There was no way the Mattituck High boys basketball team was going to have a repeat performance of what transpired three days prior, no way.

On Monday, Jan. 8, the Tuckers watched a 23-point halftime advantage dissipate in what turned into a discouraging 59-54 defeat at Center Moriches.

On Thursday, Jan. 11, they enjoyed an 11-point lead entering the second half against Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball team.

Instead of folding, the Tuckers surged to a 60-28 home victory behind an 18-0 tear in the third and fourth quarters in their first Suffolk County League VI win of the season.

Just about everything clicked for Mattituck (4-7, 1-4), from hot shooting, rebounding, crisp passing and an alert defense that turned steals into easy baskets.

“We played our best game of the year,” boys basketball head coach Paul Ellwood said, “both ends in the floor, defensively, offensively.”

“We’ve had times where we played this good, but we never put together a full game,” boys basketball senior guard Alex Clark added.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak.

“It was great,” said boys basketball senior forward Mike Finnegan, who paced the Tuckers with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We had a win. It feels like a month.”

Finnegan was only one day off. Mattituck’s last triumph was a 64-55 home victory over Greenport on Dec. 12.

“It’s definitely a boost of confidence after a series of losses,” said senior guard Brady Dwyer, who collected 13 points. “If we could just keep playing like this, we’ll get back into winning column.”

Behind Justin Fox (five of his nine points) and Tommy McGunnigle (four of his eight points), Mattituck boys basketball sprinted out to a 17-2 first-quarter lead and held a 24-13 halftime margin.

With the Center Moriches game on his mind, Ellwood gave his team a halftime speech.

“I’m not a much of a storyteller,” he said. “I told them a story that this is just about mental more than physical. We’re going to come out and attack them. We’re going play like we’re behind.”

Finnegan said that was easy to do.

“That’s what we, unfortunately, have been doing most of the season,” he said. “We’re used to doing that. That’s where we’re most comfortable.”

Mattituck switched to a 1-3-1 defense and pressed the Wildcats (2-8, 1-3).

Shoreham closed within 31-21 before the Tuckers went on a 15-0 tear to close out the quarter. Dwyer started it, dropping a 15-foot basket with four minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the quarter, the first of his five points during the run. Finnegan added two consecutive baskets, one off a rebound. Mattituck closed out the period in impressive fashion as Fox and Clark produced back-to-back steals within a 12-second span over the final minute for a 46-21 advantage. 

“We just realized we had to step it up and not let anything close to happening at Center happen again,” Clark said.

Said Dwyer: “Our ball movement was great, and our shooting was great. Just the way we moved the ball was the best we’ve done this year.”

Clark, who tallied four points during the run, extended the lead to 49-21 by canning a trey 31 seconds into the fourth period.

Finnegan enjoyed one of his strongest games of the season, helping Tuckers boys basketball dominate the boards at both ends.

“He played great,” Ellwood said. “He gets rebounds. He catches the ball in good places under the basket. He gets it up quick on the rim. He doesn’t bring the ball down, which is hard to teach big men.”

The win could be a turning point of the season for Tuckers boys basketball, who are a Class B team playing in a league with several Class A teams with larger student populations. Mattituck needs to finish at .500 or above to reach the playoffs.

“I think it’ll give us a lot of confidence,” Ellwood said. “We have two winnable games on the back end of the schedule. We kind of needed to have a breakthrough tonight to set it up because we are Class B foes coming up.”

Ellwood was spot on. Mattituck boys basketball enters its most important part of the season against Class B schools. The team visits Port Jefferson on Jan. 17 and hosts the Royals on Feb. 8. The Tuckers, who lost to Pierson, 52-43, on Jan. 3, visit their south shore opponents on Jan. 25. They welcome Babylon on Jan. 19 and play their regular season finale away there on Feb. 13.

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