Newington seniors Kayleigh Sanchez, Alexie Armour, Madison Romanello, and Maia Ericson following conference championship victory over Windsor
Newington girls’ basketball wrapped up a 15-0 season with a 52-40 victory over Windsor last Friday night, winning a conference title and forever earning the label as ‘Undefeated Champions’.
“We wanted to play the same way we have been playing all year, like playing hard defense” head coach Marc Tancredi said of the teams mindset prior to tip, “We also knew we needed to score the basketball because we knew Windsor would stick around.”
Tancredi’s team came out like a runaway train, charging out to a 16-2 lead behind a pair of three-pointers from Karissa Zocco and a swarming defense, which forced seven turnovers in the first quarter.
Windsor slowly chipped away at the early deficit, narrowing the deficit to 22-18 at the half by holding the home team to six points on 26% shooting in the second quarter.
Seniors Rebecca Fraley (17 points) and Raeann Reid helped lead the Warriors comeback.
But as they have done all year, Newington didn’t panic and regained momentum.
“We had a little bit of a slump after we made that run in the beginning but we managed and came back strong in the third quarter, like we typically do. We made the adjustments,” added Tancredi, who preached the basics at halftime, “I just said we need to be first to every basketball. If it’s a rebound, step into it, just simple stuff. The simple things are going to win basketball games. It’s not a hard game to play, and if we do that we’re going to be okay.”
It was the seniors and leading scorer Lilly Ferguson who took over the third, heading a 9-2 run out of the halftime locker room.
Ferguson, a junior, scored 14 of her team-high 17 points second half, while senior starters Alexie Armour and Madison Romanello did the dirty work inside.
The steady, reliable senior duo combined for 19 points and 22 rebounds in the game, providing the energizing pulse as Newington held Windsor to a mere five points in the third.
“We were pretty confident the whole way,” stated Armour, “We knew they were a good team too, so they could come back. We just knew we had to keep our energy up. It wasn’t going to be easy.”
Romanello added that the conference title made up for the disappointment of last season abrupt cancellation, “Going undefeated this year makes it all worth it, we worked so hard for this. We wanted this undefeated season because we obviously got our postseason taken away last year and it’s our senior year so we wanted to go undefeated and win it all.”
Prior to the conference title game, it had been 381 days since the team was left stranded in the quarterfinals on the 2020 state tournament following the CIAC’s decision to cancel the remaining tourney amid Covid-19 concerns.
Ashanti Frazier, who earned All-State for Newington last winter and is now starring on the courts of Rhode Island College, made the four-hour round trip drive from RI to attend Friday’s conference championship, saying she had to watch her girls finish what they had started a season ago.
Despite Covid-19 restrictions this winter, the Indians were flawless and defeated all dozen opponents in the regular season, before knocking off Bristol Eastern, Southington, and Windsor in the CCC tournament.
“It was really nice, especially because last year we work so hard and the season came to an end. So we really wanted to win every game and do even better,” said Armour, who is one of four seniors who played their final game on Friday, “We are a really close team. We all like each other and we get along really well. It’s the friendships, it’ll be sad not to have this next year.”
Romanello too will miss the close bonds, “It’s going to be sad, that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Armour, Romanello, Kayleigh Sanchez, Maia Ericson will all be graduating as champions.
Ferguson, who averaged over 16 points per game this season, along with the Zocco twins (Karissa and Marlie- who blocked five shots in the conference championship) and Adriana Romano, who finished second in points per game, will be returning as Newington attempts to repeat at conference champs, and possibly more.
Tancredi summed up this year’s team as a resilient bunch that played as one, “We’re not going to back down from anybody. We hang our hats on being Newington tough and I know we’re small but we’re going to be scrappy. We’re going to do those little things to win the game and we have the talent. Those two things got us to this point. I think we proved now how good we are to a lot of people.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin