To paraphrase the great Forrest Gump, playing in the Town Brookhaven Summer Recreation Basketball League is like a box of chocolates. You just never know what you’re going to get. READ
To paraphrase the great Forrest Gump, playing in the Town Brookhaven Summer Recreation Basketball League is like a box of chocolates. You just never know what you’re going to get. READ
BROOKHAVEN SUMMER LEAGUE | TUCKERS 38, PANTHERS 37
Sure, it was only summer league.
But as Eugene Allen headed to the free-throw line with 8.2 seconds left and the Mattituck Tuckers down by a point, he could still feel the pressure.
“I was really nervous,” Allen said. “I looked over at coach and I was like, oh God.”
The nerves hardly bothered him. Allen calmly stepped to the line and sank both free throws to lift the Tuckers to a 38-37 win over Miller Place at Eastport-South Manor High School Thursday night. The Tuckers improved to 2-0 in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League.
Fittingly, it was Allen who had the ball in his hands at the end.
Allen torched Miller Place for 17 first-half points, nearly outscoring the Panthers by himself. A varsity player since the end of his freshman season, Allen (21 points) is part of a core of returning players for Mattituck who have their sights set on taking a big stride forward in the upcoming varsity season.
To continue that improvement, the Tuckers are playing in two separate summer leagues together, where they’ll play about 25 games.
The Tuckers were shorthanded against Miller Place with only two bench players.
So Allen stepped up to carry the team early, showing why he’ll be an impact player for the Tuckers come November.
Now standing 6-foot-1, Allen has grown about two inches since last year. And he’s packed on about 25 pounds to fill out his muscular frame.
He showed off his athleticism in the first half with two fast-break, one-handed dunks.
While he’s yet to get a dunk in a varsity game, Allen said it won’t take much longer.
“That’s going to come the first game, no doubt,” he said. “I’m going to be feeling it that game.”
The summer league is the start of a busy schedule for Allen over the next few months. He’s playing on both Mattituck summer league teams, an AAU team and working out with the football team to prepare for the upcoming fall season.
“It’s a busy, busy summer,” Allen said.
Allen is hoping to play either basketball or football in college. The summer, particularly in AAU, is a chance for him to showcase his basketball skills to some college coaches.
One of his biggest goals for the summer is improving his shooting skills.
“Just shooting the ball a lot,” he said. “My handle, free throws, everything.”
Allen showed off his jump shot against Miller Place early on. He sank two long jumpers to start the game.
“That gets me going if I see my shot falling,” Allen said.
Allen scored 11 straight points at one point in the first half, capped by a one-handed fastbreak dunk to put Mattituck ahead 19-13.
The Tuckers took a 27-18 lead into halftime and grabbed their biggest lead early in the second half when Parker Tuthill sank a free throw to make it 34-20.
But the Tuckers did not hit a field goal over the final 18 minutes of the game and Miller Place came storming back with a 15-0 run to regain the lead with 43 seconds left.
Mattituck regained the lead when Tuthill sank a pair of clutch free throws. The Panthers answered back with two points with 16 seconds left and the Tuckers called a timeout.
Mattituck got the ball into Allen out of the timeout and he was fouled in the corner as Miller Place attempted to double team him.
With most of Mattituck’s roster back from last season, Allen said the future is bright for the Tuckers.
“We’re going to have a successful season,” he said. “I think we’ll have a real special season.”
After bouncing back from deficits to take the lead four times, the Greenport boys basketball team was hoping it had one more comeback in its bag of tricks. Looking for a little more drama and an additional two minutes of overtime, the Porters inbounded the ball to their sharpshooter, Gavin Dibble. Dibble rushed the ball across the midcourt line as the final seconds ticked off before launching a desperate long-range attempt. Greenport’s coach, Rodney Shelby, as if trying to will the ball in the basket through body language, skipped in front of the scorer’s table before coming to a dead halt.
Dibble’s attempt had no chance, smacking off the backboard.
And that was it. Greenport’s experience in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League came to an end Monday night as the Porters lost to Mount Sinai for the second year in a row in the small schools final. Alex Pintabona scored 6 of his 16 points in overtime as the Mustangs prevailed, 52-49, at St. Joseph’s College’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center.
“Coming up short,” Dibble said. “We always seem to come up a little bit short.”
The biggest shot of the game was hoisted by Mount Sinai’s Greg Kopcienski who, after receiving a pass from Coles Williams, drilled a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, tying the score at 45-45.
Greenport called a timeout with 6.3 seconds remaining in regulation time in the hope of setting up a winning shot. Billy Doucett put the ball in play with a pass to Dibble, who drove in the paint before laying off a pass to Austin Hooks. An unsuccessful 10-foot shot by Hooks bounced once off the rim as time expired, requiring overtime to settle things.
Mount Sinai then took charge of overtime as Pintabona converted a conventional 3-point play before draining a 3-pointer for a 51-45 lead.
Dibble and Hooks both sank two free throws each to slice Mount Sinai’s lead to two points. Williams then made good on one of two foul shots for a 52-49 Mount Sinai lead with 19.1 seconds left. Later, after Greenport forced a Mount Sinai turnover, Kopcienski missed a free throw with 5.4 seconds to go before the Porters quickly called a timeout for the game’s final play.
After the game, the body language of the Greenport players spoke volumes about how they felt about the result.
“I just don’t like losing,” Hooks said. “We just tried our best to stay in it. We should have played a better game in the end. We fouled too much and gave them too many shots.”
Shelby said: “They want to win pickup games, they want to win AAU games, they want to win regular season and they want to win summer. That’s all in your heart. They’re very competitive. They like to win and I don’t blame them.”
Including the playoffs, both teams had entered the game with 7-1 records, Mount Sinai’s sole loss coming by 9 points to Greenport on July 10. In that game, the Mustangs took the ball to the basket, with little success. On Monday night they tried a different approach, shooting from beyond the arc.
“Tonight they hit the shots they weren’t taking the first time we beat them,” said Shelby.
It worked. Mount Sinai shot 7 for 14 from 3-point territory, with two treys apiece by Jimmy Presser, Pintabona and Williams.
“The first time they didn’t shoot like that,” Dibble said. “They made adjustments. Obviously, they can knock down shots. We slowed them down a little bit in the second half, but that was a great shot by [Kopcienski] at the end” of the fourth quarter.
Mount Sinai led for most of the game, but Greenport always seemed to be in striking distance, never trailing by more than 7 points (once at 29-22).
Mount Sinai was outrebounded by 35-19 (15-6 on the offensive boards), but the Mustangs had good scoring balance and knocked down 16 of 20 free throws. In addition to Pintabona’s 16 points, Williams scored 12 and Presser produced 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists.
Greenport had three players score in double figures as well. Dibble led the way with 18 points. Hooks had 12 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds.
“We needed all those rebounds, every one of them,” said Shelby, whose team reached the small schools final for the seventh time in eight years.
Timmy Stevens, a sophomore guard, looked like he belonged on the court, chipping in a vital 10 points.
“One of the young guys that’s coming up that’s going to be a plus is Timmy Stevens,” Shelby said. “He hit some big shots for us tonight. He showed that he’s not afraid of competition, so that’s good. … When he played, he definitely showed that he’s capable of playing on this level.”
After walking past the triumphant Mount Sinai team, which was posing for photos, Dibble spoke about his team’s future.
“We just have to keep on improving,” he said. “I think we’ll do that. We’ll be back and better during the regular [school] season.”
The Joe Read experience has hit Southold.
Coaching changes are nothing new for the girls basketball program at Southold High School. For the fourth time in three years, the team has a new coach, but perhaps the First Settlers have never had a coach quite like Read before.
Read follows the recent coaching succession that saw Dennis Reilly, Amanda Barrilo and then Katie Hennes run the First Settlers. In Read, Southold has a coach formed from his own unique mold. The colorful Read, with his wavy white hair, glasses and ever-present smile, brings energy, enthusiasm and his trademark sense of humor to his new post.
“He is a different type of breed,” forward Melissa Rogers said. “He’s totally different than any other coach we have had.”
Read, 56, who coached Bishop McGann-Mercy’s junior varsity team the past five seasons, also has an extensive background coaching football and boys basketball. However, this marks the first time that the Shelter Island resident has been the head coach of a varsity girls basketball team. “I’m the oldest rookie,” he said.
Read has taken over a Southold team that remains largely intact from the one that reached the Southeast Region Class C final last season. With a loss to powerhouse John A. Coleman Catholic in the regional final, Southold fell one win shy of a place in the state semifinals, winding up with a 16-7 record.
Lauren Ficurilli is the only player that the First Settlers lost from that team who saw significant playing time, so the outlook is bright for Southold, which will join forces with Greenport to form a consolidated team and compete as a Class B team this coming winter. “It may be a new coach, but it’s not a new team,” said forward Nicole Busso.
Read likes the players he has to work with, including incoming seniors Sydney Campbell, Carley Staples, Busso and Rogers. Busso playfully dubbed the foursome “The Fab Four.”
“They know each other really well. The only thing I can do is screw it up,” Read said, letting out an infectious laugh.
Rogers said: “He told us he’s in it for the long run, and he really knows his stuff. He’s very verbal and it’s a shock to our team because we had quiet coaches before, really. I think it’s a really good change. … He has so much energy. He can really bring us to that next level.”
Read’s coaching past included time as the head coach of McGann-Mercy’s varsity football and boys basketball teams. Those aware of his background must have done a double take Monday evening at the sight of Reed coaching Southold against McGann-Mercy and the Monarchs coach he used to work with, Jacki Paton, in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
“That was bittersweet,” Read said after Southold’s 25-17 win. “I’ve been at Mercy for a while, so it was hard looking over there at those girls. Most of them played for me last year.”
As a coach, Read brings intensity to the court, and he’s not afraid to think outside the box. One season, as the coach of McGann-Mercy’s boys basketball team, he devised an aggressive, hounding defense that, while not necessarily making for beautiful basketball, made life miserable for opposing teams. After one particularly grueling game that occasionally took on the appearance of a rugby match as McGann-Mercy players hit the floor and tried to wrestle the ball away from the opponent, Read was asked what type of defense he employed. “That’s my own special creation,” he said, rubbing his hands together with a proud grin on his face.
Read said he likes what he has seen from his players this summer. “They’re physically tough, but they’re mentally very tough, too,” he said. “They have a real good court presence. … I think the sky’s the limit with this group, I really do.”
Southold capitalized on 30 turnovers by McGann-Mercy and held a 13-4 advantage on the offensive boards to win Monday night’s game and bring its record to 4-4. Busso was her productive self, scoring 6 of Southold’s first 8 points. She finished with a game-high 12 points. Staples had 8 points (most of them from a pair of 3-point shots), 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks.
Southold shot 5 for 9 from the field during a 13-0 run that gave the First Settlers a 16-9 lead early in the second half.
One of Southold’s top players, Rogers, watched the game from the bench in street clothes, with her troublesome right knee bandaged. Last October Rogers injured the knee in a fall league game, spraining a medial collateral ligament. In addition, she said, she has a faulty knee alignment and patellar tendonitis. “It’s painful,” she said.
Rogers said that if she needs to undergo surgery, she hopes to complete her physical therapy in time to be back on the court in November.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” she said. “I’m going to be training in the gym every day, going to [physical therapy] as much as I can and really trying to get in shape and finally have a healthy, no-injury season.”
When a healthy Rogers does return to the court, she will rejoin a team expected to play an up-tempo style and perhaps make another run deep into the postseason.
“It’s going to be really a great team to watch,” Rogers said. “I think we have a lot to offer as a team. Last year was the most unbelievable year I could ever think of with this team. All we want to do is go higher and go to states. No one said we could go as far as we did last year, and we really believed in ourselves and as a long as we do that we can do anything.”
In the meantime, Read has committed to his new basketball home.
“I’ve been around,” he said. “I’m going to stick here.”
The Mattituck boys soccer team sure has firepower. Of that there can be no doubt. But when offensive-minded types make runs and push forward as they hunt for goals, somebody has to stay back and mind the store.
That’s where Tyler Connell comes in.
Connell brings Mattituck insurance, if you will, as a defensive midfielder.
It appears as if Connell has a defined role now, something that wasn’t so clear last fall during his junior season. He started out as a defender for the first half of the season before being moved to left wing. The Tuckers had some defensive issues that they hope to sort out, and Connell plays a big part in those plans.
What Connell does may not be glamorous work, but it’s vital. “Every team needs water carriers, whether or not they realize it, and Tyler is the consummate water carrier,” said Will Hayes, who coaches Mattituck’s summer team.
As Hayes sees it, Connell’s job can be summed up this way: Win the ball and move the ball.
Plain, simple and oh so important.
“I like playing in the center midfield because I like being able to see the whole field,” Connell said. “I can use both feet and I think I can make things happen.”
Another senior center midfielder, David Burkhardt, is a left-footed player, like Connell, but also different. Burkhardt is always on the lookout to go forward. For the Tuckers, it’s nice to know that Connell is covering for him in the back.
“He’s very, very, very direct,” Hayes said of Burkhardt. “All of his touches are attacking touches. He’s got panache with the ball. He can do a lot of things.”
During the last school season, Mattituck played a 4-4-2 formation with a flat-back four. The center midfielders, Burkhardt and Christian Tettelbach, covered for each other when the other joined the attack.
Burkhardt said he would like to see the Tuckers adopt a 4-3-2-1 formation, with five midfielders, three attacking and two defensive. That way, he said, the Tuckers could make use of their attacking personnel, “try to overwhelm the other team with goals, not worry about defense too much.”
What does Connell think about a five-midfielder formation?
“I think it is an idea we should test out,” he said. “This is the time to be testing out new things. We’re going to see how that works. Personally, I think that can help, but we need to be strong on defense.”
Whatever formation the Tuckers settle on in September, there is a good chance that Burkhardt, James Hayes (the coach’s younger brother) and Connell will be a part of it.
The midfield is the glue that connects the defense to the front line. Connell knows full well how important the midfield is to a team’s success?
“It’s the core,” he said. “If you control the midfield, you can control the game.”
Will Hayes said the composition and look of the midfield is one of the team’s few question marks. But the Tuckers seem to have a wealth of options. Players such as Kevin Williams, Kaan Ilgin, Stephen Urwand and Mario Arreola could be used as wings.
“It’s all about personnel, really,” Will Hayes said. “For us, because we have a lot of options, our midfield is going to be a very big strength for us. We have some very capable players who can create and defend.”
The Tuckers have learned just how valuable Connell is to their team. He has played in all six of their games so far in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. When he isn’t on the field, his absence is noticed.
“Every minute that he has been out [for a substitute], we have had a problem in our midfield because somebody is not covering,” Will Hayes said. “Tyler is kind of the linchpin who holds the team together, regardless of who we have at center back or who we have next to him in midfield. He’s always doing his job.”
Although he is valued for his defensive ability, Connell is not considered a true back-line defender by Will Hayes. The coach said Connell doesn’t have the pace to be a defender, but he is good at playing right in front of the defense and making good decisions with the ball. In addition, he makes his teammates better.
“What he does for us on the field is immense because he takes on the defensive duties of David Burkhardt when he’s in midfield or James Hayes when he’s in midfield,” Will Hayes said. “He allows them to be more creative by assuming that defensive role, which is huge for us.”
It’s ironic that for a player with defensive responsibility, Connell was the one who scored Mattituck’s first goal in a 5-1 thrashing of Harborfields on Monday night at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. Connell was in the right spot at the right time less than six minutes into the match when a ball bounced back his way.
“I was going to give it a shot,” he said of his only attempt at goal in the game.
He did, too, striking a first-time effort into the net for a 1-0 lead. Although it was Connell’s first goal of the summer, Will Hayes said it summed up Connell “because he’s in the right spot.”
Connell had 30 touches on the ball and connected on 21 of 25 passes.
The Tuckers (3-1-2), who traded places with Harborfields (3-3) in the standings by moving into fifth place, posted a season-high goal total. Williams snapped a 1-1 tie in the 25th minute after a long forward ball from Paul Hayes sailed over a couple of heads and into Williams’ path. Two minutes later, Ryan Finger settled a corner kick from Evan Neighley in the penalty area before pushing it in. An own goal brought the Tuckers their fourth goal in the 35th minute, and Urwand scored off an assist by Williams in the 58th minute.
Finger came within inches of netting himself a second goal, cranking a blast off the crossbar in the 37th minute.
The result the Tuckers earned is what Connell may find most satisfying about soccer.
“I love the game,” he said. “I really love winning. I hate to lose, but who doesn’t? I really love when every single person on the team plays well, does their role right, because that’s perfect. If we can do that every game, we’re going to be very hard to beat.”
Most soccer coaches would probably say their teams can never score too many goals. Mattituck High School’s coaches might be among them, but the Tuckers certainly can’t complain about their ability to put the ball in the net.
No doubt about it, Mattituck’s boys team has scoring punch, with offensive players who are speedy and skillful. The Tuckers have the pieces. Now it’s just a matter of putting those pieces together in a way that best makes sense. That is their assignment this summer.
“There’s just so many players to choose from,” said Stephen Urwand, an incoming senior who can play on the wing or up top. “That’s the difficult thing. Half our team is offense.”
So, when the Tuckers need a goal, who can they turn to? Well, they can look to Mario Arreola. Or Kevin Williams. Or Urwand. Or Kaan Ilgin. Or David Burkhardt. Or James Hayes. Or … well, you get the idea.
In the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, Mattituck has scored eight goals in its first three games (two wins and a draw), not a bad tally, especially considering the games are only 60 minutes long, not including overtime. Another fact that the Tuckers have to like is that six players have shared in those eight goals, with Arreola and Williams netting two apiece.
“The offense is the strength of this team,” said Mattituck’s summer league coach, Will Hayes, a 1999 Mattituck High School graduate. “We have a lot of high-quality, attacking players.” He added: “We have plenty of good players. It’s just figuring out what to do with them. That’s what summer is for.”
Perhaps the two most impressive Mattituck players on Friday evening, when the Tuckers scored a 2-1 sudden-victory overtime defeat of Miller Place at Diamond in the Pines in Coram, were Arreola and Urwand, the team captain. Williams put away a 64th-minute penalty kick for the game-ending goal.
Arreola registered Mattituck’s first goal in the 26th minute. After a brilliant dribbling display by Walter Jacob, the ball deflected into Arreola’s path and, showing a striker’s instinct, he nailed a first-timer from outside the penalty area that found nothing but net.
That strike was the equalizer for the long-range, right-footed connection by Nate D’Agati that had given Miller Place (2-1) a 1-0 lead 13 minutes earlier.
Mattituck was unfortunate not to have scored more, thanks in part to the goalkeeping of Miller Place’s Noah Varonier. Ryan Finger of Mattituck fired a shot that whizzed past legs and bodies, apparently nicking a Miller Place defender before missing the left goalpost by inches. Arreola nailed a well-struck effort from about 35 yards, only to see it land right into Varonier’s hands. It showed that Arreola is not afraid to take a chance from long distance. As he acknowledged afterward, sometimes those types of shots go in. Varonier also did well to block a drive by Urwand in the 55th minute.
“When you watch him play, it’s pace,” Will Hayes said of Urwand. “He can push it down the line. He can push it across. He can run across the backs. He can run through the backs. It’s just a nice weapon to have.”
Arreola said Urwand “has touch. He thinks when he passes the ball. He knows what he’s doing.”
Arreola isn’t too shabby, either. The forward was the second-youngest player on the school varsity team last fall as an eighth-grader.
“He’s a bag of tricks,” Will Hayes said. “It’s fun to watch him play. He can beat you on the dribble. He can move around you. He finds spaces very, very well.”
If Mattituck is rich in goal scorers, well, goalkeeper is another question entirely. Austin Scoggin, who helped the Tuckers to a place in the Long Island Class B final last fall, has graduated. That leaves a position to be filled. Stephen Ostrowski and Casey Grathwohl, the leading candidates for the job, split time in goal on Friday. Ostrowski did not make any saves; Grathwohl had three. Grathwohl came up big in the 48th minute, blocking a hard-hit shot by Kevin Romano, who had been sent through nicely with a pass from Mike D’Agati.
“The one position we don’t have a lot of experience in is goalkeeper,” Will Hayes said. “How far they go depends on our goalkeeping, really.”
For now, at least, the other end of the field seems to be taking care of business just fine.