Middletown’s Ahmod Privott and Stevie Vaughan are two of the most decorated student athletes in the area. Both were captains of their respective sports teams and both were instrumental in helping carry their squads to the cusp of a championship this winter.
Privott, nicknamed 2God, was an all-around dynamo for the Blue Dragons’ basketball team that advanced all the way to the Class L semifinals this winter. The hoopster fell in love with basketball at the age of six and transferred to Middletown as a sophomore, before elevated his game to another level the last couple of years. As a junior, he made All-State after guiding the Blue Dragons to the Class L championship game and he further improved his play on the court this winter, averaging 16.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. His sensational senior season earned him first-team All-State honors.
Vaughan was the starting goaltender for the Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville ice hockey team that soared to new heights this season. He was born and raised in Middletown and joined an emerging group of local pucksters that banded together, bringing ice hockey to the forefront in towns better known for basketball, football, and soccer. Vaughan was a brick wall between the pipes during his senior campaign, winning 19 of his 24 starts and stopping 469 of the 504 shots he faced, earning him All-State honors for the second straight season. He also registered seven shutouts during the Eagles’ historic run, which ended in the semifinal round earlier this month. The netminder was even brilliant during the team’s 1-0 semifinal defeat, stopping 30 of 31 shots.
The two were unable to end their high school careers with a title, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or desire. Their dedication, perseverance and selflessness are reflected in what they wrote only hours after their final high school games. Here are the two standouts, in their own words.
“I just want to start off by saying thank you to my dragon brothers, it's been a great 3 years for me. You guys shaped me into the basketball player I am today, you guys pushed me to my limits and I am extremely thankful you guys. Tyshaun, Cj, Quan, Justin, Keebo, and Av it's been a great ride and I love you guys, I wish the best for you all moving on to the next level. To MHS, I love my school man, I really do. I went from hating school my freshmen year to loving it. Transferring was the best move I've made so far in my life. I love all my fellow '17 classmates. Without you guys there would be no 2god. To the cheerleaders, thanks for being at every game you guys were able to come to. Thanks to my coaches, my mom and the rest of my family. I love you all dearly. It's been a great run, it sucks that it ended but no matter what I'm still proud of my brothers and what we have accomplished. Aaron it's your team next year get it done. They still sleep. With that being said thank you Middletown and Middletown High. 2God out.”
“Hi I'm Stevie Vaughan, a varsity high school hockey goaltender from a town where only a handful of people even know we have a hockey team. The game of hockey means more to me than anything, from age 7 hockey was my escape from reality. When I step on the ice I'm truly happy, just a kid with a stick, a puck, and 50 or so pounds of gear (used to keep the puck out of the net). Throughout my youth hockey career countless coaches always told me I was "too small to play goalie" and "just not good enough", I never made the A team. Freshman and sophomore year I spent pretty much all 40 games on the bench, I was the backup goalie for the worst team in the state, in my mind that made me the worst goalie in the state. After my sophomore year I almost hung up the skates for good, to never be a hockey player again. I spent countless hours in my room just thinking if that was the right decision, my brain said it made sense, but my heart wouldn't let me quit. The summer going into my junior year I decided I wouldn't let myself and my team be the laughing stock of CT hockey so I started to double up on goalie lessons with the CT Pro Crease. On the first day I showed up there was another goalie who had the same time slot as me, Will, Will Slohm. Will and I didn't speak much at first but after a few sessions we began to embrace each other's presence and started sharing our tools of the trade. 2 years later and countless hours on the ice together, I now consider Will one of my best friend and we are 2 of the best goalies in the state.
To my team: When we first came together as a new COOP I really didn't know what to expect. Last season was a heartbreaker, we had one more shot to make it into the tournament against LHK and we tied... no post season hockey for us. It was after that game where Zac, Tyler, and I decided we wouldn't ever feel that pain again. We spent countless hours playing hockey, from spring all the way up to the start of the high school season. Words cannot describe how proud I am of this team and how far we have come, from 2-18 all the way to 19-5, and playing in the semifinals. Although the game did not go the way we wanted it to tonight, I love you boys with all my heart. We are a family and always will be. For those of you who get the honor to wear that Eagles sweater again, remember what got us to where we were today. This off-season put in the same amount of effort and you will return to Yale, but not leave heartbroken.
A huge thank you to CT HS Hockey, you are incredible! You made a regular high school sport feel like a professional league, your in-depth coverage of ALL the teams in Connecticut is no easy task and I thank you for doing it. Also for putting up with the Rice bus, haha.”
(Rocky Hill's 4x200 relay team: Left to right, Joe Catania, James Chasco-Dimauro, Kristopher Begen and Jacob Weber)
Winter’s weather refuses to go away without a fight, but high school’s winter sports season wrapped up last weekend. Spring sports have already started to bloom, but before we head outdoors here’s a look back at some of the local indoor tournament results and information that you may have missed while battling March’s bizarre blizzards.
Middletown came up just shy of reaching a second straight Class L title game, falling to undefeated Sacred Heart 70-56 in the semifinals last Thursday night. The Blue Dragons defeated Maloney, New London and Ledyard to reach the semifinal round and trailed the Waterbury-based Hearts by only two entering the fourth quarter, but were outscored 30-18 over the final eight minutes.
During the semifinal loss, senior Ahmod Privott scored his 1000th career point on a three-point shot in the third quarter. Privott will be one of six Blue Dragons who will be graduating this year. Tyshaun James, Dayquan Singletary, CJ Sprowl, Aveon Woods and Justin McMillian are the other five. The seniors were part of four tournament teams during their tenure, reaching the second round, quarterfinals, finals, and semifinals during the four-year span.
Middletown’s journey ended when they were defeated by Mercy 54-38 in the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament. The loss ended a historically good season for the Blue Dragons, who won 18 of 20 regular season games and added a pair of tourney victories.
The loss to Mercy was the final game for four seniors, including leading scorer and rebounder Brielle Wilborn, who ended the season averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds per game. Azsha Ray, Jennifer Barbour and Jillian Gordon are the three other departing seniors.
Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville co-op lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Southington/Hall in the Division III semifinals last Thursday.
Despite the defeat the Eagles had a year to remember, winning 17 regular season games and a pair of tournament games. Head coach Dennis Tulimieri was named the Division III coach of the year and several seniors had standout season.
Goalie Stephen Vaughan protected the net all season, registering seven shutouts. Zac Forrest led the team with 40 points, including a team-high 28 assist, and Paul Wheatley led the team with 26 goals. Tyler Piecewicz added 10 goals and 23 assists, and Paul Ciarcia tallied 22 points. The five will be graduating, along with Phillip Rudak , Timothy Laurito, Ryan Nicola and Sean Fuller.
Xavier’s Patrick Moynihan (132-lbs) and Ryan Devivo (160-lbs) won state titles during the Class LL finals at Trumbull High School. Ronan Marino (106-lbs), James Lunt (120-lbs) and Jake Holland (145-lbs) each took home third place in their respective weight classes. As a team, the Falcons finished as the runner-up at the finals, behind state champion Danbury.
Middletown placed seventh in the Class L finals, thanks to four top-five individual finishes. Tom Gatti was the runner-up in the 152-lbs class, losing in the finals to Pomperaug’s Mathew Pangle. Noah Sylvester (120-lbs) had a fourth-place showing and Maxwell Cyr placed fifth in the 285-pound class.
Wethersfield also had a pair of top-five showing in Class L. Michelangelo Bolorin (138-lbs) placed third at and Austin Harnish (195-lbs) placed fifth.
Newington’s Tyler Savluk took home fifth in the 126-pound class at the same meet.
In Class S, Rocky Hill had a duo finish in the top-five. Damon Lonero (182-lbs) placed fourth and Brandon Pastula (160-lbs) placed fifth.
Arben Zoto of Wethersfield won a state title in the high jump the Class L finals and finished in fifth at the open finals. Senior classmate Stevenson Paul placed third in the long jump at the class finals and fourth at the open championships.
Cromwell’s Cara Jordan had a terrific finish to her sophomore season indoors, placing second in the 600 meters at both the Class M finals and at the Open Championships. Jordan was edged by Bloomfield’s Jullian Mars at the class finals, but beat her during the open finals less than a week later. She was also part of the Panthers’ 1600 sprint medley, teaming with Melissa Woodcock, Hannah Fox and McKenzie Keane for a fourth-place effort at the class finals.
Rocky Hill’s relay team of Zykeya Ford, Victoria Bower, Nicole Zarrilli and Lilah Devine finished as the runner-up in the 1600 Sprint Medley at the Class M finals.
Zarrilli and Divine also joined Annie White and Talia Carlone for a fifth place finish in the 4x400 at the meet. The four had previously broken a school record in the 4x400 at the Yale Invitational earlier this season. The future is bright for the relay group, as White and Divine are sophomores and Carlone and Zarrilli are freshmen.
On the boys’ side, the Terriers 4x200 team of Joe Catania, Jacob Weber, Kristopher Begen and James Chasco-Dimauro had a third-place showing. The foursome also took home fourth place in the 4x400.
Wethersfield continues to be consistent in the pool, finishing tied for sixth overall at the Class M finals. Junior Blake Fulton had a pair of top-ten finishes (eighth in 100 freestyle and ninth in 200 freestyle) and was part of the 200 freestyle relay that finished fourth and the 400 freestyle that finished seventh. Fulton was joined by Caleb Skowronek, Austin Bovino and Holden Hoon for the 200 and Bovino, Hoon, and Shane Bresnahan in the 400. Skowronek has his own ninth place effort in the 100 Breaststroke and Bovino finished 10th in the 100 Butterfly.
Middletown finished in seventh overall during the Class L finals. Jacob Forrester placed sixth in the 100 Backstroke and was part of a pair of relay teams that had top-ten finishes. The senior teamed with Jayson DeFrance, Matthew Joy and Timothy Joy for a fifth-place showing in the 200 medley and joined the two Joys and Dylan Drescher for a seventh-place finish in the 400 freestyle.
The Blue Dragons also had a duo of divers that had strong showings. Sophomore Tyler Wenzel placed eighth and senior Tahj Mitchell-Westberry placed ninth.
Newington senior Michael Allo finished 10th in the 200 Individual Medley and joined forces with Sean Abrams, Maksym Ugrak and Robert Nagy for a ninth-place finish in the 200 medley.
Rocky Hill finished 11th overall as a team at the Class S finals. Senior Mack Sullivan placed fifth in both the 200 Individual Medley and the 100 Breaststroke. Junior teammate Brian Speers finished seventh in the 500 Freestyle and 11th in the 200 IM. The duo also teamed up with Joseph Hamann and Adam Chao for a top-ten finish in the 200 Freestyle Relay.
Abigail Sullivan of Wethersfield competed at the Open Championships in New Milford on March 4. The junior scored an 8.15 in the Floor Exercise, following the 8.45 she scored during the Class M finals. Nicole Arcari, Erin Nargi, Sarah Gordon, Jessica Platt and Kelly Scales joined Sullivan at the class finals, helping the Eagles finished seventh overall.
(Rocky Hill's 1600 sprint medley: Left to right, Zykeya Ford, Victoria Bower, Nicole Zarrilli, Lilah Devine & 4x400 relay: Talia Carlone, Lilah Devine, Nicole Zarrilli, Annie White)
They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. For the Middletown boys’ basketball team, it was the other way around in the opening-round of the Class L tourney.
Playing in front of a packed house at MHS, the Blue Dragons scored the game’s first 18 points and outscored the visiting Maloney Spartans 25-4 in the first quarter, before coasting to a 99-62 victory.
Senior captains Tyshaun James and Ahmod Privott established their dominance early and often, leaving little doubt to who was the better team last Tuesday night.
James drained a three-pointer on the opening possession and Privott scored 14 on his game-high 30 points in the opening eight minutes of action.
The do-it-all Privott added 15 rebounds, six assists, and a pair of blocks.
The duo is leading a group that is looking to finish what they started a season ago when the team advanced all the way to the Class L championship game, but fell to East Catholic 62-51 in the title game at Mohegan Sun Arena last March.
James and Privott were starters as juniors during the 2016 tourney-run and are now two of four seniors that start this season.
CJ Sprowl (16 points) and Aveon Woods are the other two.
After the Spartans had narrowed the margin to 10 points at halftime, Woods helped put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Middletown again started the half with a flurry, scoring the first eight points of the second half and besting Maloney 30-12 in the third.
Woods tallied all eight of his points during the quarter, including a pair of threes.
DeAaron Lawrence is the only non-senior starter and the junior guard provided the night’s most dazzling moment when he canned a running three from just inside midcourt to beat the third-quarter buzzer, sending the Blue Dragon faithful into hysterics.
The Curry-esque trey was one of four threes on the night for Lawrence, who finished with 16 points.
Leading 70-42 entering the fourth, Middletown coach Rick Privott let his bench do most of the heavy lifting for the final eight minutes.
Junior center Kalil Thomas dominated the middle, scoring all eight of his points in the final frame and fan favorite Brennen Maxfield scored six of his eight on a pair of long-range triples, helping the Blue Dragons put the finishing touches on the 37-point win.
Alejandro Ortiz led the Spartans with 19 points and Jeff Massicotte added 14 more.
The lopsided victory was Middletown’s third triumph over Maloney this season, also winning 61-50 at home on Jan 12 and 75-58 in Meriden on Feb 17.
The 99 points was also a season-high, topping their 97-point effort in a victory over Platt on Feb 1.
Middletown’s second-round tilt was rescheduled to Saturday due to last Friday’s snowstorm, but the delay didn’t hurt. Privott followed his terrific first-round performance with an 18-point, 11-rebound night as the Blue Dragons grinded out a 55-51 victory over New London, advancing the team to the quarterfinals.
Newington was also victorious in the first round of Class L, downing North Haven 55-44.
Jared Simmons scored his season-average, pumping home 22 points, and Matt McKinnon added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The Indians were not so fortunate in the second round, losing on the road at Wilton 64-57. Simmons scored 22 more and McKinnon added a dozen points and snared 17 rebounds in defeat.
It was the final game in a Newington uniform for Simmons and McKinnon, who depart with five other seniors.
Rocky Hill won their opening-round Class M tourney game, outlasting Windham 74-67.
Alex Sikorski was his usual self, scoring 30 points and also adding a chase down block which caromed into the stands. The enormous rejection was the talk of the town all week.
Will White added 18 points in the victory.
The Terriers fell in round two, losing to Holy Cross 88-46.
The loss to Cross was the final game for Sikorski and four other seniors (Dan Tonna, JD Monaco, Peter Lucente and Rio Valentine.)
White, Ryan Robinson and Riley Donovan will lead a talent group returning to the court next winter.
Cromwell also won in the first-round of Class M, upsetting Windham Tech 71-61 on the road.
Noah Budzik and Austin Roy each tallied 15, leading a balanced scoring attack. David Dewey added 14 points and seven assists, and sophomore Nick Wright contributed 11 more points.
The Panthers fell to #2-seed Plainville 63-46 in the second-round. Reese Reyes scored 24 in defeat.
Budzik, Roy, Dewey, Wright and Reyes will all be back next season, but the loss was the final game for seniors Sean Melaven, Luke Matchett and William Moore.
Wethersfield fell to Northwest Catholic 65-48 in the first round of Class L. The Eagles will lose six seniors, but will have their top two scorers in Mike Mozzicato and James Sullivan, along with point guard Nicholas Arcata, returning next season.
Ice Hockey Roundup
The Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville co-op team finished 17-3 in the regular season and then skated through the first two rounds of the Division III tournament.
The Eagles shutout Eastern CT 6-0 in the first round, thanks to three goals from Paul Wheatley. Tyler Piecewicz, Phillip Rudak, Ben Mroczka score the other trio of goals.
Zac Forrest dished out four assists and goalie Stephen Vaughan was clean in between the pipes, savings five shots.
Vaughan sent back 22 more shots and Wheatley added two more goals, upping his season total to 26, in a 3-1 quarterfinals victory over the Redhawks. The win advanced the Eagles to the semifinals.
Newington’s co-op team won only three regular season games, but still qualified for the tourney. The Indians lost a heartbreaker in the opening round, falling to Hall/Southington 4-3 in overtime.
Playing in his last game, senior Alex Borselle scored this twelfth goal of the season. Junior Mark Sweitzer and sophomore Matt Lavoie tallied the other two goals in the tourney loss. Lavoie finished with a team-high 16 assists this season.
Lavoie, Cade Palladino and goalie Adam Belair will head a strong unit returning to the ice next winter.
The state tournaments in girls’ basketball tipped off last week, offering the local teams a chance to compete for a trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena later this month.
Middletown, who entered the Class LL tourney as the #4-seed, rode their high-octane offense and cruised to a first round 85-52 victory over Manchester at MHS last Tuesday night.
Blue Dragon’s leading scorer and rebounder Brielle Wilborn scored 19 points, hauled down 15 rebounds, and blocked seven shots before resting the final quarter of the game.
The 6’3” senior was instrumental on both ends of the court during a mammoth 47-3 scoring run between the second and third quarter.
“I feel we’re more of a second half team. Sometimes we come out in the first half and we’re a little shy, but once it’s the second half we’re ready to go,” Wilborn said, “It’s just about making our shots and playing hard.”
The visiting Indians traveled to Middletown as heavy underdogs, but went toe-to-toe with the Blue Dragons for the ten minutes and trailed only 27-23 early in the second quarter.
Wilborn and junior point guard Amanda Fudge took charge from that point on, helping the Blue Dragon’s score the final 19 points of the half.
“We always start off slow and that’s something that we’ve been working on in practice. We’ve been working on coming out with intensity from that start,” said Fudge, who ended the night with a dozen points, including the final seven of the first half.
Fudge and her backcourt mates continued to thrive in the third quarter, leaking out for easy transition buckets following blocks and rebounds from Wilborn on the defensive end.
“It’s always something that we work on,” Fudge said about the hurried pace, “It’s about speed and height and we have both, so we try and use it to our advantage.”
“It wasn’t really a strategy. We were seeing what worked throughout the game and where our strong points were,” added Wilborn, who put up her season averages despite Manchester attempting to front her defensively and often sending double teams at her, “If they’re fronting me, I’ll post up behind them and I make sure they’re above the box so I have a better chance at making my shot. Or I’ll just move around to get them tired and once they get tired I post up in front of them.”
Dominque Highsmith scored 17 points, including 13 in the pivotal second and third quarters, and added 11 rebounds.
Jennifer Barbour added 15, with 11 coming in the third quarter, and junior Silvana Barcomb contributed 16 points off the bench.
The 24-minute offensive onslaught provided the Blue Dragons a commanding 79-36 after three quarters and head coach Rob Smernoff decided to rest his starters for the final eight minutes.
The blowout victory was a welcomed site for Smernoff and his Blue Dragons, who entered the tournament following a 71-43 loss to Enfield in the CCC finals.
They were unable to capture a conference title, but the team won 18 of 20 regular season games and they were only one of four teams in Class LL with two or fewer losses.
A season ago they finished 12-8 in the regular season and were knocked out in the first round of the tourney. Wilborn and Fudge were major contributors during last season’s run, but they have both have taken their games to a new level this season.
Wilborn has seen Fudge take a big leap from her sophomore season until now, “She’s gotten better with her play in general and she’s a team player, so it helps us out a lot.”
Fudge is prospering as the team’s emotional leader and stated that she feels more comfortable on the court this season, “I know my job is to help get my teammates open and create opportunities. Knowing that I can rely on them makes it much easier for me.”
The duo agrees that the team needs to keep doing the little things, like boxing out, communicating, and rotating on defense to stay alive in the tourney.
Those little things came up big in the second round of the tourney, when Middletown survived with a 69-58 overtime-victory over Newtown on Friday.
Wilborn scored 23 points and the team outscored the visiting Nighthawks 13-2 in the extra session, after blowing a six-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Their next challenge is a home date against Mercy (19-3) this Thurs, Mar 9. MHS should be a packed house for the quarterfinals clash, which tips at 6:30 p.m.
(Dominique Highsmith scored 17 points and hauled down 11 rebounds in Middletown's victory)
The defending Class M champion Cromwell Panthers defeated Granby 49-32 in the first round, but we upset by Bacon Academy 47-44 in the second round, ending their title defense.
Geanna Williams scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the opening-round victory. Theresa Quinn added 15 points and five steals, leading a suffocating defense which limiting the visiting Bears to a meager three points in the second quarter.
Williams and Quinn, along with versatile guard Nikki Bitinaitis and solid frontcourt contributor Ashley DellaRatta, will be four graduating seniors not returning to the court for Cromwell next season.
Like Cromwell, Rocky Hill won their Class M first-round game, upsetting Kaynor Tech 59-47 on the road. Nikki Lukens pumped in 22 points and Grace Fisher and Aleksa Peterson each added ten.
The young Terriers also fell in the second round, losing to #2-seeded Career 48-38. In defeat, Lukens had a terrific all-round game with 11 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Rocky Hill played the entire season without a senior, meaning they will return their entire roster next season.
Wethersfield and Newington each suffered losses in the opening-round of the Class LL tourney. The Eagles fell to Newtown 44-38 and the Indians were ousted by E.O. Smith 62-32.
Wethersfield will have eight seniors graduate, but will have their top two scorers in Nicole Gwynn and Cheyenne Mone-Smith returning to the court next winter.
Newington will lose leading scorer Abrial Murray and Ariel Keen, but will have a talented, young nucleus coming back.
(Newington's Jared Simmons scored a game-high17 points in the win at Wethersfield)
The boys’ basketball team at Newington muddled through a tough early-season schedule, losing four of five games prior to the end of December.
So far 2017 has been a different story.
The Indians closed the regular season on a high note, winning 13 of their final 15 games, including a 57-41 victory at rival Wethersfield last Tuesday night.
“That’s a good Wethersfield team that we beat. To beat them and end the season 14-6, I’m very proud of our team,” said Newington head coach Scot Wenzel, who added that his veteran players were the catalyst behind the turnaround this season, “I give a lot of credit to our seniors for grinding it out. In the beginning it was tough, but they were able to turn things around with their leadership and by keeping everyone focused on what we needed to accomplish. Things started to click for us.”
One of those seniors is Jared Simmons, who is the team’s leading scorer and has assumed a bulk of the leadership responsibility.
Simmons opened the game at Wethersfield by knocking down a three-pointer on the team’s first possession and the team never looked back.
The all-state guard also canned a triple to open the second quarter and finished with a game-high 17 points.
“My brother preaches to me that I need to start coming into games more aggressively as we get later in the season, because the games are going to get tougher. If I play lackadaisical coming out, it’s going to be a long game,” said Simmons, who feels that the early-season troubles helped motivate the team, “Losing those games early on gave us that fire to do better at practice, do better in games and get the confidence going into the conference and state tournaments.”
Newington led wire-to-wire, but the Eagles battled valiantly on their home court in the first quarter, narrowing the gap to 11-10 on a short turnaround from Mike Mozzicato, who led the Eagles with 15 points.
James Sullivan scored ten points and Connor Peterson added nine more for Wethersfield.
The one-point margin was as close as the home team would get.
The Indians scored the next seven points, five by Simmons, and put the game on ice in the third quarter, holding the Eagles to a mere seven points in the frame.
“I thought that we did a very good job of attacking them, especially Jared. He can do so many different things for us, but I think that’s his strongest attribute,” stated Wenzel.
It was the second time Newington defeated their conference and crosstown foes this season, also winning 64-47 at NHS back on Jan 20.
The win Tuesday night was Newington’s fourth straight over the Eagles, who finished the regular season 12-8.
“It’s a good feeling,” Simmons said about beating Wethersfield, “Knowing how big the rivalry is and how long it goes back makes it a good feeling.”
Simmons, who is averaging 22 points per game, was also the leading man a season ago when the team finished the regular season 20-0 and breezed through the first three rounds of the Class L tourney before losing an overtime-heartbreaker in the semifinal round to Middletown.
Following the season, the team graduated six players and watched as productive junior Nick Guadaramma transfer out of state, leaving Simmons without a proven wingman.
Despite the departures, the team has banded together and had several players fill the vacancies, including talented middleman Matt McKinnon.
McKinnon scored 10 points and hauled down 10 rebounds in the win Tuesday night. The senior has been an automatic double-double and has garnered the respect of his coaches, teammates, and his opponents.
“He’s worked his butt off. He lifted a lot of weights in the offseason and physically he’s gotten a lot stronger. I think the biggest change is his confidence, he wants the ball and he’s able to do a lot of things down low for us,” Wenzel said of McKinnon, “He does a lot of stuff that people don’t see. He’s averaged a double-double and he does a lot of the dirty work for us.”
Simmons added that he had a conversation with McKinnon following last season to discuss his expanded role. McKinnon not only filled the role, but he has flourished with the heavier workload.
“He had a great offseason and he’s a great kid,” said Simmons, “He works hard and moving on he knows that if we want to go far he’s going to have to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Simmons and McKinnon have formed a terrific one-two punch, but a handful of role players have found their niche as the season has progressed.
Junior James Holley has been clutch during the second half of the season and pitched in with 10 points off the bench in the win over Wethersfield, including a pair of three-pointers.
Andres Ithier-Vincente has been a great facilitator on the offensive end and Timmy Rivera and Nate Alleyne have helped McKinnon down low.
“Obviously Jared and McKinnon have been very solid for us all season, but now the other guys have been stepping up in the second half of the season,” added the veteran coach.
The key to the team’s success is a stout, disciplined defense and an unselfish attitude offensively. Four or five players touched the ball on many of their possessions Tuesday night.
“That’s how we want to attack them, but we want that unselfishness every game. We want to make sure we move the ball and make that extra pass so we can get the best shot possible,” added Wenzel, “You saw that all night tonight. I’m very proud of how we played tonight.”
The victory allowed Newington to host an opening-round game to start the CCC tournament last Thursday. The Indians fell to Windsor 82-68, despite 25 points from McKinnon.
Wethersfield traveled to East Hartford to open the tourney, losing 85-79.
The team’s now turn their attention to Connecticut’s version of March Madness.
Newington’s coach and floor general agree that the key to success in the state tourney will come down to the team’s ability to play mistake free.
“I’d like to see us eliminate some of these turnovers,” stated Wenzel, “It limits your touches and it limits your opportunities to put points on the board. We have to do a better job at that, especially at the end of quarters and at the end of halves.”
“The past couple of games we’ve had dumb turnovers that are giving teams run and making games closer than they should be,” added Simmons.
Both Newington and Wethersfield will be back in action on Tuesday, March 7 when the opening-round of the Class L tourney tips.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin