There was utter confusion moments after the fourth-quarter buzzer. Both teams had players cheering and crying. Neither fan base knew how to react. But when there finally was clarity, it was Mattituck whose confusion turned to exuberance.
Leading by three with 1.8 seconds to play, the Tuckers watched as Carle Place eighth-grader Erin Leary made a long jumper from the right corner at the buzzer. Leary’s right foot was just barely over the three-point line, however, so it was Mattituck that walked away with a nail-biting 48-47 win in Monday’s Long Island Class B championship game at SUNY Old Westbury.
“At first, I thought we lost because it was a three, and I didn’t realize we were up by three,” said guard Liz Dwyer, who had 26 points, including what proved to be the deciding free throw with two seconds left. “But it was a two and we won.”
“I went over to the ref and asked if it was a three, and he said no, so I just started crying tears of happiness,” said Corinne Reda, who had nine rebounds.
Dwyer and Reda weren’t the only ones who were unsure. Even Tuckers coach Steve Van Dood needed someone to tell him his team had won its second consecutive Long Island championship.
“I thought it was a tie game,” he said. “I went and I was pulling my hair out on the side over here. The Suffolk County official came up to me and said, ‘It’s only a two.’ I was like, ‘What? It’s only two?’ Unbelievable!”
There was no rebuttal from Carle Place coach Michael Bello, who saw the play develop in front of him.
“It was 100 percent the right call,” Bello said. “My girls don’t know what it means to stop. We just fell an inch and a half short.”
It was a fitting end to a crazy fourth quarter in which each side had the lead in the final minutes.
Dwyer’s runner off the glass from the right side in traffic gave the Tuckers a 46-45 advantage with 1:50 remaining. Jane DiGregorio made one of two free-throw attempts with 23.2 seconds left for a 47-45 lead. Then Dwyer’s late free throw gave Mattituck the critical three-point lead.
Leah Burden (16 points, six assists), Giana McKeough (12 points), Abigail Selhorn and Leary were responsible for bringing the Frogs back from a 36-27 deficit with 7:39 remaining.
The first score of the quarter came from Mattituck’s Alex Beebe, but Carle Place responded with a 10-1 spurt in the next three minutes to tie it at 37.
Dwyer stopped the run with a three-pointer from the right corner with 4:29 to play. That was just the beginning of the craziness.