Tucker girls hoops win semifinal with teamwork

Mattituck’s 46-29 win over Greenport/Southold in the Suffolk County Class B girls basketball semifinal on Wednesday night was a great example of how everyone pitches in.

Not one Tucker dominated, but everyone made vital contributions in the semifinal.

Junior guard Riley Corrigan scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter to hold the Porters at bay. Senior forward Caroline Little contributed eight of her 10 points in the second half as the Tuckers pulled away.

Sophomore guard Claire McKenzie ran the offense and helped make life difficult for Greenport’s top two players, Lilly Corwin and Francesca Santacroce, on defense.

Senior forwards Jashlyn Castenada and Sofia Knudsen produced key steals. Junior guards Rhianna Lutz ignited a late surge, and Paige Rittberg came off the bench to sink four foul shots before a capacity crowd at Mattituck High School.

“It was a team victory,” head coach Steven Van Dood said. “Everyone we put in seemed to do her role. That’s just so nice to see.”

The second-seeded Tuckers (14-7) will meet No. 1 Babylon (15-6) for the county title at St. Joseph’s University on Friday at 5 p.m. The Panthers defeated No. 4 Pierson in their semifinal, 30-25. Third-seeded Greenport finished at 10-9.

“Greenport definitely gave us a challenge,” Little said. “We had to work together. This is my last season and I’m going out with a bang. I’m so proud of how we worked together, how we’ve improved. We all put our hearts and souls into that game.”

Which made it sweeter.

“Nobody pegged us to do anything,” Van Dood said. “The athletic director [Greggory Wormuth] was like, ‘You have to get back to basics with this group.’ I said, ‘Okay, we’ll do that.’ It seemed to pay off.”

Van Dood had feared that some players might lose their focus.

“It’s funny. The season can go either two ways,” he said. “Girls start looking forward to the spring season, or they really focus now. They showed that they really wanted to put the time in. We ironed out all the little things that we needed to take care of.”

Both teams hadn’t played in two weeks and the rust showed in the semifinal. The squads combined for 20 turnovers in the opening period. Greenport had 11, Mattituck nine.

“Nerves were felt in the locker room before the game. It’s really just something that we needed to work through,” Little said. “Of course, it’s nerve racking. You want to win, but I think we did a very good job of taking that first step and breaking through the nerves and steamrolling into the second, third and fourth quarters.”

The Tuckers helped themselves by changing their defenses and holding Corwin, who scored 24 points in a 40-26 win over Mattituck on Jan. 30, to five points.

“We keyed in on the right players and just made them uncomfortable,” Van Dood said.

When she covered sophomore guard Santacroce (14 points), McKenzie provided some tough defense.

“I was playing right on her,” she said. “I’m trying not to let her get the ball as much as possible.”

Afterwards, the two sophomores, who play on the same travel basketball team, talked.

“She told me to beat Babylon and I’m like, ‘Yes, we will do that,’ ” McKenzie said.

Mattituck brought an 8-7 lead into the second period and never relinquished it. Corrigan made sure, scoring six points for a 19-16 halftime lead.

“Claire and Caroline, I’m pretty sure those are the ones that fed me a couple of good passes when I cut down below,” Corrigan said. “I just finished it.”

The Tuckers pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring the Porters, 13-7, to take a 32-23 advantage.

After the Porters closed to within 32-27 on Santacroce’s coast-to-coast layup off a defensive rebound, Lutz countered with one of her own with four minutes and 51 seconds remaining. That sparked the Tuckers on a 14-2 run to close out the game.

Rittberg helped with four free throws.

“I said, ‘Paige, you just got to handle the ball. Don’t turn it over. They’re going to foul you. Just knock down those foul shots like you do in practice,’ “ Van Dood said. “She did everything to a tee.”

It was a difficult defeat for Greenport.

“I could have prepared them better,” head coach Ev Corwin said. “Our shots didn’t fall. Mattituck hit shots when they needed to. Whenever we got close, they answered right away.

“Our girls gave everything they had. I’m upset for the seniors. I’m going to miss them all.”