No Liz Dwyer. No problem.
Well, not exactly.
As formidable a high school girls basketball team as Mattituck is, the defending Long Island Class B champions still ran into difficulties Thursday night in the absence of Dwyer, their standout player.
How good are the Tuckers without Dwyer? They found out at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School.
Dwyer, a junior forward who is averaging 22.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, was excused from the contest so she could attend a Navy Seals graduation ceremony for her brother.
That certainly affected the balance between the Tuckers and the Monarchs when they squared off. In the end the end, though, Mattituck maintained its unbeaten record in Suffolk County League VII and extended its winning streak to 12 games, but not without having to sweat out some anxious moments near the end.
After leading by as many as 18 points in the first half, Mattituck watched uneasily as it got into foul trouble and Mercy methodically cut into its lead before drawing even at 30-30 on Melina Santacroce’s layup with 5 minutes, 59 seconds left to play. But Chelsea Marlborough hit a three-point shot from the wing and Mattituck made 6 of 12 free throws in the final 5:39 to wrap up a 39-32 triumph.
With Dwyer unavailable, junior guard Emily Mowdy made her first start of the season, joining Mackenzie Daly, Jane DiGregorio, Corinne Reda and Marlborough in the starting five.
The big question entering the game was how Mattituck (12-1, 10-0) would make up for the point production Dwyer typically provides. Scoring was an issue, but more for Mercy than Mattituck. The Tuckers opened the game with a 9-1 lead. All Mercy (6-7, 6-5), winner of three of its previous four games, had to show for itself in the first quarter were three points from a Santacroce free throw and a Savannah Hauser layup.
Successive baskets by Daly, Reda, DiGregorio and Alex Beebe stretched the Mattituck lead to 17-3. By halftime the score was 25-9.
But Mercy wasn’t done. Coach Meaghan Macarthur lit a fire under her players at halftime and they responded. Macarthur said Olivia Kneski’s defense was the catalyst to Mercy’s comeback.
Mercy’s momentum may have been slowed when Chastin Giles went down with cramping in her right calf with 4:34 left in the game. Giles eventually returned to the game, but Mattituck was able to stave off defeat despite making only 1 of 12 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter.
DiGregorio, who was averaging 10.3 points per game, responded to the challenge with a game-high 14 points, shooting 5 for 10 from the field. Reda, who was held scoreless in Mattituck’s previous game, bounced back with 14 rebounds to go with seven points, five steals, an assist and a block.
Like Mattituck’s Dwyer, Mercy has quite an impactful junior forward itself in Santacroce. She finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five steals, four blocks and two assists. Mia Behrens led Mercy with 11 points and Kneski added nine.
Both teams suffered shooting woes. Mattituck shot 25.5 percent from the field and Mercy 27.5 percent. The Monarchs exacerbated their problems by going 8 for 18 from the foul line.
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Corinne Reda splits Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Mia Behrens (4) and Melina Santacroce while looking for a shot. (Credit: Garret Meade)