02/05/13 8:17pm
02/05/2013 8:17 PM

TUCKERS 77, WARRIORS 48

The game didn’t have any meaning for either the Wyandanch or the Mattituck girls basketball teams in terms of the playoffs or the League VII championship. Wyandanch had already been eliminated from playoff contention. Mattituck had already secured its place in the posteason (the Tuckers are locked in as the No. 3 seed in the Suffolk County Class B Tournament, according to coach Steve Van Dood), and the league title was already beyond its reach.

And yet, for four players in white and blue uniforms, there was a good deal of significance to Tuesday night’s game.

Senior Day 2013 at Mattituck High School left some good memories for Mattituck’s four seniors: Alex Berkoski, Nicole Murphy, Alexa Orlando and Allie Wilcenski. They walked away with their teammates as 77-48 winners over Wyandanch.

As if often the case, some emotions were as much a part of the evening as the blue and white balloons and the personalized posters younger teammates made for the seniors, who played in their home gym for the last time.

“It’s really emotional,” said Wilcenski, whose eyes watered while talking about her final home game during a postgame interview. “I’m going to miss this so much, and I’m so sad.”

By contrast, Berkoski had a strikingly unemotional reaction to the proceedings. “I feel like it was just any ordinary game,” she said. “I guess the whole senior thing hasn’t really hit me yet.”

It was a junior, Shannon Dwyer, leading the way with 21 points for the Tuckers (11-6, 8-1), who recorded their fourth win from five games. Wilcenski had a productive evening as well with 20 points, and Berkoski supplied 13 points.

All 12 Tuckers who were in uniform played, and nine of them made it into the scoring column.

But the statistic of the night was in the assists category. Mattituck totaled 30 of them, with 9 coming from Katie Hoeg, and Berkoski and Orlando providing 6 apiece.

“They were moving the ball well,” Van Dood said. “We saw a lot of scoring off of three, four passes. They were running the offense. I think we did a good job of being patient with the ball.”

Wyandanch (4-13, 2-9) received 16 points from Symphony Paschall and 15 from Quiana Sutton, who hit four 3-point shots.

The only threat Wyandanch posed came early in the second quarter when it twice pulled to within 4 points of Mattituck at 22-18 and 24-20 from a straight-on 3-pointer that Sutton banked in and a basket by Paschall.

“Wyandanch actually came back a little bit,” Berkoski said, “but we finally pulled it back together and we finally got in the swing of things and we pulled it off.”

Mattituck proceeded to go on an 11-2 run and kept building on its lead from there.

“When we stick to the game plan, good things happen,” said Van Dood.

Among those good things for Mattituck were high-percentage shots. The Tuckers finished with 56.3-percent shooting from the field. They also forced 41 turnovers by Wyandanch.

Mattituck’s final regular-season game will be Friday night against Southampton. A week later, the Tuckers will play their playoff game. Van Dood expects Mattituck to be paired against Center Moriches in a county semifinal. Center Moriches defeated the Tuckers twice this season, 58-50 and 60-40.

As well as Mattituck played against Wyandanch, Van Dood didn’t overlook a couple of layups that the Tuckers missed along the way.

“You do that against Center Moriches, you do that against Southampton, and you’re not going to get the W,” he said. “We have to come out ready to play. We have to play four quarters.”

Still, it was a happy night for Mattituck’s seniors, who have played together for a handful of years.

“They’re great kids,” Van Dood said. “They’re great leaders. They’re great role models for the younger kids and just a pleasure to coach, an absolute pleasure to coach.”

Asked how much he thought the game meant to them, Van Dood answered: “I think it was a huge night for them, absolutely. They have good memories of their last game on this home court. That’s tremendous for them.”

After most of her teammates had left the gym, Wilcenski was trying to come to terms with the reality that her final days in a Mattituck uniform are nearing an end.

“I just can’t believe it,” she said. “It still doesn’t feel real to me. I don’t know, it’s so bizarre. It just came so fast.”

[email protected]

10/05/12 11:51pm
10/05/2012 11:51 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Timmy Stevens (No. 1) and John Drinkwater after a 53-yard run by Stevens set up Frank Sierra’s six-yard touchdown run on the next play during the second quarter.

WARRIORS 38, PORTERS 27

A night that brought about a lineman’s dream — not once, not twice, but three times — proved to be a nightmare for the struggling Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island football team.

If scoring a touchdown is supposed to be a lineman’s dream, two defensive linemen realized the same dream during Friday night’s Wyandanch-Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island game, and one lineman did so twice. A strange game was made even stranger by the fact that three fumbles were recovered and run back for touchdowns by defensive linemen in Wyandanch’s 38-27 win at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field.

Daquan Brown, who played defensive tackle as well as guard for Wyandanch, collected two fumbles that he took in for touchdowns.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,”  Wyandanch coach Ed Gay said. “I was enjoying every bit of it.”

Brown ripped the ball out of quarterback Eugene Allen’s hands and dashed 61 yards to the end zone, helping the Warriors (2-3 in Suffolk County Division IV) to a 16-0 lead with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. It was the first career touchdown for the senior. On his second touchdown, he took the ball from Frank Sierra before scooting 16 yards, making the score 32-12 with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It’s beautiful, just walking into the end zone,” Brown said. “Oh my gosh. I want to do it again. I want to do it again and again.”

Codey Fisher, a senior defensive end and right tackle for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island, could relate to the excitement Brown must have felt. Fisher stole the ball from quarterback Marcus Gay and charged 56 yards for the Porters’ first points of the game with 3:46 left in the first half.

“It is freaky. I was shocked,” Fisher said. “I grabbed the ball, and at first I thought it was a dream because I was like, ‘This isn’t happening,’ and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just made a touchdown for the first time in my life.’ ”

It was a strange game in other ways, too. The Porters (0-5) committed six turnovers, including five on fumbles, yet somehow were in the game during the later stages. Allen’s one-yard touchdown run and John Drinkwater’s extra point cut Wyandanch’s lead to 32-27 with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter. But a 53-yard touchdown run by Wyandanch’s Matthew Rosa just 20 seconds later sealed the result.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s Eugene Allen (No. 5) beat Wyandanch’s Damon Daniels to the ball for an interception during the second quarter.

Wyandanch paid a heavy price for the win, with two of its players being taken away in an ambulance after being injured on separate fourth-quarter plays. Damon Daniels, a kick return specialist and wide receiver, injured his neck, said Ed Gay. After being placed on a stretcher, Daniels held up his right arm with his forefinger pointing up triumphantly before being carried into an ambulance. Earlier in the game, on the first play of the third quarter, Daniels had returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Another Wyandanch player injured his left shoulder, said Ed Gay. The identity of that player, who had been brought up recently from the junior varsity team, could not be ascertained. While that player was being attended to with 1:27 left on the game clock, officials put an early end to the game.

The result of the homecoming game marked the 10th straight loss for the Porters.

“It’s another one,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta said. “Last week was a game we definitely could have won, and this week was definitely a game we could have won.”

With 183 rushing yards from Sierra (one touchdown) and 102 from Allen, who ran for two touchdowns, the Porters generated 356 yards worth of offense and converted on eight of 13 third-down plays.

“I felt like we were moving the ball almost at will,” Martilotta said. “We were running all over the place.”

Meanwhile, the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island defense forced four turnovers itself, including a pair of interceptions by Jack Volinski, one of which was a fine diving snatch on Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s own 3-yard line. Sal Loverde made 10 tackles.

Tevaun Carr was in on 11 tackles for Wyandanch.

The Porters’ problem could be described in one word: turnovers. Six turnovers were too much to overcome. Wyandanch scored 14 points off those turnovers. And yet, it could have been worse for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island. Two Wyandanch touchdowns were nullified by penalties.

A 20-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-10 play from Gay to Justice Brughton opened the scoring. Wyandanch went on to take an 18-0 lead when the Porters recovered their own fumble in their end zone for a safety.

The Porters twice pulled to within six points after that, but weren’t able to prevent Wyandanch from winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2000.

“Everything just kind of came together,” Ed Gay said. “We knew we had the athletes.”

The Wyandanch coach said he expected his two injured players to be O.K. “We’re going to get banged up; it’s football,” he said. “Those guys, they were fighting. I mean, they were 0 and 4 and they were fighting. I got to give it to them.”

Turnovers had not been a major issue for the Porters. They had nine turnovers in their previous four games.

“You got to hold onto it,” Martilotta said. “We got in a hole early and we fought the whole game to get out of it. I [thought] that we were going to get out of it, but we just kept dropping that ball.”

[email protected]

02/10/12 9:39pm
02/10/2012 9:39 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Shannon Dwyer, shooting while Wyandanch's Symphony Paschall tries to obstruct her view, scored a game-high 21 points as the Tuckers secured their fifth playoff berth in seven years.

TUCKERS 56, WARRIORS 41

Mission accomplished.

The Mattituck girls basketball team could say that after securing its fifth playoff berth in seven years Friday night. True, the Tuckers got the job done with a 56-41 defeat of Wyandanch, but, perhaps characteristic of this up-and-down season for them, it came with some bumps along the way — and an injury.

Mattituck’s leading rebounder, Allie Wilcenski, fell to the floor 1 minute 42 seconds into the game. After blocking two shots within seconds of each other, Wilcenski apparently turned her left ankle, sustaining what Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood believes to be a mild sprain. She spent the rest of the game on the bench. After the game she was seen moving with the aid of crutches and her left foot wrapped.

“She rolled it, but it didn’t look as bad as I thought it was,” Van Dood said. “I didn’t see any heavy swelling.”

Van Dood was hopeful that with rest, Wilcenski will be able to play in Mattituck’s final regular-season game at home on Wednesday night against Center Moriches. The Tuckers (8-9, 6-5 Suffolk County League VII) will have a playoff game on Feb. 18.

Some of Wilcenski’s teammates expressed faith that she will be back on the court soon. “I think she can bounce back,” forward Lauren Guja said. “She’s tough.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Lauren Guja brought Mattituck 12 rebounds to go with 6 points against Wyandanch.

Wilcenski has been averaging 10 rebounds per game, but her teammates pulled through in the rebounding department in her absence. Guja grabbed 12 rebounds and Shannon Dwyer hauled in 11 boards to go with her game-high 21 points as Mattituck outrebounded Wyandanch, 46-33.

With Wilcenski out, Alexa Orlando and Courtney Murphy, a freshman, got more playing time, and the Tuckers relied heavily on Dwyer, a sophomore, to move from guard to forward.

Nicole Murphy, a junior guard, said a different top player emerges every game for the Tuckers. “We share the ball around and we share the glory,” she said.

Dwyer said: “There’s always someone you can count on, and you’re not sure who it’s going to be every game. There’s always that one that sparks.”

In this game it was Dwyer. A hybrid who can play guard or forward, Dwyer has good basketball instincts and seems at her best when she’s attacking the basket.

“She’s an enigma,” Van Dood said. “I had her pegged, even people like [former Georgetown player] Jim Christy were telling me she’s a point guard. And then she shows up as a forward and sometimes she’s a guard. She made some really good rebounds tonight.”

Mattituck’s foul shooting was a concern. After making only 2 of 16 free throws in the first half, Mattituck expanded its 26-18 halftime cushion in the second half when Dwyer scored 16 of her points. The Tuckers finished shooting 5 of 20 from the foul line. In their previous game, a loss to Hampton Bays, they made 11 of 13 foul shots.

Go figure.

But Mattituck scored the final 12 points of the third quarter, the last 6 of those points coming from Dwyer.

Alex Berkoski chipped in 10 points and 6 assists in the Coaches vs. Cancer game at Mattituck High School. Proceeds from the game go to support the American Cancer Society.

Wyandanch (3-14, 3-8) dropped its third straight loss despite 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 steals from Lorenza Birt. Jaliela Robinson and Brianna Lampkins added 9 points apiece, all of Lampkins’ points coming on 3-point shots.

This is a new era for Wyandanch, whose former coach, Warren Fuller, retired after 36 years with the Warriors. What is it like following in the footsteps of Fuller, who has won more career games than any coach in the county?

“I’m not trying to follow his footsteps,” the team’s new coach, Angelique Shannon, said. “I’m trying to create my own. Those are shoes that I don’t think anyone in the county or even New York State can fill.”

Shannon said the Warriors know they aren’t headed to the playoffs, “but we wouldn’t have minded knocking [Mattituck] out of the playoffs.”

The result means Mattituck will not have to face any do-or-die drama against Center Moriches on Wednesday night, but Van Dood said his team is striving for a No. 3 seed in the Suffolk Class B Tournament.

Mattituck players said they felt pressure to win Friday. Now they can breath a sigh of relief to have a postseason to look forward to.

“I think some people had their doubts,” Nicole Murphy said, “but now that we’re in it, I think we can show that we’re in it to win it.”

[email protected]

10/03/11 7:50pm
10/03/2011 7:50 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Mario Arreola shielded the ball from a Wyandanch player during Monday's game.

All the ingredients were there for a letdown.

In their previous game six days earlier, the Mattituck Tuckers had scored an eyebrow-raising win over the Sayville Golden Flashes, the defending New York State Class A boys soccer champions. On Monday, the Tuckers faced a significantly weaker, although improved, opponent in the Wyandanch Warriors. Not only that, but the Warriors arrived late at Mattituck High School, delaying the start of the game. There was the danger that the Tuckers could have been thrown off their game.

It didn’t happen.

After the Tuckers struck for five goals, lightning struck, cutting the Suffolk County League VII game short by about 20 minutes, and leaving them with a clean 5-0 result. David Burkhardt and Mario Arreola had a goal and an assist each.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jack Baglivi of Mattituck and Jean Leonardo of Wyandanch contested a 50-50 ball.

Mattituck Coach Mat Litchhult must have appreciated the Tuckers’ business-like approach. So far this season, the Tuckers (6-2, 3-1) have shown that they can beat a quality team (see Sayville), but at the same time they can also drop games, like they did to the East Hampton Bonackers and the Southampton Mariners. That can be unnerving. It surely must keep the Tuckers on their toes.

“There hasn’t been a match yet this year where I was a hundred-percent confident that we could just step on the field and win,” Litchhult said. “We have to bring our best game, and when we do, we’re very good. And when we don’t … we can get beat.”

But if their 2-0 victory over Sayville is anything to judge by, the Tuckers have a quality side of their own.

“Oh, it felt good,” said Burkhardt, a junior central midfielder who already has five goals to his credit. “Some of the kids from my travel team play for them. We were really itching for a big win.”

Arreola, a freshman striker, said: “We can win any game. We can beat a big team.”

The win over Sayville could have been seen as a statement game for the Tuckers, an indication of just what they are capable of achieving.

They surely have depth. Thirty Tuckers were dressed for Monday’s game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Kaan Ilgin and Wyandanch's Marvin Corea had their eyes on the same ball.

“I could probably go 18, 19, 20 deep with not a huge drop-off, and that’s a huge testament to the guys,” said Litchhult.

Despite playing their first game in six days — the second half in rain — the Tuckers looked sharp against Wyandanch (1-4, 1-4).

Perhaps no one moreso than Burkhadt, who completed 15 of 22 passes, took five shots and touched the ball 27 times.

Burkhardt was involved in perhaps the two nicest goals of the game. He opened the scoring just 2 minutes 57 seconds into the match. After receiving a short corner kick from Christian Tettelbach, Burkhardt dribbled to his left, just outside the penalty area, and fired a lethal left-footed rocket that beat goalkeeper Rodrigo Reyes to the low right corner. Later, with 1:45 left in the half, it was Burkhardt who delivered a splendid corner kick that Ryan Finger masterfully headed into the net.

Headed goals have become a Mattituck rarity, it seems. “It’s almost like a miracle for us to use our head to score a goal,” Litchhult said. “It’s a dying art, heading, in Mattituck.”

Burkhardt is basically an 80-minute player. Litchhult was dismayed when at one point during the game he noticed Burkhardt standing on the sideline, talking to an assistant coach, Pete Hansen.

“I almost had a heart attack when I looked over and I saw him talking to the JV coach, Coach Hansen,” Litchhult said. “My first thought was, ‘Was he hurt?’ And my second thought was he’d be talking to the trainer if he was hurt. Then, why was he not on the field?”

Chalk it up to miscommunication on a substitution. Seconds later, Burkhardt was back on the field.

Burkhardt was unfortunate not to have scored two more goals; he was denied by Reyes on two golden chances.

In between the goals Burkhardt scored and set up were successful strikes by Kevin Williams and Arreola. Williams knocked a ball from Arreola into an open goal in the 26th minute, and Arreola finished off a nice sequence in the 32nd minute. Finger had floated a ball down the right side that Stephen Urwand chased down before feeding Arreola for his fourth goal of the season.

With darkness descending, Kevin Izzo hammered in the final goal, assisted by Tyler Connell, just as lightning struck. Seconds later, officials called the game, and the Tuckers had another win in the book.

Mattituck outshot Wyandanch by 28-6.

Stephen Ostrowski, a sophomore goalkeeper who made his first varsity start, shared the shutout with Austin Scoggin. Scoggin stopped all four of the shots that the Warriors put on goal.

Wyandanch was coming off a milestone win over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs last week. It was the Warriors’ first win since 1987, according to their coach, James Bopp. But Bopp knew what his team was facing in the Tuckers. During the 90-minute bus ride to Mattituck, he told his players that Mattituck and Southampton are the league’s best teams and this was a big test for the Warriors.

“They got a long history, and they played wonderful today,” Bopp said of the Tuckers. “Their guys, they’re really good. They pass the ball around there and they talk and they know their positions, and they play tough, a really good team.”

He added, “We still got to see them one more time, and this time they get to take the bus ride.”

[email protected]

02/22/11 8:29pm
02/22/2011 8:29 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck seniors Connor Davis, left, and Yianni Rauseo hugged after the Tuckers defeated Wyandanch in their county semifinal.

Perhaps what is most intriguing about the Mattituck Tuckers is how quickly their mentality changed.

It was around this time last year when the Tuckers had already turned their basketball uniforms in following a 6-12 season. By the time this season started, though, Mattituck’s psyche seemed to have undergone a stunning metamorphosis. Having left behind their losing ways of 2009-10, they played with the confidence that winners have. It’s a form of self-assuredness that’s almost palpable.

They’re behind and time is running short, no problem. They believe they can pull it out.

It’s a close, tight game. No need to worry because they surely aren’t.

“It came quick,” Mattituck Coach Paul Ellwood said. “They got it like that. They went from a downtrodden team to a team with expectations that they’re not going to lose games. It happened fast.”

What happened on Tuesday night was just what the Tuckers expected. They secured a place in their first Suffolk County final since 2004.

Mattituck registered its biggest win in seven years with a 60-55 Class C semifinal triumph over the visiting Wyandanch Warriors. As a result, the second-seeded Tuckers (14-5) will play the No. 1 Center Moriches Red Devils (12-7) for the county title on Friday at Farmingdale State College.

“We played big tonight,” Mattituck senior center Cody Huntley said after his team’s third win over Wyandanch this season. “We were ready to go. … We knew that we were the team to beat tonight. I felt we actually played like that.”

Steve Ascher’s 22 points (15 in the fourth quarter) led Mattituck. It was Ascher who scored Mattituck’s last six points in the final minute. His twin brother, Tom Ascher, struck for 16 points and five assists. Huntley had a tremendous game under the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with seven points, three assists, two blocks and one steal.

“I give them credit,” Wyandanch Coach Kenneth McCloud said. “They did a great job. We like to penetrate and get in the lane, and they packed it in on us. They really slowed us down tonight. Tonight they were the better team. They wanted it.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Steve Ascher, who led Mattituck with 22 points, found himself in an awkward position near Wyandanch's Alex Williams.

No. 3 Wyandanch (8-11) was led by Alex Williams’ 17 points and 10 rebounds. Aziz Cannon added 12 points and six assists while Jared Creekmore and D’dante Freeman both had nine points apiece.

In order to snap Wyandanch’s five-game win streak, Mattituck shot a high percentage from the field, 55.6 percent (20 of 36). “They just knock down shots when they need them,” said McCloud.

The Tuckers started the game shooting a sizzling 7 of 10 and trailed only once, briefly in the first quarter at 8-7 and briefly in the second quarter at 28-26. But these new Tuckers play with determination, focus and, yes, confidence.

“We knew we could win,” said Steve Ascher.

Wyandanch, which was the defending county champion, kept it a close game, though, and never trailed by more than nine points.

“Our guys never gave up,” McCloud said. “Even down to the last minute of this game, they never gave up and they left everything out there on the court. They never gave up and they had the hearts of warriors.”

Literally.

But the Tuckers fought ferociously to protect their lead throughout the entire second half. After Freeman put in a layup to make it a two-point game at 57-55, Steve Ascher finished off a layup of his own with 20 seconds to go.

Moments later, Williams pulled down an offensive rebound and went up for a shot. Mattituck’s Yianni Rauseo swatted the ball away — and with it Wyandanch’s hopes.

“We came out ready to play,” Huntley said. “We started right from the beginning. That’s what we wanted, and we got it done.”

For Ellwood, it was a long day, filled with anxiety, to be followed, he was sure, by a long night.

“It’s going to take me a while to unwind, probably around 4 a.m.,” he said. “Then my baby will wake up.”

Now the Tuckers must prepare for Center Moriches, the team that has beaten them twice this season. The two teams share the League VII championship and a budding a rivalry.

“I don’t know if people expect us to win against Center, but we do,” said Steve Ascher.

Spoken just like a confident player.

[email protected]

01/28/11 9:03pm
01/28/2011 9:03 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck guard Liz Lasota tried to beat Wyandanch center Jada Sellers to the basket.

Say this about the Wyandanch Warriors, they are fast. They don’t waste any time moving the basketball up the court on the transition. As soon as the Warriors gain possession through a defensive rebound or a steal, they dart the ball forward and the result is often a lightning-quick layup.

That mix of speed and skill is a Wyandanch tradition. So is qualifying for the high school girls basketball playoffs.

The Warriors achieved the later by relying on the former. Wyandanch clinched a playoff berth while at the same time eliminating the Mattituck Tuckers from postseason contention on Friday night. Neither was a surprise, given where the teams stood.

With a team that is blessed with scoring balance, Wyandanch Coach Warren Fuller doesn’t know who the high scorer for his team will be from game to game. On Friday night it was Lorenza Birt’s turn. Birt, a junior guard, scored a career-high 18 points to go with six assists and led four Wyandanch players who scored in double figures in a 65-47 defeat of Mattituck at Cutchogue East Elementary School.

“It’s a great feeling, and I’m happy for these kids, too, because these kids had to come up with their own identity this year,” Fuller said. “A lot of people were wondering how we may do. I think they’ve come out and they’ve done some really good things.”

Despite not practicing the previous two days because of the recent snowfall, Wyandanch showed no signs of rustiness as it won its fourth straight game and brought its record to 9-5, 5-1 in Suffolk County League VII. On the defensive side, the Warriors badgered the taller Tuckers (3-11, 0-6) and forced them into turning the ball over 32 times. Many of those turnovers were translated into points as the Warriors raced the ball down the court for layups. Offensively, they ran the fast break the way Wyandanch teams have been doing it for years.

“Not many teams can run with us, and I feel if we use our speed to our advantage, we can slow other teams down,” Wyandanch senior forward Lineker St. Hilaire said. “They’ll get out of breath quicker than we do.”

Mattituck Coach Steve Van Dood has seen it before. “Wyandanch is so fast, they’re two passes ahead of you every time on steals,” he said. “They don’t even throw it to a girl, they just throw it up. I’m telling you, they don’t look for a girl, they just know to throw it across halfcourt and there will be a girl there.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Lauren Guja of Mattituck split between Wyandanch's Jada Sellers, left, and Lineker St. Hilaire to put up a shot.

St. Hilaire supplied 15 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, three assists and a block. The Warriors also received 14 points from Dejanae Mike and 11 points and 12 rebounds from Jada Sellers. Jalicia Robinson was responsible for 10 of Wyandanch’s 20 assists.

Mattituck was led by Claire Finnican’s 10 points. Lauren Guja added nine and Alexa Orlando eight.

Wyandanch never trailed. The Warriors led by eight points after one quarter, 20 after two, and 21 after three. The Warriors showed the sort of focus that has put them in a position to battle the Center Moriches Red Devils for the league championship and, possibly, the Suffolk Class B title as well.

“Everyone focuses,” St. Hilaire said. “Everyone knows when it’s game time, it’s game time, no foolishness. We know when it’s time to play, it’s time to play.”

In order to grab a playoff spot, the Tuckers would have needed to win their last six league games, a tall order in anyone’s book.

“We’ve been working hard,” Guja said. “We just couldn’t make it.” She added, “We’re still going to go hard and try to make our record better than it is.”

With the Tuckers being ousted from the playoff picture, their younger players may see more playing time. “You have to think about the future,” said Van Dood.

Young players such as sophomores Claire Finnican, Allie Wilcenski, Orlando and freshman Shannon Dwyer have been a source of encouragement for the Tuckers to believe that better days are ahead.

Meanwhile, the Warriors aren’t done. They are still working at earning the best playoff seeding they can get.

Said Fuller, “There’s always something to play for.”

[email protected]

12/21/10 1:49pm
12/21/2010 1:49 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Cody Huntley of Mattituck, left, fouled Wyandanch's D'dante Freeman on this play.

It was the moment when the Mattituck Tuckers boys basketball team served noticed that it is for real.

Sure, the Tuckers have racked up four straight impressive non-league wins, including stunning the Riverhead Blue Waves on their home court. But opening the Suffolk County League VII season on Friday night in Mattituck against the Wyandanch Warriors, the defending Suffolk County Class B champions, was yet another test for the resurgent Tuckers.

Mattituck, sparked by the scoring of twins Tom Ascher (29 points) and Steve Ascher (18 points), built up a 15-point lead late in the third quarter. But the Tuckers were a little sloppy with the ball in the closing seconds of the quarter and the Warriors pulled to within 13 points.

“We had been in control and getting good sets and good looks at the basket,” Mattituck Coach Paul Ellwood said. “In the past, we would’ve been lucky to hold on for the win.”

But there is something different about this season’s Mattituck team.

Mike Mangiamele, who had been a defensive catalyst all game long for the Tuckers, hit a driving shot to open the fourth quarter. Tom Ascher followed with a pair of three-pointers. Steve Ascher sank a pair of layups. The Tuckers’ lead ballooned to 24 points midway through the final quarter. Mattituck went on to win, 83-62.

“Wyandanch is a real fast team,” Ellwood said. “It is hard to match up with them. But our scoring was balanced and spread out. We switched our defense to slow them down, and once we did, we settled down. Our defense opened up the floodgates for us.”

Ellwood said Mangiamele, a defensive stopper, “forced turnovers and changed the game.”

The Tuckers had a 24-20 lead after one quarter and, with Mattituck point guard Connor Davis continually breaking the Warriors’ press in the second quarter, Mattituck built a 40-31 lead at the half.

Wyandanch, led by the hot shooting of D’dante Freeman (25 points), made a small run at trimming Mattituck’s lead late in the third quarter. But the Tuckers’ balance on offense was just too much for the Warriors, who took their fifth loss in six games, to stop. In addition to the one-two punch of the Ascher brothers, Davis (10 points, eight assists), Yianni Rauseo (10 points, 11 rebounds), Mangiamele (seven points) and Cody Huntley (six points) all made solid contributions on both ends of the court.

“Tom [Ascher] is a good all-around player who finds a way to score,” Ellwood said. “Steve is a good long-range shooter and he is now starting to go to the basket. He finishes well.”

Ellwood called Davis the best point guard in the league. “Connor can drive and kick out, and he can finish,” the coach said. “He has good judgment. Connor makes our offense go.”

Mangiamele, with his defensive tenacity, is a valuable weapon to bring in off the bench. “It is hard to take him off the floor,” said Ellwood.

Mattituck can press and trap on defense because Huntley, the goalie on the school’s boys soccer team, plays a similar role on defense, altering shots, getting steals and cleaning up the boards.

Ellwood called Rauseo “the fastest, most athletic player on the team. Yianni is in the middle of our press and he is our leading rebounder. He has good anticipation and has a knack for finishing around the rim.”

While Mattituck is unbeaten through five games, Ellwood said, “We haven’t even utilized all of our weapons yet.”

Ellwood said he could feel the tide beginning to turn for his team midway through last season.

“We started last season 1 and 6, then finished strong, splitting our final six games,” he said. “We spotted these kids a long time ago. Some of these kids have been with us for four years. They worked very hard in the spring and summer leagues. They want to be a playoff team. We’re off to a good start.”