Needing a single victory over a fellow Class B school to make the postseason, no better opportunity was going to present itself to the Hampton Bays boys basketball team than Friday night’s game at Mattituck, with undefeated powerhouse Center Moriches on tap in the regular-season finale on Monday night.
Despite multiple comeback attempts in the second half, the Baymen fell short, losing at Mattituck, 47-42, and with it their best shot at ending a seven-year absence from postseason play. They lost to Center Moriches on Monday to end their season.
Hampton Bays head coach Pete Meehan thought Friday night’s game, despite the loss, was the best game his team had played this season.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “We had three great practices. We prepared to win, expected to win, almost did.
“They’re disappointed, and if winning means that much to you, you will be disappointed,” Meehan added. “I’m proud of them. Real proud of them.”
Mattituck jumped out to a 14-2 lead to start the game but the Baymen went on a 12-0 run and tied the game on a Steven Mora three-pointer, forcing the Tuckers to call a timeout late in the first quarter. Mattituck got things going again in the second and took a 34-23 lead by halftime, but the Baymen (4-8 League VI, 8-12 overall) fought hard in the third quarter, pulling within a point of Mattituck’s lead after a three by Antonio Scotto, and trailing, 37-36, heading into the fourth. Mattituck held Hampton Bays scoreless for the first 5:30 or so of the final quarter but the Tuckers couldn’t pull away. A layup by Lucas Brown with 2:50 remaining in the game got the Baymen within a point once again at 41-40, but turnovers within the game’s final 1:30 cost them a shot at coming back, and Mattituck went on to the victory.
With the win, Mattituck will most likely earn the third and final playoff spot in Class B as long as it defeated Port Jefferson and Babylon in its final two games, as was expected.
Meehan said the 12-point deficit his team faced to start the game could have been to blame for the loss just as much as the turnovers in the final minutes on Friday.
“One of the things that we stress is the first possession of the game is just as important as the last,” he said. “You can magnify the last couple of possessions, but we got down, 14-2, to start. Those first few minutes, if we play those cleaner, maybe the last three are different.
“I think the key tonight was the boards. They hurt us on the boards,” he said. “We knew that was our biggest challenge. They’re tough.”
Part of the reason why rebounding is so tough for his team, Meehan said, is that it only has one true forward in Matt Dean, which the team is losing to graduation this season, along with Scotto, Jordan Hanes and Tajay Dallas. Scotto and Brown led the team in scoring on Friday night with 12 points each, while Mora scored 10, but Dean does all of the little things that help teams win, Meehan said, and he’ll be missed.
“You don’t realize the value he gives to us every single day,” he said.