There were stretches during the Suffolk Class B girls basketball championship game Friday night in which Jaden Thompson seemed unstoppable.
She ignited Mattituck runs by herself, throwing her body in harm’s way to grab loose balls, force steals and score in traffic.
“No one ever fights harder than Jaden,” forward Ashley Perkins said.
Thompson had 22 points, including the Tuckers’ last four, as top-seeded Mattituck outlasted No. 2 Port Jefferson, 51-42, in a packed Centereach gymnasium. The Tuckers have won four straight Suffolk Class B titles.
Thompson literally picked herself off the floor seemingly as many times as she figuratively picked up her teammates. Lost possessions due to turnovers or missed shots were quickly avenged by Thompson, who scored five straight points for Mattituck in the second quarter, resulting in a 24-18 lead.
“[She plays with] reckless abandon,” Tuckers coach Steve Van Dood said. “She throws herself on the floor. You can see me asking, ‘Is she hurt? Is she injured?’ But she puts her body first, she puts her team first, and she gives 110 percent.”
Port Jefferson (12-9) constantly was within striking distance, twice cutting the deficit to two early in the fourth quarter. Abigail Rolfe’s layup off a touch pass from Brooke Zamek with 5:18 left pulled the Royals within 40-38, but Mattituck’s Julie Seifert (13 points) answered with consecutive jump shots.
Leading 44-38, The Tuckers (17-4) turned to guard Alexis Burns. She made a long three-pointer from the right wing with 3:27 to play giving Mattituck a little breathing room at 47-38.
“You have to know if they push, you have to push back harder,” Perkins said. “It’s your paint. It’s your rebound. Nobody can take that away from you.”
Perkins scored 11 points but her biggest impact came on the glass. She corralled 14 rebounds, setting up key second-chance points for the Tuckers. Although she considers herself a softball player first, Perkins said she was excited to come back for basketball season after sitting out last winter with a bad ankle.
Van Dood said he welcomed her return and that she’s just starting to hit her stride.
Having graduated five starters from last season’s team, Mattituck entered this campaign with the prospect of rebuilding. Thompson said they “had to fill a lot of roles,” and two losses in the first four games showed there was room to grow.
As seniors, Perkins and Thompson were integral in that growth. And even though it sometimes looks like Thompson is playing a tick too fast, she thinks she has it under control.
“To me, it feels controlled,” she said. “But I guess the speed and physicality of the game, it just kind of happens.”