When teams lose in championship games, tears will be shed.

It’s understandable.

On Friday night, some Mattituck Tuckers had tears in their eyes, but it was for another reason. Those were tears of joy, after securing the Suffolk County Girls Class B basketball title.

Deploying an alert defense that forced 37 turnovers, the second-seeded Tuckers recorded a 42-29 victory over No. 1 Babylon at St. Joseph’s University in Patchogue.

“I’ve been playing varsity basketball since I was in 10th grade. I’ve come to three county semifinals and fallen short until this year,” said senior forward Caroline Little, who paced Mattituck with 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists. “I really could not ask for … I’m about to cry. I’m going to be emotional.”

It’s understandable.

“It’s overwhelming. I am so proud of us and how far we’ve gone as a team,” added senior forward Jashlyn Castenada, who played a strong defensive game while contributing a season-high nine points. “It’s an incredible feeling. I want to cry with joy, but I got mascara on, so I can’t.”

Junior guard Rhianna Lutz, who finished with five steals and six points, all off turnovers, teared up at the final buzzer as the Tuckers won their fifth title in eight years.

“At the beginning of the season [head coach Steve] Van Dood told us that he could see us play at the county championship, but we didn’t even believe him that we would make it this far,” Lutz said. “So very grateful for all the work that we put in.”

That work is not quite finished. Mattituck (15-7) will return to St. Joseph’s to face Carle Place (15-6) for the Long Island championship on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The Tuckers are 13-0 when they keep opponents below 40 points.

“Stymied is the word,” Van Dood said. “We said if we can keep them under 30 points, we’ve got a very good chance of winning. We put them on their heels a lot.”

Whether it was Lutz turning a steal into a basket, Sofia Knudsen or Castenada causing an interception or Little swatting a Babylon (15-7) pass to a teammate, the Tuckers defense was difficult to beat.

Some of Babylon’s turnovers were self-inflicted, while others came from Mattituck pressure.

Castenada gave away her secret, saying that she reads her opponents’ eyes.

“You know where they’re going to pass it to,” she said. “They do some telegraphing.”

Lutz set the tone in the first quarter, transforming two turnovers, including a steal, into consecutive baskets and a 7-3 lead.

“If our defense wasn’t locked in today, we probably wouldn’t have had the score we had,” she said.

Mattituck outscored Babylon in the second quarter, 15-2, for a 24-10 halftime advantage. Little scored seven points over the final 3:58.

“There was really good communication,” she said. “Working together, having almost telepathic abilities, helping each other out, knowing when to step up. Everyone stepped up and did their part.”

The Tuckers didn’t allow a field goal in that quarter and held the Panthers without one for 10 minutes and 23 seconds until Giavanna Randazzo (10 points) sank a 12-footer at 6:08 of the third period.

Castenada, averaging 4.3 points a game, gave the team a welcome boost. She hit a 12-footer for Mattituck’s first points and sank a rare trey to start the second quarter. 

“I’m not usually a shooter but I saw an open shot and I went for it,” she said.

The Tuckers used a frustrating 51-42 overtime defeat to Babylon on Feb. 1 as motivation.

“It definitely drove us a lot, losing to them in overtime in our home gym,” Lutz said. “Definitely came back for vengeance against them.”

The Tuckers also received some other motivation.

Basketball legend Xavier Allen (class of 2020), one of a handful of Mattituck players to score more than 1,000 career points, gave the team a pregame pep talk.

“I always wanted to get that one the chance that they got and that’s to win a championship,” said Allen, who averaged 20.7 points a game for St. Joseph’s this season. “That’s one thing I didn’t achieve in my high school career. I told them to be grateful. As long as they’re being great teammates, no matter what happens, win or lose, they should play for each other, and it will result in something good. And they did great today.”

Allen said that he would attend Tuesday’s game.

“Now I’ve got to think of something else to say,” he said.

Other local alums would love to have that problem.

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