SOUTHOLD INVITATIONAL FINAL| EAGLES 64, TUCKERS 39
That, in essence, was the message coach Paul Ellwood delivered to the players on his Mattituck boys basketball team following their 64-39 loss to Rocky Point in the Southold Invitational final on Friday night.
“I’m not really disappointed about tonight,” Ellwood later told a reporter. “Everything that went wrong is very fixable, easily. It just requires time in the gym. So, we’re just going to go back to the drawing board, and I think we’re going to be O.K.”
Perhaps the Tuckers can also find solace in that the team they lost to is no slouch. No, this is not nearly the same Rocky Point team that was a pushover last season. “We left plenty of room for improvement from last year,” said Rocky Point coach Jim Jordan.
With this victory, their third in as many games, the Eagles have already matched their 2010-11 win total. Their future looks promising.
“We have a feeling in our guts that we can make it far,” said Dan Soranno, the junior guard who received the tournament’s most valuable player award in recognition of his efforts. Soranno stung Mattituck for a game-high 19 points. He also collected 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 6 steals.
Balance is a big reason why Rocky Point should make a dent in Suffolk County League V this season. The Eagles have genuine outside threats in Joe Kingston, Steve Soltysik and Soranno. They can also lob the ball down low to Andreas Vouliakis, their 6-foot-8 junior center. That’s not a bad deal.
“We have to have our guys hitting from the outside because a lot of teams are going to be doubling down on our big man,” Jordan said. “To open that up, we have to hit from the outside.”
They did on Friday. It helped the Eagles continue their flying start to the season by winning the ninth annual Southold Invitational for a record fourth time. Rocky Point won the tournament title three straight years, from 2006 through 2008, before Southold won it two years in a row and Mattituck triumphed last year.
The Eagles had a lot to feel good about. They shot quite well — 51 percent (26 of 51) from the field and 46.7 percent (7 of 15) from three-point range. They controlled the boards, outrebounding Mattituck by 33-19. They limited their turnovers to 12.
“They can shoot,” Mattituck guard Eugene Allen said. “We had to worry about the big 6-8 kid and all the shooters they have.”
Mattituck (1-1) opened the game on 9-for-12 shooting and led by two points early in the second quarter after back-to-back buckets (the second a three-pointer) by Allen made it 21-19. That was Mattituck’s last lead of the game, though, as Rocky Point surged ahead on the strength of a 16-3 run.
“We came out a little slow, but then we got aggressive and started hitting our shots,” Soranno said. “That opened us down low, and we just kept up the aggression the whole time.”
Soltysik earned a place on the all-tournament team after putting up 16 points in the final. The Eagles also received 13 points from Kingston.
Allen, Mattituck’s representative on the all-tournament team, had an 18-point night, with 16 of those points coming in the first half. His cousin, K. J. Pertillar, had 9 rebounds and 6 assists to go with 4 points. Tom Sledjeski brought the Tuckers 14 points.
Mattituck is virtually a brand new team after losing nine players from last season’s Long Island champion squad. Regardless, Allen said progress is being made.
“For a young team, I think we’re playing pretty good,” he said. “We could do a lot better. Our big issue is playing as a team, crashing the boards, and getting rebounds.”
One thing neither side did was go to the foul line often. Rocky Point took six free throws and Mattituck had only three.
“In our league, if we don’t get to the foul line, we’re not going to win a lot of games, so that’s got to be a priority for us,” Jordan said. “Tonight we were hitting jump shots, but you didn’t see us drive a whole lot, and that’s something that we have to do.”
And how about that outside shooting? How did the Eagles become such accurate shooters?
The answer is a simple one: practice.
Soranno said, “We shoot about a hundred shots a day and just keep shooting.”
At this rate, they may shoot themselves into the playoffs.