01/01/12 5:00pm
01/01/2012 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck's Cody Huntley, right, and Steve Ascher share a hug with a fan following their regional semifinal triumph over Malverne.

It was a season defined by The Tip-In, possibly the biggest shot in Mattituck boys basketball history.

A season in which the Tuckers accomplished so much was highlighted by Steve Ascher’s last-second tip-in to topple Malverne in the Southeast Region Class B semifinal at SUNY/Old Westbury.

Malverne led for virtually the entire game, but was stunned by what happened in the final moments. Ascher went to the foul line with 4.2 seconds left and Malverne fans screaming at the top of their lungs. He coolly sank the first free throw to trim Malverne’s lead to 67-66. Then, after a Malverne timeout, Ascher’s second free throw bounced off the back rim. Mattituck’s Cody Huntley came down with the rebound, turned and put up a shot that ricocheted off the backboard and rim. Ascher was in place, though, to direct a high-arcing tip that glanced off the glass and fell through the net as time expired.

“I went up and I just tipped it,” said Steve Ascher, who finished with 22 points and 7 assists, both game-high figures. “I just didn’t know if it was going in or not. It went in and I jumped on the ground.”

Mattituck fans screamed. The Tuckers were Long Island champions for the second time in their history.

Mattituck held only two leads in the game: at 2-0 and at 68-67, the final score.

Ascher’s tip-in attained legendary status almost immediately.

“Come on, how can you not be amazed tonight?” Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood said. “If Duke would have done that that would have been amazing. What a storybook season.”

Moments after the game, while celebrating Mattituck fans chanted, “Matt-ti-tuck! Matt-ti-tuck! Matt-ti-tuck!”, Tuckers forward Yianni Rauseo was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. “It’s like a fairy-tale ending,” he said. “It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream.”

That dream came to a crashing halt in the regional final, a 75-59 loss to John S. Burke Catholic at Farmingdale State University.

In the final minutes, as each of the five Mattituck starting seniors bowed out of the game, they were greeted at the bench by Ellwood, who had some words to whisper in their ears.

“I just wanted to say something different to each kid, unique to that personality, and what they meant to me,” the coach said. “I just said something a little special to each one of them. Each one of those kids means a lot to me. I did a lot of stuff, was with them a long time. I’m so proud of them.”

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12/31/11 5:00pm
12/31/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck had a lot to cheer about, qualifying for the state semifinal pool for the second year in a row.

For a high school girls volleyball team in New York, any season that ends in Glens Falls can’t be a bad one.

And that is where Mattituck finished up for the second straight year, in the Glens Falls Civic Center for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships.

As they did in 2010, when they qualified for the state semifinals for the first time, the Tuckers went winless in their six games in the state semifinal pool, but they did make an impact on the tournament, nonetheless. They came awfully close to their first state semifinal win in their last game against Voorheesville.

The Blackbirds needed to win in order to tie Rhinebeck for second place and have a chance to reach the finals. But the Tuckers had motivation of their own: making the final game in the careers of their five seniors a memorable one.

“We had our spirits up,” one of those seniors, libero Jackie Hinrichs, said. “We wanted to win so badly.”

The Tuckers, who never held a lead in their previous five games, shot out to a 3-0 start, perhaps catching defending state champion Voorheesville by surprise. They led by as many as six points when a Claire Finnican kill made it 8-2. While the prospect of an historic win teased the Tuckers, Voorheesville surged ahead, finishing the game on a 10-2 run. The final score was 26-24.

“Even though I’m crying my eyes out, it’s O.K. because we proved ourselves to be a good team,” said Finnican, a senior middle hitter.

Coach Frank Massa’s Tuckers, who went 12-0 on their run to Glens Falls, made a statement just by advancing to the state semifinals. After all, 10 players from the 2010 team had graduated.

Hinrichs said the team heard from naysayers, “so that put a lot in our heads, but making it up here meant so much to everyone. This is an experience that I’ll never forget.”

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12/30/11 5:00pm
12/30/2011 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Ed Danowski, who played seven seasons for the New York Giants, was selected by Times/Review Newsgroup as the greatest athlete in the area's history.

During the summer of 2011, the Times/Review Newsgroup sports staff began an ambitious project to compile a list of the 20 greatest athletes in this area’s history, starting from the North Fork and stretching into Brookhaven Town. The idea was to tell the forgotten or unknown stories of the many great athletes over the years and to chronicle their careers from beginning to end.

In addition to profiles on each athlete, which ran over 21 days, the sports staff wrote stories detailing the accomplishments of many other outstanding athletes who didn’t crack the list.

Compiling such a list had its difficulties. And in the end, not everyone agreed with all selections. But what was indisputable was the passion for their sport that came through for each athlete.

The list began with a pair of Greenport hoops legends as a tie for No. 20, Al Edwards and Ryan Creighton. During their respective eras at Greenport, each player set the all-time scoring record for Suffolk County.

Sports Editor Bob Liepa wrote: “Edwards and Creighton could play any position on the floor. They both were relied upon by their teammates to lead the way. They could both dominate a game. They both handled their fame on the basketball court with humility. They both put winning over individual achievement, as considerable as some of those individual achievements were.”

When the countdown finally reached No. 1, the top honor went to a Riverhead legend, Ed Danowski, who hailed from Aquebogue. Danowski played seven seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants. He quarterbacked the Giants to two titles in the 1930s.

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12/29/11 5:00pm
12/29/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | An airborne Yianni Rauseo leapt onto the top of the pile after Mattituck beat Oyster Bay in the Long Island Class B final.

One thing was certain: an Ascher would be on the mound, pitching for the Mattituck baseball team in the Southeast Region Class B final. The question was, which one would it be, Steve Ascher or his twin brother, Tom?

The answer was both.

Tom Ascher started the game, but after the first inning said he felt stiffness in his arm and couldn’t continue. Steve Ascher, who had pitched 12 innings in the Tuckers’ previous two playoff wins, threw the final three innings for Mattituck, but he couldn’t save his team from a 9-8 loss to Briarcliff at Pace University’s Westchester campus.

With the score tied at 8-8 and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, a Mattituck outfielder couldn’t haul in a fly ball that skipped off his mitt and allowed Briarcliff’s Brendan Weinstein to score from third base. The run gave the Bears the decisive run in a see-saw battle that featured three ties and five lead changes.

“It’s not exactly how we wanted it to end,” Mattituck coach Steve De Caro said, “but they’re a great team.”

Mattituck wasn’t bad itself. The Tuckers went 20-6. Most of those wins came on the arm of Steve Ascher, a senior southpaw with an 11-1 record.

With only two and a half days of rest between starts, Steve Ascher tossed a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts in an 8-0 defeat of Oyster Bay in the Long Island final at Farmingdale State College.

Steve Ascher said there was never a question of him not starting that game, not even after having thrown five innings in a 25-6 blowout of Babylon in the Suffolk County final. After that game, while the rest of the team went out to dinner to celebrate, he stayed home and iced his arm.

That must have been some icing job because he tossed a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts and no walks against Oyster Bay. “It’s my best pitching this year,” Steve Ascher said. “I don’t know. I guess it’s just adrenaline.”

Steve Ascher retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced (one reached base on an error) before giving up Oyster Bay’s only hit. Using his fastball to spot the outside corners, Ascher looked sharp, striking out seven different batters, including two three times and one twice.

“On only two and a half days of rest, it’s really amazing,” Mattituck center fielder Yianni Rauseo said. “You can’t ask for Steve to do any more.”

Even after the regional final defeat, Mattituck third baseman Travis Zurawski was able to keep things in perspective. “The season was still a total success,” he said. “We worked hard all year and we made it here.”

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12/28/11 5:00pm
12/28/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Despite throwing a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts, Greenport pitcher Shaun Hansen took the loss in a rare double no-hitter against Bishop McGann-Mercy.

No-hitters in baseball are a rarity. Double no-hitters are almost unheard of.

A Google search indicated that there has never been a double no-hitter in the major leagues. A search of The New York Times’ archives found that, although minor league records are incomplete, there are two recorded instances of double no-hitters at the minor-league level — in 1952 and 1992.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy pitcher Pat Stepnoski had 13 strikeouts and was two walks shy of a perfect game.

And then there was the double no-no that Bishop McGann-Mercy and Greenport shared on April 12, 2010, at Greenport High School. Fans might have anticipated a pitcher’s duel when McGann-Mercy’s Pat Stepnoski and Greenport’s Shaun Hansen were paired up against each other in the Suffolk County League VIII game, but no one could have predicted what they would see.

Both pitchers fired no-hitters and the game’s only run was scored on another rarity: a steal of home plate.

Tom Kretz was responsible for the run, stealing home in the second inning. He had drawn a one-out walk before stealing second base, third and then home. When catcher Michael Reed threw the ball back to Hansen after a pitch, Kretz broke for the plate and made it easily. The right fielder had four stolen bases on the day.

Not even wet conditions (a light rain fell early and late in the game) prevented the two pitchers from shutting down the opposing team’s bats.

Stepnoski, supported by errorless defense behind him, fell two walks shy of a perfect game. The junior right-hander threw primarily fastballs with a couple of sliders, and fired 13 strikeouts. He was economical, needing only 86 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.

“It was, bar none, the best he has ever looked,” said McGann-Mercy coach Ed Meier.

Hansen, a senior right-hander, had to work a little harder. His 115-pitch performance featured 11 strikeouts and three walks. He mixed two-seam fastballs with curveballs.

It was the first varsity no-hitter for both pitchers.

Greenport coach Mike Reed was irate over the three errors his team made and what he cited as bad judgment by the Porters in the batter’s box.

“I’ll take this one to the grave,” he said. “That’s how bad I feel for [Hansen]. This kid gives you everything day in and day out, and we can’t produce.”

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12/27/11 5:00pm
12/27/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Andrew Sadowski has a 208-85-19 (.667) career record over 18 years as Southold's coach.

Two hundred wins is nothing to take lightly. It’s represents quite an investment in time and effort. For Andrew Sadowski, it has been an 18-year journey.

The Southold boys soccer coach had an entire off-season to think about his 200th career win after the First Settlers were ousted by Port Jefferson in a Suffolk Class C semifinal in 2010, leaving him stuck at 199. Then, following Southold’s 3-0 season-opening loss to Southampton this past September, Sadowski had to wait another three days before he finally joined the exclusive 200 club, thanks to a 2-0 non-league win over Bayport-Blue Point.

“I think that the significance of 200 wins is I still want to be on the field,” he said. “I still love the game. I still want to be with [the players]. I want to coach them. I want to be better as a coach. I want to keep learning the game more.”

When the game in Bayport ended, Sadowski, standing on the sideline, didn’t show any emotion. He merely looked down at his feet and kicked lightly at the grass. Not much of a reaction, but at least one of Southold’s players, Evan Miller, sensed what the 200 mark meant to his coach.

“I’m sure on the inside he feels very good about getting 200 wins,” Miller, a junior midfielder, said. “It’s very nice to get it when I’m here. It feels good to do it for him.”

Southold added further to Sadowski’s total before losing to Port Jefferson in the county final, ending a 9-7-2 season. That left Sadowski with a 208-85-19 (.667) career record, with all of those games as Southold’s coach. He has the fifth most wins among active Suffolk coaches and ranks 19th on the county’s all-time list. (Robert Muir, who coached Mattituck from 1937-75 is the all-time leader with a 509-52-33 record).

Since his first career win (a 1-0 defeat of Riverhead), Sadowski has chalked up some big victories. He said he doesn’t know if he has a favorite, but he has plenty to choose from. There was a penalty-kick triumph in 1999 that brought the First Settlers a Southeast Region title. And then there was a game in 2001 in which Kenny Heidtmann scored in overtime to send Southold into the state final.

“Lots of good stuff,” Sadowski said, “a lot of good wins.”

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12/26/11 5:00pm
12/26/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's first singles player, Erica Bundrick, posted a 21-4 record in her senior season. The team went 17-1.

It was an imperfect end to an otherwise perfect season.

The Mattituck High School girls tennis team enjoyed one of the best seasons it has ever had in 2011.

Coming off a losing 2010 campaign in Suffolk County League VII, the Tuckers rebounded with the League VIII title (their first league championship in four years) and an undefeated regular season. They finished with a 17-1 record. It was Mattituck’s best season since 1982 when the team went 18-1, with its sole loss coming to Port Jefferson in a county semifinal.

Mattituck’s statistics in 2011 were impressive. Every player in the lineup had a winning record. The Tuckers dominated most of their opponents, outscoring them by 117 1/2-14 1/2. They won eight matches by 7-0 scores and another eight by 6-1 scores.

“It was quite remarkable how few points we lost,” said Mattituck coach Jim Christy, who was in his 31st season as the team’s coach. “What makes it special is you literally see that every girl contributed. They had banner seasons.”

The third doubles team of twins Molly and Siobhan Nolan as well as third singles player Kyra Martin did not lose a set the entire league season.

And then there was Erica Bundrick, Mattituck’s first singles player. She completed her senior season with a sparkling 21-4 record.

Kate Mangiamele, who played second doubles with Nora Zuhoski, said, “I think we just had a lot of motivation.”

Mattituck’s season came to an end, though, with a 5-2 first-round loss to Half Hollow Hills West in the Suffolk County Team Tournament.

All in all, though, the Tuckers couldn’t complain about a season in which just about everything went right for them.

“I thought we would be good,” Christy said. “What I didn’t anticipate was how well these girls were going to compete and how focused and competitive they were. That surprised me.”

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12/25/11 5:00pm
12/25/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | On a busy Saturday in August, Chris Ujkic won three titles in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament, bringing his Bob Wall title count to 15.

Three titles in one day. Talk about putting in a full day’s play.

It’s hard to beat that, just as it has been hard for anyone to beat Chris Ujkic.

The former Mattituck High School and Sacred Heart University standout was his dominant self in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament this past summer. On one Saturday at Tasker Park in Peconic, he captured three tournament titles.

Ujkic defeated his former Mattituck teammate, Matt Brisotti, in the men’s singles final, 6-3, 6-2, for the third year in a row; teamed up with Kieran Corcoran to repeat as the men’s doubles champions, 6-4, 6-2, over Brisotti and Chris Garner; and joined a new mixed doubles partner, Liz Lurie, to defeat Bob Lum and Wen Hu, 6-0, 6-3.

It would have been understandable if the Brisotti-Ujkic match gave spectators a sense of déjà vu all over again. Not only was it the third year in a row they faced each other in the final but, by Brisotti’s conservative estimate, the former high school teammates and childhood neighbors have played “thousands” of sets against one another over the years. They know each other’s games inside out. That made for a spirited final of dueling, left-handed, topspin forehands, and plenty of side-to-side action. As he has in capturing five consecutive men’s singles titles, Ujkic’s quickness and heady shot-making repertoire proved decisive.

And if Ujkic’s five straight men’s singles titles aren’t enough, how about six straight men’s doubles titles, which is how many he and Corcoran have won since 2006? And it seems likely that their partnership will endure, especially now that Ujkic has taken a post-graduate business development position with Corcoran’s New York City law firm.

Ujkic’s partnership with Lurie may be embryonic by comparison, but they were no less dominant in their straight-set victory over Hu and Lum. Ujkic and Lurie won the first set at love and prevailed in the second, 6-3, even though Lum made a game effort after turning his ankle and tumbling to the court midway through the second set.

With his mixed doubles victory, Ujkic raised to 15 the total number of titles he has won since he was a 17-year-old high school student in 2006. And with no signs of slowing down at age 22, don’t bet against him winning 15 more.

12/24/11 5:00pm
12/24/2011 5:00 PM

SUNY/ALBANY COURTESY PHOTO | SUNY/Albany pitcher Dave Kubiak, who played for Southold/Greenport in high school, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dave Kubiak has a New York Yankees logo tattooed on the inside of his left arm, but the Tampa Bay Rays are undoubtedly close to his heart.

That must have been the case in June when the Rays told Kubiak that they wanted him. Tampa Bay picked the SUNY/Albany pitcher in the 36th round of the Major League Baseball draft. He was the 1,109th player selected.

Kubiak greeted the news of his selection with “a lot of excitement, but I guess a lot of relief.” Discussing his baseball future, he said: “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun ride.”

Kubiak, a Jamesport resident, played for the Southold/Greenport Clippers when he attended Southold High School. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound right-hander, was Albany’s ace pitcher, starting 14 games on the mound this past season. He recorded a 4.72 earned run average as a senior and led the Great Danes’ pitching staff with 73 strikeouts. He threw five complete games, including one shutout, and allowed 43 earned runs in 82 innings of work. Kubiak finished his four-year career as the Albany program leader with 227 strikeouts and 278 innings pitched. His 82 innings this past season were good for second on the school’s single-season record board.

A ground-ball pitcher, Kubiak’s pitching arsenal includes a two-seam fastball, four-seam cutter, curveball, changeup and splitter.

“I’m not going to throw 89, 91 [miles per hour] and overpower anybody any more,” he said. “I’ll strike some people out, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m pitching to contact. … Make them get thrown out. It’s a hard game as it is, don’t make it harder.”

This past summer Kubiak was promoted from the Gulf Coast Rays in the Gulf Coast League to the Princeton Rays in the Appalachian League. He posted a 2-1 record at Princeton with a 3.26 earned run average, three saves, three walks and 27 strikeouts.

“Everyone is just very, very good,” he said. “Every player makes the routine plays look routine. They look so athletic and everybody is so fast here.”

And what about that Yankees tattoo on his arm?

Kubiak said it’s a tribute to his late grandfather, Arthur Phillips. Phillips, who died last year, was a big Yankees fan. If he was alive today, there is little doubt, however, that he would be cheering for the Rays as well.

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12/23/11 5:00pm
12/23/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck senior goalkeeper Austin Scoggin's best game for the Tuckers may have been his last one.

Austin Scoggin’s final game for the Mattituck High School boys soccer team may have been his best. The senior goalkeeper stopped everything Wheatley kicked his way — except for one shot. That’s what made it such a bittersweet farewell for Scoggin.

Wheatley dominated possession, putting its skill and speed to good use. The Wildcats chased after every ball, allowed the Tuckers little in the way of possession, and launched one shot after another, expending an incredible amount of energy in the Long Island Class B final at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.

Yet, one person was standing in its way of an easy victory: Scoggin.

Scoggin’s inspired play denied Wheatley time and again. He made 11 saves, several of the sensational variety, in addition to grabbing five crosses and clearing another two.

“To be honest, I just didn’t want to go home,” Scoggin said. “I played my heart out. I didn’t want this to be my last game for Mattituck.”

Wheatley coach Steve Cadet, a former Adelphi University player, called it “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a player.”

“He was unreal today,” marveled Wheatley senior forward Jonathan Kowalczyk, who said he had never faced a goalie who played that well before.

The Nassau County champions bombarded Mattituck by a 35-4 shot count and earned nine of the game’s 11 corner kicks. Those numbers didn’t lie, either.

Mattituck took the game to sudden-victory overtime where the odds finally caught up with the Tuckers. Kowalczyk, who has a knack for scoring big goals, did so again. His 10th goal of the year in the second overtime period put an end to 95 minutes 47 seconds of spellbinding soccer, bringing Wheatley a well-deserved 1-0 triumph. It was Wheatley’s first Long Island championship since 2004.

Mattituck players collapsed on the field as if they had been shot.

“I don’t know what to say, really,” Scoggin told reporters afterward. “I’m just in shock.”

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