(Rocky Hill seniors (left to right) Kiana Lebron, Sammy Steinman, Grace Fisher, Lizzy Denardo, and Grace Moore celebrated Senion Night with a 47-42 win over Newington)
Cromwell stormed back from a double-digit deficit to defeat Valley Regional 59-51 last Tuesday. Noah Budzik shot 12 of 16 from the free thrown line, scoring 16 points, and Nick Wright knocked down three trifectas, adding 13 points and nine rebounds. The Panthers then took down Haddam-Killingworth 76-25 on Friday for their 10th win in a row, improving the team to 16-3. Senior Brendan Stafstrom scored a season-high 14 points, adding three rebounds and three assists, in the convincing road victory.
Wethersfield defeated Newington 68-57 last Tuesday night, behind 21 points from Mike Mozzicato. The Eagles then upended Bristol Central 65-59 for their 16th win of the season, assuring the team one of the top seeds in the Division II state tournament, which starts in early March.
Senior night was a celebratory night for many reasons in Rocky Hill. The Terriers honored their nine seniors and then defeated Maloney 55-47, earning a spot in the state tournament. Seniors Ryan Robinson (15 points), Andrew DiMatteo (12), Will White (11), and Sean Walsh (9) all delivered when it counted most in their final game at RHHS.
Rocky Hill celebrated Senior Night with a 47-42 victory over Newington last Monday night. Nikki Lukens and Grace Fisher each had 17 points in the victory, which was their second over the Indians this season. The Terriers finished the regular season 16-4 and then edged Wethersfield 50-48 in the opening round of the CCC finals, behind 20 more points from Lukens.
Despite the conference tourney loss, Wethersfield are in great shape heading into the Class L state tournament. The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 14-6, including wins in five of their final seven games.
Cromwell also was victorious on Senior Night, breezing by Haddam-Killingworth 60-19 to end the regular season 17-3. Senior Jenna Serrantino led the Panthers with 19 points and fellow senior Kelsea Corcoran drained a pair of three-pointers, finishing with 10 points. Coincidentally the Panthers played H-K again in the quarterfinal of the Shoreline Conference tourney on Saturday and the results were the same. Serrantino again led the Panthers with 21 points in a 62-39 victory.
Middletown finished 12-8, winning their regular-season finale 51-35 over Berlin on Senior Night. Mackenzie Dunn poured in 20 points and Silvana Barcomb added 12 more in the victory over the Redcoats.
Senior night was extra special for the Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville co-op team, who shutout Shepaug 6-0 on Feb 10. Six different Eagles scored in the win, including freshman Chase Millen who tallied a goal and two assists. Sophomore Patrick Creel was in net, sending back all five shots he faced. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Eagles are 10-6-1 and in great shape for another tourney run this March.
Newington co-op is currently on a five-game winning streak entering the final week of the regular season. The Indians had a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over Hall-Southington last Wednesday. Sophomore Nicholas Deriu scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the extra session, and senior Adam Belair stopped 40 shots in the win. The team closed last week with a 4-1 victory over the co-op team from Bolton-Coventry-Rockville on Saturday. Newington trailed 1-0 after the first period, but two goals apiece from Matt Lavoie and Cade Palladino and three assists from Ethan Ranger helped improve the team to 11-5.
Rocky Hill girls finished 2nd overall at the Class M finals at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Feb 9. Sophomore sensation Elizabeth Stockman won the 1600 and 3200 meter, crushing the competition in each event. The Terriers relay team of Maren Valente, Talia Carlone, Anne White, and Lilah Devine took home second place in the 4x800, while Victoria Bower placed third in the 300 meter and combined with White, Devine, and Lordina Orleans-Onyina for fifth place in the 4x400. Stockman capped off her amazing winter season, proving to be the state’s best distant runner by winning the 3200 at the State Open last Saturday.
Cromwell girls finished 6th in the Class S finals thanks to Andraya Yearwood, who won the 55 meter and finished as the runner-up in the 300 meter. Shannon Morrill had a fourth-place effort in the 600 meter.
On the boys’ side, Wethersfield senior George Stoughton won the high jump and long jump at the Class L finals at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Feb 8. Stoughton’s efforts helped the Eagles finish 10th overall at the event.
At the same event, Middletown’s Garrett Dandridge won the 55 meters, edging Hartford Public’s Leon Campbell. The Blue Dragon’s finished 16th overall.
Swimming & Diving
Just like the girls’ team did in the fall, Wethersfield boys swimming and diving wrapped up a perfect regular season, easily defeating E.O. Smith last Tuesday night to improve to 10-0. Blake Fulton and Shane Bresnahan each won two separate events and Hadden Gaunt, Brian Puglielli, and Ryan McOmber finished 1-2-3 in the diving portion to essentially wrap up the perfect regular season and reclaim the conference title in Wethersfield. Next up are the conference, state and open finals, which start in early March.
Basketball Fan Fest Invades Rocky Hill
Do you have a stroke like Mark Price or the handles of Rafer Alston? If so, you’re in luck because the basketball programs at Rocky Hill are hosting the 4th annual Fan Festival this Friday night, Feb 23 at Rocky Hill High School.
The festivities tipoff at 5:30 p.m. and the night will feature fun for the whole family, food, and plenty of basketball activities.
Basketball events include knockout, hot shot, a skills challenge, and a 3-point shootout. It’s also your chance to meet and greet the starting lineups for both the boys and girls teams. The ten Terriers featured will be: Ryan Robinson, Will White, Jordan DelMastro, Riley Donovan, Andrew DiMatteo, Nikki Lukens, Aleska Peterson, Lizzy Denardo, Grace Fisher, and Sammy Steinman.
The event is sponsored by the basketball booster programs at Rocky Hill, cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and FREE for kids age 10 & under. Admission and/or donations can be paid at the door or through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wethersfield field hockey players (left to right) Amanda Gilbert, Megan Tonucci, Rachel Bugella, Maya Mulholland, Caroline Kennedy, Gabi Interian, and Emma Zaleski were all awarded and selected to the 2017 Keith Waldman - Optimal Performance: All Academic Squad from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association
(Wethersfield's Derek Tenney drives on Rocky Hill's Sean Walsh)
Wethersfield boys’ basketball started 2018 with a loss at Ledyard on Jan 2.
Since that defeat the team has been flawless in a dozen tries.
The Eagles made it twelve straight wins last Thursday night, defeating Rocky Hill 52-35 in front of a packed house at RHHS.
“They’ve been a motivated, unselfish group of kids,” said Wethersfield head coach Brian Fanelli, “There have been times when we’ve made some mistakes, but they set goals and they’ve really work hard to accomplish those goals.”
Mike Mozzicato has been a consistent force the entire season and led all scorers with 21 points, including 10 over the final eight minutes.
“I think it just came together this year. We had a lot of seniors that were returning and we’ve been working hard every day,” Mozzicato said of the winning streak, “We’re sticking together and I think it starts in practice with the leadership.”
Mozzicato and his mates took a while to get warmed up this season and again on Thursday night, falling behind early before a 10-point scoring run and a stifling defense helped provide a 10-4 advantage after the first quarter.
The size and length of Wethersfield’s frontline slowly wore down the scrappy Terriers and the road team led by as many as 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Mozzicato, Jimmy Sullivan, Connor Pace, and Matthew Amoddio give the team plenty of size up front, all standing over 6’2” and all possessing the ability to play inside and out.
“It’s a good problem to have. I’m trying to get them all minutes so they stay fresh and they stay motivated,” Fanelli said of his imposing frontline, “We usually don’t have too much height or size so it’s a luxury for once.”
“I think it scares some teams,” added Mozzicato, “We also have two guards that can score and they’re very good offensive players. They provide a lot of the leadership.”
Mozzicato and Sullivan are two of a half dozen seniors and the duo has developed a special connection, showcasing chemistry on the court from their years of playing together.
“I’ve seen them grow since 7th grade when I had them as middle school students and I watched them develop not only as good basketball players but as really good teammates and good guys to be around. It’s been fun to watch them develop,” Fanelli said of the pair, “Mike has developed through basketball because he’s going to do that next year and Jimmy is going to Virginia on a baseball scholarship so his athleticism compliments Mike’s basketball skills very well.”
Sullivan finished with nine points, while point guard Nicholas Arcata poured in eight and Pace added six.
Amoddio came off the bench to score four, including an athletic tip-in from the right baseline following a Mozzicato miss midway through the third quarter.
“Jimmy is very easy to play with and he can score it just as good as anyone. We have a lot of guys that can score the ball and anyone can score on any given night,” stated Mozzicato, who leads the team in scoring and tied a school-record with 42 points against Windsor in the season-opener.
Mozzicato has assumed a bulk of the scoring load but moving the ball on each and every possession is a given in Wethersfield.
Thursday night seven Eagles broke into the scoring column and, regardless of who has the hot hand, ball movement is a non-negotiable for Fanelli.
“It doesn’t matter because at some point one of those guys is going to be off and it’s up to them to know they aren’t shooting well and they’ve got to do other things like take care of the ball, play defense, and get rebounds. If all the guys share it you never know who is going to score that night and they’re all going to be excited to get it.”
It was the second time that Fanelli and his Eagles beat Rocky Hill this season, also winning 58-41 at WHS for their second win during the current streak.
Thursday’s loss was Rocky Hill’s fifth straight, dropping the home team to 7-10.
Andrew DiMatteo led the Terriers with a dozen points, including five in the final quarter to help narrow the gap to 11 with three minutes to play in regulation, but a layup and a pair of free throws from Mozzicato sealed the deal.
Riley Donovan added eight points, while Will White and Jordan DelMastro scored four points apiece in defeat.
With the tournament around the corner the Terriers have a pair of pivotal games to close the regular season. First they welcome Maloney to town on Fri, Feb 16 for a 6:45 tip and then finish up the regular season at Newington on Tue, Feb 20 at 6:45.
For Wethersfield, the win over the Terriers marked the sixth time in eight games that their defense allowed fewer than 36 points, but there are defensive areas that Fanelli still wants to see improvement.
“On our screen and rolls we have to do a better job at guarding the roller. In the beginning of the game they slipped it a few time and got an easy bucket and we ended up with a foul. We got to make sure that we’re shoring that up and we’re working hard trying to do it. It’s just about getting the kids to do the tough stuff.”
“We’re just rolling right now and everything is going good but defensive wise we can always do better on that side,” added Mozzicato, “Also we could do better handling pressure, we were up 20 and then it started to slip away in the fourth quarter so we have to get better with that. It happened against Southington too but we’ll get it fixed by tournament time.”
It was almost a baker’s dozen for the Eagles but they had their winning streak snapped on Saturday, falling on the road to Glastonbury 67-56. Despite the loss they are still in great shape at 14-3 and are currently tied for the second best record in Division II.
The tourney-bound team will close the regular season with a back-to-back home dates, starting with Bristol Central on Thurs, Feb 15 at 6:45 and ending with New Britain on Tue, Feb 20 at 6:45.
(Nikki Lukens and Aleksa Peterson combined to score 25 points in a win over Hartford Public)
Rocky Hill girls’ basketball scored at will and their defense harassed visiting Hartford Public early and often during the Terriers 65-22 victory at RHHS last Tuesday night.
The victory was the team’s fourth straight and although the result was expected, it wasn’t the final score that matter.
Head coach Allyson Smith-Toulouse has peached playing for an entire 32 minutes and the convincing victory was another step towards their ultimate goal---a potential title run in Class M state tournament.
“This time of the year you have to do whatever it takes to win and stay focused,” said the fifth-year coach, “This stretch is more about the little things. The approach is executing on offense and having a good game plan on defense because it’s more important to be disciplined in those sets and get the looks that we may overlook in a closer game.”
Constant ball movement and a relentless defensive press allowed the home team to jump out to an early 16-2 advantage before coasting to a comfortable 39-8 lead at the half.
Junior guard Nikki Lukens continued to excel on the offensive end with a game-high 16 points, but it’s been her work the on the defensive end that has stood out this winter.
“She’s always been a tenacious defender because she’s so long and she anticipates really well. She’s a very efficient defender and for a kid her size and how much she plays, she doesn’t foul much either. Her size plays to her advantage because more often than not whoever she is guarding is probably outmatched,” Smith-Toulouse said of Lukens, who is the team’s leading scorer, “She’s been getting tougher in the paint and finishing stronger. I think she’s becoming a more well-rounded player and she still has the finesse side but she’s definitely more impactful with the physicality on the defensive end.”
Lukens role as a leader has also increased, teaming with a strong group of seniors and giving the Terriers plenty of experience.
Grace Fisher, Lizzy Denardo, and Samantha Steinman have embraced the senior captain roles, each bringing a different dynamic on the court.
“Grace is a leader by doing and she’s a great kid and Sammy is such a great leader vocally and she knows the system,” said their proud coach, “Lizzy has been great with Nikki and helped develop her because she’s more of the floor captain on any given night.”
The trio, along with Lukens and fellow senior Grace Moore, has a noticeable chemistry on the court.
“A game like this prepares us for games coming up. It basically comes down to working as a team and building up the chemistry that we need in order to win all these games,” said Steinman.
Whether it’s helping out defensively or moving without the ball, the players are working as one.
“I like to look for the most high-percentage shots, so either I’m taking it in or if I see Grace Fisher or Grace Moore down low or if it’s someone outside or back cutting. I always look for the better opportunity for us to score,” said Denardo, who scored five or her seven points in the opening quarter.
Denardo wasted little time on Tuesday night, knocking down a shot from beyond the arc less than 15 seconds into the game after Lukens snared an offensive rebound and kicked it out to her for the uncontested three.
Fisher also made her presence felt early, scoring four of her eight points in the opening quarter and delivered several crisp passes to cutters from the top of the key.
“I’ve worked on being stronger with the ball and passing,” said Fisher, who earned all-conference as a junior, “We talk about looking for who is open and we’re always looking for the back doors.”
Leading 53-8 midway through the third, Smith-Toulouse started to clear her bench, allowing the next generation of Terriers a chance to finish the game.
Starting sophomore Aleksa Peterson finished with nine points and freshman Peggy Minga shined in the third and fourth quarter, adding six points.
All told, 11 Terriers broke into the scoring column on Tuesday night.
“Every game that is a sustainable lead our seniors will usually come out and I’ll play Aleksa and or Nikki with some of the younger group to start building for the future,” stated Smith-Toulouse, “I’m always thinking program building for next year. These seniors are amazing leaders and they have a lot of pride and I think it’s fun for them to sit and watch what they’ve helped develop for the future. We have 17 kids and those juniors and seniors treat the young kids amazing.”
The veteran players have embraced their roles, setting an example for their successors.
“It’s important for them to get minutes, because it’s important for them to practice for the upcoming years when we’re not here anymore,” said Fisher.
“We’re constantly talking to the girls and keeping it positive on the court no matter if they’re having a good game or a bad game,” added Steinman, “If we’re all in it together, we’re going to win together.”
Offensively the team has been efficient but defense is still the name of the game in Rocky Hill. The 22 points allowed against Hartford Public was the second fewest the team has allowed all season and it was their third straight contest holding an opponent under 27 points.
Last Friday the team had another signature moment, rallying from 13 down to defeat Windsor 36-32 on the road. A 22-3 run secured the team’s fifth win in a row, improving their record to 13-3 as the week closed.
In the come-from-behind win, Fisher scored 14 and grabbed nine rebounds and Lukens added 14 points and seven boards.
The Terriers will close the regular season with a pair of conference home games, starting this Friday (Feb 9) against Wethersfield and finishing up Monday (Feb 12) against Newington.
The home finales will be the appetizers for the tournaments, which are only a few weeks away.
Smith-Toulouse and her girls advanced to the second round of the Class M tourney last winter but this year’s group has experience and confidence on their side.
“It’s fun because now they are molded into the program and they have also helped build that too. I am proud and I feel like I can trust the process and trust in my seniors that we’ll get the right play and they’ll come up big in huge moments. We’ve had several huge moments this year and that’s a testament to their leadership and discipline as veterans. We just have to stay focused on the things that we can control.”
Wethersfield gymnastics celebrated Senior Night on Jan 30. The Eagles have one last home meet on Feb 15 when they host Glastonbury at Silas Deane Middle School at 6 pm. It will be the team’s last meet before the state tournament on Feb 24. Pictured below: Madison Bradbury, Madison Burbank, Lindsey Clark, Emily Fazzina, Katelyn Glendon, Sarah Gordon, Shannon Hattie, Erin Nargi, Jessica Pratt, Abigail Sullivan, Rachel Wilson. Pratt, Sullivan, and Wilson are the Eagles three seniors.
(Andrew DiMatteo manned the middle of the zone and scored 13 points in the win over E.O. Smith)
Ryan Robinson sank a contested shot from beyond midcourt as the first quarter buzzer sounded. He then casually walked off the court as if he had just tossed a pillow onto his bed.
Robinson’s reaction was all business and his three-pointer provided the Terriers a lead they would not relinquish during a 45-30 victory over visiting E.O. Smith last Tuesday night.
“When it left his hand I’m like ‘that’s money’,” Rocky Hill head coach Josh Dinerman said of Robinson’s buzzer-beater, which woke up a stagnant Terriers offense.
The long-range triple started a 20-2 run, which extended into the early part of the third quarter.
“About halfway through last year our point guard went down and Ryan took over the role and ever since then he’s done a great job,” Dinerman said of his senior court general, who finished with 11 points and three steals, “He’s really stepped up into the leadership role and he’s struggled with an ankle injury lately so for him to get going and hit that shot was big. Those are the types of things that will help him turn the corner for the second half of the year. I’m really proud of him.”
Robinson canned another three from the baseline to start the second quarter but it was the Terriers tenacious defense that began to overwhelm the Panthers, holding the visitors to a single bucket in the frame.
“I kind of surprised the team today by switching up the lineup and I told them we were going 2-3 zone. We hadn’t really practiced it too much this year but it worked,” added Dinerman, who made the defensive adjustment to combat E.O. Smith’s efficient offense, “They’re so well coached. They call their offense the machine, because it’s a machine. They run it so pure that we figured we’d dispute them a little bit.”
Dinerman’s defensive plan worked to perfection and the rangy frontcourt rotation of Andrew DiMatteo, Riley Donovan, Joseph Schiavone, and Jordan DelMastro stymied the Panthers workmanlike offense.
“We can play that zone, but it’s got a lot of man principles. Those guys are athletic and they’re long, so when they play the wings they can go out and guard the guards but they can still go inside and guard the bigs. When they get the rebound it’s perfect because they can go out in transition and bring it up too. Those combo guys are really good to have.”
DiMatteo added 13 points on the offensive end, including six of the Terriers’ eight in the third quarter.
The Storrs-based visitors narrowed the gap to six heading into the fourth quarter but, as he has done all season, Will White took over offensively.
White scored six points, including a soft lefty layup, and assisted on another bucket during a 9-0 spurt midway through the fourth.
“We’re just working hard of defense, that’s been our main focus the whole year. Through our defense comes our offense and we had a few bad stretches and I was just trying to take control and do what I can to get the team back in the game and help us win. Tonight it just worked out,” said White, who finished with 13 points.
White is coming off an all-conference selection a year ago and earned the reputation of a marksman on the perimeter as a junior.
This season he’s diversified his offensive game.
“I’ve been trying to take it to the bucket more,” said White, “Teams started to think that I can only shoot, so I’m trying to prove everyone wrong.”
“As soon as he walks in the gym they know he’s a shooter, so they’re flying out at him and now he’s added that to his arsenal where he can drive and finish at the rim,” added Dinerman, “That’s huge, when you have that range and can also take it to the rack. He’s a tough kid to stop.”
All of the pieces are falling into place for the Terriers, who celebrated their fourth win in their last five games. Their only blemish during the stretch was a two-point loss to Bloomfield the night before the win over E.O. Smith.
“Some of our guys hadn’t had a ton of varsity experience so it took some time. We’re senior-laden this year, but not all of our seniors had big minutes last season and we’ve switched up our lineup a couple of times. We’re still trying to find our rotation and trying to find our groove,”
Dinerman said of the team’s turnaround following an up-and-down 3-4 start to the season, “They’re just meshing and it comes down to fixing the rotation here, diving for a loose ball there, and you start winning these close games.”
Since taking over the boy’s program in 2012, a staple of Dinerman’s teams has been a deep rotation and this season is no different. Sophomores Alessandro Boutin and Ja’quan Graham made their presence felt on both ends of the court Tuesday night.
Late in the first half, Boutin channeled his inner-Hakeem Olajuwon with a dream shake, which froze a defender and allowed him to finish at the rim.
“If you want to make a deep run in the tournament, you need a deep team. You need guys stepping up throughout the season, so I try to keep the rotation pretty deep,” added Dinerman, “It makes competition better in practice and keeps guys on their toes. They’re hungry for minutes so when they get in there they’re going to fly around a little bit more because a lot of guys are getting minutes. I think it really helps the team and the chemistry.”
Dinerman’s team closed the week with a 66-56 loss at Windham. White scored a team-high 19 points but it wasn’t enough to overcome the outrageous 39 free throws the home team was awarded.
Next up is a home game this Friday against Windsor, who entered the week at 10-3. The game against the Warriors will be another good measuring stick for Dinerman and his team.
“We still have to work on our fundamentals and just make smart basketball decisions. The defense will be there, but offensive efficiency is definitely what we’ll be working on, like valuing the basketball and getting a good shot every possession.”
They’ll close the regular season with a series of rematches, including a home date against Wethersfield on Thursday, Feb 8 at 6:45. The Eagles got the best of the Terriers (58-41) in the first game at WHS.
Both the Terriers and Eagles have grown since the game in early January and the rematch should feature plenty of fireworks.
“We needed a few games to try and get in the swing of things and get our rhythm going,” White said about the team’s confidence going forward, “When we’re good, we’re good. So we’ll see what happens.”
Wethersfield swimming and diving remained undefeated, improving to 5-0 with a convincing victory over Rocky Hill last Tuesday night.
The Eagles started the meet with a bang, placing first and second in the 200 Medley Relay. The foursome of Blake Fulton, Caleb Skowronek, Holden Hoon, and Jack Blaisdell won the event and Rory Stickley, Matthew Iallonardo, Shane Bresnahan, and Brendon Mansaku took second.
In the next event, Austin Bovino won the 200 Freestyle with teammate Patrick McGuane finishing second.
Hoon then won the 200 Individual Medley, beating Rocky Hill’s Brian Speers by nearly three seconds.
Fulton and Blaisdell then finished 1-2 in the 50 Freestyle, providing the Eagles a comfortable lead heading into the diving portion of the evening.
Eagles divers continued to soar, as Hadden Gaunt, Jordan Griffin, and Brian Puglielli finished 1-2-3.
Despite the loss Rocky Hill has had a solid season, winning four of six meets prior to Tuesday night.
The Terriers are in the middle of a long home stand, with Windsor coming to town Fri, Feb 2 for a 4 p.m. meet.
The Eagles welcome the Middletown Blue Dragons to WHS that same night for a 5 pm meet.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin