What was it like for the Class B Mattituck Tuckers to walk into the gym of their larger neighbors, the Class AA Riverhead Blue Waves on Tuesday night?
Mattituck Coach Paul Ellwood equated it to college basketball when little Davidson visits Duke and tries to knock off the mighty Blue Devils.
“Riverhead’s the big guy on the block [on] the East End,” Ellwood, an admirer of Riverhead’s program, said. “There’s a lot of tradition here. They got great fans.”
That only made Mattituck’s victory — its most impressive of this young season — all the more sweeter.
The most convincing evidence yet that this is not the same old Mattituck team that has had its struggles in recent years was presented in the form of this 12-point triumph, which gave the Tuckers a 4-0 start to the season.
“We were playing a double-A school and we wanted to show that a B school could play with these guys,” Mattituck point guard Connor Davis said after the 64-52 non-league win. “I feel like we played very well against this team. We can compete with anybody.”
Steve Ascher dropped in a game-high 29 points with the aid of five successful three-point shots, Cody Huntley had 10 points and teammate Yianni Rauseo crashed the boards for nine of Mattituck’s rebounds. Tom Ascher, Steve’s twin brother, was on the court for the first time since last Thursday. A regular starter, he missed one game with a stomach virus, but came off the bench Tuesday. Hehad seven points and passed for seven assists.
Ellwood said that when he asked Tom Ascher earlier in the day how many minutes he could get out of him in the game, Ascher replied, “Thirty-two.”
It was the first game that the Tuckers have played this season with a full, healthy team. “Finally,” Davis said. “It definitely helped because once one of us got tired, we had one guy coming off the bench right away.”
The up-and-coming Tuckers spoiled the season-opener for Riverhead, which soon found it had its hands full. Mattituck led for most of the game, but it was close. A jump shot from the corner by Brandon Tolliver put Riverhead ahead, 49-48, about midway through the fourth quarter. It was Riverhead’s first lead since it was 6-3 when the game was 3 minutes 27 seconds old. But it also proved to be Riverhead’s last lead of the contest. Mattituck proceeded to score the next 12 points to put the game out of reach.
Steve Ascher was responsible for 10 of those points, some of which came off a three-pointer, a driving layup and a quick turnaround shot in the paint after receiving a bounce pass from Tom Ascher.
“We had that little spurt … and that’s really what put it away,” said Davis.
Two critical turnovers by Riverhead during that run didn’t help the Blue Waves, either.
Ben Edmund led Riverhead with 15 points. Alex Sakhno, a 6-foot-5 senior, turned in a strong game for Riverhead, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Tolliver had 12 rebounds to go with 10 points.
Riverhead held a 44-33 advantage in rebounds, but the Blue Waves were also whistled for 19 fouls, 10 more than Mattituck. Mattituck’s disciplined defense allowed Riverhead only three foul shots.
So far, so good for Mattituck.
“I guess there’s really nothing not to like,” Steve Ascher said. “It’s all amazing. Four and oh, you can’t complain.”
Minutes after the game, Ellwood was already thinking ahead to Mattituck’s next game, its Suffolk County League VII opener at home against the Wyandanch Warriors on Friday night.
“It’s not like the NCAA Tournament,” Ellwood said. “You don’t get quality wins. We got to win games in our league to get into the playoffs. That’s what I’m going to tell the guys. We got to keep our head level. It’s a nice win. We can enjoy it at the end of the season, we’ll enjoy it tonight, but we got to get ready for Wyandanch.”