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.”
In a game that spanned nearly two days, Newington hockey co-op defeated Wethersfield 3-2 in the fifth overtime on a goal from Sam Davies, ending an epic CCC-South semifinals contest.
Just short of midnight last Tuesday night, Davies scored to break a 2-2 deadlock that lasted over 45 game minutes. The marathon game featured tremendous goaltending from Manchester’s Andrew Fogarty and Wethersfield’s Matthew Ruck, who both went the entire way.
Kilian Ranger and Evan Howard added goals for Newington, while Chase Millen and William McCarter found the back of the net for Wethersfield.
The loss ended season for the Eagles, who battled through a Covid-related delay from late-February until mid-March, finishing 8-1-1 in the regular season. It was the final game for five seniors: Millen, Spencer Bartone, Michael Schneider, Kevin Avery, and Aaron Cholewa.
Newington co-op advanced to the conference championship game, defeating Tri-Town 5-0 to win the CCC South Conference title in commanding fashion. Ranger and Sam Hedlund each has two goals and two assists, while Fogarty stopped all 11 shots he faced as the Indians capture the conference crown.
Cromwell boys’ basketball needed a herculean defensive effort in the fourth quarter to eliminate Haddam-Killingworth 54-46 in the quarterfinals of the Shoreline Conference tournament last Tuesday night at CHS.
“That’s a very good HK team. This was a good win. Our defense was the difference, we took over in the fourth quarter” said head coach John Pinone, whose team held the visiting Cougars to nine fourth-quarter points, “I give credit to our kids, we defended the hell out of them and they made some great shots. It was a total team effort, but our defense got it done.”
It was a far different contest than the season opener when the Panthers easily defeated the conference rivals, 62-39, on Feb 10.
The 46 points in the tourney game and the 39 points in the regular season contest were the lowest scoring outputs all season for Haddam-Killingworth.
Tuesday’s quarterfinal game featured seven lead changes and five ties in the first half as Cromwell’s senior center James Grodzicki and HK’s sophomore guard Mason Gorham traded buckets, each scoring 10 points in the second quarter.
Grodzicki finished with a game-high 19 points and Gorman led the Cougars with 17.
Trailing 26-25 at the break, Cromwell began the third quarter on an 8-2 run, which was countered by a personal 6-point run by HK’s Tate Callender.
Senior guard Connor Daly converted a contested left-handed layup in the closing second of the third, giving Cromwell a 39-37 lead headed to the final eight minutes.
Daly, who scored all seven of his points in the second half, continued to dictate the game in the fourth by blocking a shot to force a jump ball and registering steals on consecutive possessions as Cromwell went on a 7-point surge to take a lead they would not relinquish.
“We know we’re in better shape than most teams in this league because we practice really hard. We knew eventually we’d get a few stops and have a few balls bounce our way,” said Daly, “We just had to Keep pushing, keep playing hard, and we found a way to pull it out.”
Mike Morgan highlighted the fourth quarter push, scoring seven of his nine points in the final frame. The senior guard sliced and diced the Cougars defense, driving at will and getting to the foul line.
Down the stretch, Cromwell made only 7 of 13 free throws but hustle and determination from senior Zykarie Wilborn helped close out the game.
Wilborn made back-to-back offensive rebounds following missed free throws, allowing Cromwell to bleed precious moments off the clock late in regulation.
Pinone’s seniors accounted for 96% (52 of 54) of the team’s scoring in the tourney win.
“They’ve been playing together a long time, there’s always someone there each night. Justin [Valentin] made some shots, Connor had a great stretch, and then Zykarie made those rebounds,” recalled Pinone, “We’ve been in a lot of tough games where we were on the other side, but tonight we gutted it out and our defense was good. We were able to finish tonight and I was happy about that.”
Valentin’s shooting aided Cromwell in the first half, canning three shots from beyond the arc, including one in the closing moments of the second quarter to narrow a once six-point deficit to a single digit at the break.
“You can’t replace senior leadership when you have it out there. You can only get that by being out there playing,” Pinone said of his senior class, which also features Mett Pepe and Malcolm Mention, “I’m very happy for them because they’ve worked extremely hard under difficult circumstances.”
It was win #9 for Pinone and his boys, who won 7 of their last 8 regular season games following a 1-2 start.
Two nights later, Cromwell’s season came to an end in the semifinals, losing in overtime to Valley Regional.
It wasn’t the ideal ending for the seven seniors, however they left everything they had on the court during an uncertain season.
“We never know if it’s going to be our last game,” Daily said after the semifinal victory, “We play like it’s our last every single game and we were just excited to have a season. We’ve tried to give everything we have when we have the opportunity.”
Wethersfield's Vanessa Venditti inbounds as Rocky Hill's Kate Oostendorp defends.
Late in the third quarter, Wethersfield’s Vanessa Venditti had just missed a pair of free throws and Rocky Hill had reduced a once double-digit lead to four points.
Venditti, a sophomore who head coach Jeff Russell praised for her swag, was undeterred and took over by draining three straight three pointers over a three-minute span as the Eagles held off the visiting Terriers 36-27 last Tuesday night at WHS.
“She’s got genuine confidence. It’s helpful that she does have confidence, because in high school sports if you have a kid that can go get a bucket you’re in games,” added Russell, “She’s been that person for us so far this year. She’s got the ability to get hot quick.”
Wethersfield led from start to finish, charging out to a 11-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Alexa Grenier dominated the paint early, scoring 7 of her game-high 13 points in the first quarter.
Grenier, a junior, missed the start of the season but has since been a steady force.
Russell said that Grenier always had the ability and now she has the confidence to go along with it, “She’s had a couple spurts this year where she has taken over defensively and offensively. She had a couple of threes tonight, she made some inside plays, and she’s a terrific passer.”
Following a disappointing start, Rocky Hill slowly clawed back into the game behind an exceptional defensive effort. After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Terriers limited the Eagles to 12 (all from beyond the arc) over the final 16 minutes.
Head coach James McKinnon praised his team for the defensive turnaround when addressing them following the loss, “I think we need to believe that we can be in games against these top schools. It takes us four or five minutes to catch on that we are just as good as these schools, and I think defensively we we’re right there.”
After holding the Eagles scoreless for the first four minutes of the third, Peggy Minga’s three-pointer narrowed the deficit to 24-20.
On the following possession, Venditti nailed a three from the right wing.
Rocky Hill senior Jennifer Kimball countered by banking in a three-pointer from straight away before Grenier canned a clutch shot from downtown in the closing seconds of the third, providing the home team a 30-24 advantage.
Venditti hit two more triples early in the fourth and the Terriers offense stalled, scoring only three in the final frame.
“I’ve got to give Venditti credit, she can shoot from anywhere and she really stepped up for them,” added McKinnon, “We need to get better offensively, like finishing around the basket. We’re not there yet and we can’t afford to miss these shots in the paint. We make a few more of those it’s a different game down the stretch but give Wethersfield credit they made the shots when they needed to.”
Minga had a team-high nine points and grabbed six rebounds, while Jillian Chipkin added seven points and a ripped down a dozen rebounds.
Minga has worked her way back from an injury to add much-needed firepower for the Terriers lineup.
“It’s great to have Peggy back. She’s a hard worker with so much perseverance after 13 months of rehab with torn ACL and meniscus. For her to come back was emotional for her and her family and I’m so glad that she’s able to finish out her senior year playing.”
Following the Wethersfield loss, the Terriers closed the regular season with a home win over Maloney and a loss to Newington, wrapping up a 2-5 regular season.
Due to a Covid-related delayed start, Rocky Hill was forced to play all seven games over a 10-day span.
Hannah Conneely had a team-high 10 points in each of the final two home game, adding seven steals in the win over Maloney.
Chipkin added 12 more rebounds against Maloney, finishing the regular season with double-digit boards in six of seven games.
Wethersfield followed with a convincing win over Bulkeley/SMSA, closing the regular season at 9-3.
It was the team’s ninth win in ten games, following an 0-2 start.
Russell credited the turnaround with a deep bench that rounded into shape.
“Some kids have developed into those integral roles. Our kids have more clearly defined roles, which allows you to play and practice better because you’re repeating the things in practice that you need to do in a game. Also, our intensity picked up and we still struggle to score a bit but our defense and our rebounding is better. We’ve only been outrebounded in one game this year,” stated Russell, who commended the team for rolling with the punches during an unconventional season, “It’s a very energetic group. Good or bad, even if we miss free throws or something doesn’t go right, things roll off their backs. It’s nice to have kids that are always ready for the next play. They’re easily coached.”
#23 Lilly Ferguson blocks a shot as #3 Karissa Zocco and #20 Brianna Gadarowski look on during Newington's 63-14 win last Tuesday
Newington girls’ basketball wrapped up an undefeated regular season with a 53-26 win over Rocky Hill last Friday night, improving the team to 12-0.
Going undefeated was cause for celebration but it was win #11 that was special for another reason.
During a 63-14 victory over Bulkeley/SMSA last Tuesday, the Indians had every uniformed player score during the team’s last regular season home game.
“We had everyone score on our bench and that’s the kind of things we like to see,” said head coach Marc Tancredi, “The great thing about it is that our starters aren’t worried they didn’t get into double figures, they’re happy that every got to score.”
All 15 players scored at least two points, which is a rare feat to say the least.
Ella DePase (10), Karissa Zocco (9), Madison Romanello (8), Brianna Gadarowski (6), Lilly Ferguson (4), Alexie Armour (4), Marlie Zocco (4), Maia Ericson (4), Kayleigh Sanchez (2), Maya Johnson (2), Arianna Barnes (2), Emma Vumback (2), Ella Stair (2), Reese Salder (2), Lia Pouliot (2) each broke into the scoring column.
Tancredi started all four of his seniors (Armour, Romanello, Ericson, Sanchez) in the home finale and said each offer something unique, on and off the court, “They’ve been incredible. Early on we named them as our captains and they’ve really been true leaders for us by leading by example and showing our younger group how to prepare. They’ve done a great job.”
From the opening tip it was a mismatch as Newington took a commanding 32-2 midway through the second quarter, before taking the foot off the gas and turning it over to the bench.
DePase, a sophomore, scored all of her game-high 10 points in the third quarter.
“We talk about it as a staff that we have to look forward and we’re trying to get girls in to get them confidence, so when they step out with a bigger role on the varsity floor, they’ll be confident and make an impact.”
Ball movement has been the name of the game since Tancredi took the program in 2019. This season the team has emphasized this by sharing the ball more than ever, registering double-digit assists in 11 of 12 games this season.
Ferguson, a transfer from East Catholic and the team’s leading scorer, has fit right in with her willingness to distribute.
“She’s super unselfish and she’s very versatile. She tries to get others involved and it’s great to have her with us,” Tancredi said of Ferguson, “She’s transitioned here seamlessly. She’s a great kid and that’s part of the reason why she’s been so successful here.”
The seniors and Ferguson, along with the Zocco sisters, have a noticeable rapport on the court.
The Zocco twins came off the bench and made an immediate impact at the midway point of the first quarter when Karissa stole a pass and immediately fired a 60-foot cross-court pass to Marlie for a fast break layup.
“The players trust in one another and they know each other’s abilities. We’re not just keying on one player getting a certain number of shots a game. If someone is going to take away one of our threats, we’ll just go somewhere else and we’ll have confidence in that. We have prolific scorers, but we have really good compliment players as well.”
Newington closed out the regular season with the 27-point win at Rocky Hill, assuring a perfect regular season.
Ferguson had her usual stellar all-around performance (13-points, 7-rebounds, 5-steals), and [Karissa] Zocco added 12 points and five steals.
Hannah Conneely is defended by Berlin's Clare McGeever during Rocky Hill's season opener last Tuesday
James McKinnon patiently waited to make his Rocky Hill girls’ basketball head coaching debut, guiding his team through multiple COVID-related delays, before the Terriers finally tipped off last Tuesday night at RHHS.
McKinnon’s team fell to Berlin, 34-28, but showed the promise of a program on the rise.
“This was the first game these girls have played in 13 months and we just finished our third restart,” said McKinnon, who replaces seven-year head coach Allyson Smith, “It was a tremendous effort, I told the girls we have absolutely nothing to hang our heads about. I am so happy with their effort.”
Rocky Hill put forth a defensive masterpiece in the first quarter, holding the Redcoats scoreless for the first three minutes and limiting the visitor to three points in the quarter.
The Terriers attacking defense and emphasis on rebounding continued throughout the first half, holding a 15-12 advantage at the break.
Freshman Olivia Bozzi closed the first half with bang, scoring her first high school points on 17-foot bank shot to beat the buzzer.
“We focused on defense the last three practices more than I ever have,” stated McKinnon, who previously coached at Portland High, “We watched the Berlin telecast about seven times and their best offense is their offensive rebounding, so we worked on weakside rebounding for a lot of minutes in practice.”
Senior Jillian Chipkin dominated the inside and every time a Berlin shot went up all five Terrier players boxed out the nearest Redcoat.
Chipkin finished the night with 11 rebounds to go along with six points, three assists, and two steals.
McKinnon praised Chipkin, “Jill is our most vocal leader, she’s an extension of the coaches. I absolutely love that kid. She works her tail off in practice and always cheers everyone else on. Her parents raised her the right way.”
Rocky Hill’s offense started to click in the third, reeling off seven straight points, which culminated with a baseline jumper from Chipkin after every offensive player had touched the ball on the possession.
Berlin seized momentum and regained the lead in the waning seconds of the third on a straight away three-pointer from Carly Grega, making it 23-22.
It was the Redcoats first lead since it was 3-2 at the 4:57 mark of the first quarter.
Grega’s three was part of an 11-0 run, which bled into the early stages of the fourth.
Alivia Halikas scored four of her game-high nine points over the final eight minutes as Berlin lead the rest of the way.
“Give them credit, they did a great job. I thought they had some nice finishes on the break, and they got us in the fourth quarter,” said McKinnon, “We’ll build up our legs but hats off to Berlin, they played great.”
Tuesday night’s game ended a turbulent couple of months that featured bouts of quarantine and several starts and stops. By the time Rocky Hill was finally cleared to play, most other winter sports team in the state had played a handful or more of games, including Berlin who came in with a record of 4-3.
All told, the Terriers waited 49 days from the time winter teams were permitted to start practicing on January 19 until they played an opponent.
McKinnon was forced to conduct more than a dozen virtual practices as he juggled players in and out of quarantine protocol, including his do-it-all point guard Hannah Conneely,
“As crazy as this sounds, last week I saw Hannah for the first time since January 25th. I went 38 days without seeing her due to all the quarantines,” recalled McKinnon, “She’s a gem. I call her Steve Nash in practice just the way she dribbled and makes plays around the paint.”
Conneely scored six points and dished out three assists, also excelling on the defensive end by keeping Berlin’s guards out of the paint, displaying the same toughness on the basketball court that she does on the soccer fields in the fall.
Because of continued protocols, the Terriers were without their full compliment of players, including senior Peggy Minga who will play a major role this season.
Sophomore’s Alyssa Gau and Kate Oostendorp started and played well in the opener. Gau scored five points and Oostendorp shined defensively, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots.
No matter what the obstacle, McKinnon’s positive approach is evidenced in the player’s effort on the court, “We practice hard, we get ready. Our practices are competitive, they’re fast, they’re upbeat, they’re a full two hours, and we go hard every day. There’s no covid excuse or quarantine excuse. We are ready to play.”
The opener marked a homecoming for McKinnon, who is a 1998 graduate from RHHS and coached the Rocky Hill boys’ basketball program from 2006-2009.
Following his tenure as the girls’ basketball coach in Portland, the Rocky Hill native is glad to be back in familiar surroundings.
“Portland was a wonderful place for me to coach. I had four great years there, we were in the playoffs every single year and we had great kids who I still keep in touch with, but it was the right move for me at the right time,” stated McKinnon, who teaches math at Griswold Middle School, “I’ve had all these kids in class, so it’s a smooth transition. I can joke with them a little bit different. They know me already so I can bring up stuff that we’ve laughed about in the past in practice to lighten the mood. I’ve got great kids that work hard, and I look forward to being here for a long time.”
McKinnon and the team picked up win #1 last Thursday, downing Bulkeley/SMSA 54-26, before falling to Platt to closed last week.
James Grodzicki- Cromwell (Basketball): Grodzicki scored 19 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds as Cromwell handily defeated Old Lyme last Thursday. The senior center has been a steady force for a Panthers team that has won six of their last seven games entering the week.
Lilly Ferguson- Newington (Basketball): Ferguson continues to be an all-around dynamo, filling up the stat sheets on a weekly basis. The junior point-forward scored 31 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had six assists in a 59-49 win over Middletown last Wednesday and then followed it up with a 17-point, 11-rebound, four-steal performance in a come-from-behind win over Wethersfield last Friday, helping Newington stay undefeated (10-0).
Quinton Zakarian- Middletown (Swim & Dive): Zakarian filled a much-needed diving slot as Middletown celebrated a win on Senior Night. The sophomore learned six dives in two days, helping the Blue Dragons chalk up a victory over rival Avon. Head coach Trevor Charles praised Zakarian for his flexibility, saying “Kid showed some true character last week!”
Matthew Mitchell- Rocky Hill (Swim & Dive): Mitchell is the Terriers top diver and currently holds the school record in six dives, which he broke twice last year. The junior placed 3rd at the CCC diving championships a season ago and he also swims for the team when needed, performing well. Outside of the pool, Michell is an honor roll student and is also an accomplished vocalist, who completes at Northern Regionals.
Declan Hallinan- Wethersfield (Swim & Dive): Hallinan swam a lifetime best in the 100 Fly, breaking the minute barrier with a time of 59.58 to finish second in a meet against Conard last week. The senior is helping pace an Eagles team that is competing hard and surviving on depth this winter.
Middletown's Matthew Steuerwald is defended by Newington's Josiah Ross during the Blue Dragons 58-53 victory at NHS last Tuesday.
Middletown boys’ basketball built a big lead before needing a pair of offensive rebounds late to hold off Newington, winning 58-53 at NHS last Tuesday night.
Junior Elijah Wilborn scored eight quick point as the Blue Dragons jumped out 10-0 just three minutes into the game.
Wilborn’s stellar night was just beginning, as the 6’7” center finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 blocks. He also delivered a highlight reel assist in the second quarter when he grabbed a defensive rebound before one-handing a perfect 60-foot bounce pass to Mekhi Toler for a transition layup.
“We’re always looking for him, how could you not,” Middletown coach Rick Privott said of his uber-talented big man, “We basically want to take what the defense is giving. If they’re giving us the inside, we’re going to get it into him and if our three-point shot is on we are very tough to guard.”
The Blue Dragons were cruising to runaway victory, leading 36-17 at the half, before the home team slowly chipped away in the second half.
Newington scored the first eight points after the break, ignited by the energy on both ends of the court from Zion Bennett, who scored 9 of his team-high 11 points in the second half.
Gavin Gray scored 10, while Alex Cucuta and Trey Guest each added 8.
“We had to take care of the ball and we had to block out and rebound. The first half we couldn’t have done a more poor job and as coaches it reflects all of us. After three days of work we put into preparing it just didn’t show and they did a great job at attacking us. They made us pay, pay, and pay,” said Newington head coach Ed Quick, who adjusted at halftime, “We told [the players] we’re going to win the first two to four minutes. We’re going to get good shots, we’re going to attack, we’re going to sprint back and rebound. Gavin and Alex got hot, along with Zion, and I thought we started to play together.”
Quick’s team whittled the lead down to single digits midway through the fourth, using an 8-3 run highlighted by back-to-back buckets from Bennett, who made a contested layup and then hit a spinning jumper from 17 feet out.
With the under a minute to play, Gray drained a three to narrow the deficit it 57-53.
Newington fouled to preserve time and Middletown missed the ensuing and-and-one foul shot but senior Kai Cottle gobbled up an offensive rebound, which led to another intentional foul.
Middletown’s Chace Petgrave misfired on the ensuing one-and-one before grabbing his own miss and again getting fouled, this time making one of two free throws to put the game on ice.
“I never feel it’s over, ever. I always feel if you’re down it just takes one more play, one more shot, one possession,” said Quick, who liked how his team responded in the second half, “We just didn’t come up with two important rebounds and we just spent about 15 minutes talking about that.”
Petgrave, who finished with 13 points, is one of four junior starters, along with Wilborn, Toler (14), Matthew Steuerwald (6). Fellow junior Dariyon Drake came off the bench, adding 10 points.
“I’m very impressed with the younger guys. We’ve got a lot of youngsters, we have Marshall Butler who is a sophomore, and we have a good JV/freshman group. I’m pleased with them,” said Privott, whose only senior is Cottle, “I liked how the team moved the ball and played press defense in the first half.”
Privott’s team experienced the sting of last year’s cancellation when the season was cut short in the first round of the Division II tourney, prior to the Blue Dragons first round matchup against Wethersfield.
“They are just happy to be out here. You have to play with a mask on, there are new rules and everything is different, but they are playing basketball. They are working hard in practice the same way they did before the pandemic. We’re just grateful to be out here playing,” added Privott, “I like the effort. We’re pushing it, our conditioning is good, and I think the kids are playing well together. I like the chemistry, the kids are sharing the basketball and playing good solid defense.”
Middletown finished the week with a 63-29 win over Rocky Hill, upping their mark to 7-1.
Newington lost to Platt last Thursday, ending the week 4-4.
Quick, who only has two seniors, noted that he will continue to play the guys that perform the best in practice. He has a deep bench, evidence by the nine different players that scored against Middletown.
“We don’t have that superstar, but we have great guys. I wouldn’t trade them for the world and my job is to get every ounce out of them. It has been challenging because we’re inexperience, but we’re lucky to be playing. It’s competition, it’s an opportunity to represent Newington High School, the town, all the travel things we do from the youth on up. We want to show them this is what we do and that it’s important to us,” stated Quick, who aims for a strong finish, “I want to see us make every defensive position important and translate how hard we work in practice to the game. The good news tonight is the second half was much better than the first half. I was proud of that and I’m proud of these guys that they owned it and they took responsibility.”
Ashanti Frazier- Newington (College Basketball): Frazier, a 2019-NHS-graduate, helped Rhode Island College win a Little East Conference Championship last week. The Newington High phenom/college freshman scored six points, dished out a team-high four assists, and grabbed two rebounds as RIC defeated Keane State 50-38 to win the conference title, finishing with a record of 11-0.
Jacob Guarino- Middletown (Wrestling): Guarino has shined during the challenging season and head coach Wes Ruimerman stated that the sophomore has shown tremendous growth, “Jacob has been coming to practice consistently with the mindset of getting better no matter the obstacle in front of him. He volunteers his time at a non-profit organization on the weekends, as well as maintaining his school work in school and zooming during his off day.”
Andrew Fogarty- Manchester (Newington Hockey): Fogarty has stated all six games in goal for the Newington co-op team that is undefeated (5-0-1) entering the week. The senior posted a shutout in the team’s opener and has stopped 102 of the 111 shots against him this season.
Sean Sides- Rocky Hill (Hockey): Sides scored his first goal of the season last Saturday in a 3-1 loss to Woodstock. The junior will play a big role for Terriers team that has entered the second half of the season.
Vanessa Venditti- Wethersfield (Basketball): Venditti was instrumental in helping Wethersfield girls basketball win both games last week, extending the Eagles win streak to four games. The sophomore guard shot 50%, scoring 12 points and dishing out six assists (including a jaw-dropping behind the back pass for a three pointer), and added four steals and a block on the defensive end in a 40-35 win over Berlin last Tuesday.
Rocky Hill's #31 Dennis Machial is defended by Wethersfield's Jack Freitas during Wethersfield's 56-49 win last Monday.
Louie Montalvo was held scoreless for the first 31 minutes last Monday night. The confident freshman then took over the game’s final minute as Wethersfield boys basketball held off Rocky Hill’s late rally, winning 56-49 at WHS.
Clinging to a 49-47 lead in the closing minute, the home Eagles controlled the ball and were looking to drain the clock.
Methodically working the ball around the horn with a pair of crisp passes, senior Jack Freitas swung the ball to Montalvo who was all by himself on the left baseline. Without hesitation, Montalvo released and canned a three-pointer with .43 left in regulation.
“He’s got that killer instinct, that’s what we needed,” said senior captain Luke Latina, who added that he and teammate Joseph Raposo both put their hands on his head as soon as Montalvo went into his shooting motion, “We’ll take it. He’s really good and he’s going to be the man.”
Montalvo then capped the game on the defensive end with a steal, which he followed by draining a pair of game-clinching foul shots.
Head coach Brian Fanelli had trust in his first-year player, who has quickly fit into the rotation, “Give him credit, he had the guts to take it and he made a really good defensive play at the other end.”
It ended an entertaining game, which was a tale of quarters with the Eagles controlling the first and third, while the Terriers made runs in the second and fourth quarters.
“We just can’t go down 22-5,” said Rocky Hill coach Mike Dudis, “We started out with a bad first four minutes and another bad first four minutes of the second half, so we had to rally again. The guys are disappointed but we hung in there”
The home team led the entire way, jumping out to a 7-0 advantage and expanding the lead to as many as 17 points in the first half behind great ball movement and the inside play of Jake Prunier, who scored a team-high 15 points.
Prunier, who called the game a “must win” said he enjoys these type of physical rivalry games, “I love it. It’s fun when you’re banging around and shoving each other. That stuff is fun.”
Wethersfield entered the contest having lost three games by a combined nine points to quality opponents (Middletown, Newington, and Maloney).
Prunier, a senior captain, made sure his team did not suffer another close loss, accomplishing something rare during the victory by scoring first in all four quarters.
He made a turnaround jumper to start the first, a layup to open the second, a lefty hook to start the third, and finished a fast break bucket to open the fourth.
“We just couldn’t turn it over as much and we needed to hit foul shots, which we did tonight particularly towards the end to put the game away,” added Prunier.
The road Terriers, who were playing in only their third game because of COVID quarantine restrictions, ended the half on a 16-6 run behind senior Arber Ndoni who scored six of his nine during the spurt.
Wethersfield ballooned the lead to a dozen early in the fourth before the feisty Terriers again clawed back in thanks to Dennis Machial, who scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.
Junior Dalton Grant also chipped in with five of his 11 points in the fourth.
Machial ignited a 13-3 run, narrowing the gap to two points late in regulation. The senior captain had a chance to tie the game, but his driving layup attempted between a flock of Eagles rattled in-and-out.
“We named him a junior captain last year because he has great intensity, great heart, and he’s a very good player. He’s undersized but he makes up for it with his energy,” Dudis said of Machial, “His defensive ability today was great and it’s really his leadership, it’s the catalyst for us. We need to keep feeding off him. He’s done a great job.”
Dudis implemented a full court press in the second and fourth quarters, which turned the tide in both situations, “It was something the coaches talked about coming in. We’ve been struggling offensively in the half court, so we felt in a desperate situation down 17 we needed to generate some offense. Our offense was stagnant and Wethersfield and coach Fanelli to have a good defense, they bring it every time we play them. It turned the game around for us at that point.”
Turnovers plagued the Eagles in the second quarter and Fanelli adjusted at halftime, “Halftime we made two adjustment. We put four across and then decided to pump it into Jake Prunier in the third quarter and that changed the whole complexion of the game.”
Prunier scored 11 of his 15 in the second half, adding that each game holds more importance during this shortened season, “We have 12 games, and we can’t afford any screw ups. Every game is a must win.”
Fanelli added that close games will probably be the story of the team’s season, “This year we’re going to take every team that same because that’s who we are. We’re up and down, day to day, trying to improve.”
“We’ve got prepare these guys for what’s next after their senior year, and for the guys that are coming back we have to get them ready for next year. It’s time for everyone to get over COVID as an excuse. We’re back, school is back, and right now we’re trying to keep it business as usual.”
Fanelli’s seniors are just happy to have a season.
“We just have to take it day by day because every day is not guaranteed, it could end tomorrow. We just have to be thankful for every practice we get, every game we get,” said Latina, “We have to work harder in practice, and we showed spots tonight, so that’s an improvement but we just have to tighten it up in practice and get more reps in. We get better as the season goes on.”
Following the win, Wethersfield defeated Bulkeley on Thursday and fell to Platt Saturday, ending the week with a record of 2-4.
Dudis believes his Terriers are on the right track after battling back twice in the loss, “We could have quit and in years past we may have had teams that wouldn’t have been able to rally, so hopefully we can take that momentum and push it forward. The guys are obviously dejected and it’s a frustrating start, but we feel we’re trending in the right direction.”
Rocky Hill dropped another heartbreaker, a 55-52 loss to Newington on Thursday, before rebounding with a 49-26 victory over Bulkeley on Saturday.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin