going to improve from here.”

Junior guard Riley Corrigan (six points) said that she learned how to deal with difficult situations.

“I learned a lot about sportsmanship and how to lift each other up,” she said. “Even when things are down and trying to stay positive. Just keeping your head up and high-fiving each other.”

Westhampton (2-0) is a Class AA school with a larger student body. Mattituck competes in Class B.

“It’s hard for us to play the games unless we’re playing against big schools,” Van Dood said of non-league contests.

Corrigan sank a shot from the left corner 59 seconds into the game before the Hurricanes rolled off 10 consecutive points, grabbing a 12-7 lead at the end of the quarter. They increased it to 30-10 by halftime.

“The aggression, the speed, it was hard to keep up with,” Van Dood said. “Missing the key players really didn’t help much for us. We didn’t have the ball handling and they pressed. We turned the ball over. Missed a lot of shots from the foul line.”

Sandra Clarke and Kate Sweet paced Westhampton with 17 points apiece. Emily Ardito added 12.

The Hurricanes defense caused 39 turnovers.

“We were telegraphing passes a little bit,” Van Dood said. “We need to work on making ball fakes and good passes instead of staring at the player you’re passing to. That might help us down the line.”

The Tuckers have three more non-league games remaining before starting their League VII schedule at Pierson/Bridgehampton on Jan. 4. They play at the Stony Brook School Thursday, host East Rockaway Saturday and visit Southampton Wednesday, Dec. 13.

“We got a couple of things to work on. The girls seemed upbeat,” Van Dood said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ve got to work on shooting and taking better shots.”