Bacon Academy senior Valerie Luizzi is defended by Ledyard’s Adrianna Hardison during the Raptors win on Dec. 21
Bacon Academy girls’ basketball remained undefeated with a 61-55 victory over previously unbeaten Ledyard in Colchester on Dec. 21.
Playing in their second home game of the year, the Bobcats used a 27-5 scoring run spanning between the second and third quarters before holding off a late rally from the visitors, improving to 4-0 and dealing the Colonels their first loss.
Junior Marissa Nudd scored a team-high 18 points, including 10 in a crucial third quarter.
“She is a gamer,” Bacon Academy head coach John Shea said of Nudd, who added six rebounds and five assists. “She plays all year. We have some really dedicated players and it shows. They have improved a lot and we’re blessed to have them.”
Senior Ashley Lizotte chipped in with a career-high 15 points and fellow senior Valeria Luizzi added 11.
The Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) rivals exchanged lead nine times in the first half before the Raptors closed the second quarter on an 11-3 run, taking a 32-26 advantage into the break.
“We knew they were a good team and knew they would come out of halftime strong,” said Luizzi, who has committed to play basketball at Keene State College next year. “Even though we were winning at the half, we wanted to come out and play even harder and keep our energy up.”
Bacon’s surge continued in the second half, charging out with a 14-2 run behind six points from Nudd, who scored ten in the quarter.
Shea said it wasn’t about adjustments, rather about execution in the second half.
“We were playing a really good team. We had a six point lead and I couldn’t expect much more of a better effort, so we just tried to get off to a quick start in the second half,” added Shea.
Ledyard, who played press defense most of the game, rallied in the fourth behind prolific captain Natalyah Williams, who scored 10 of her game-high 25 points over the final eight minutes.
The Colonels got within five points late in regulation following a jumper from Williams, but a key offensive rebound from Nudd and a free throw from Luizzi sealed the victory.
It was a contest of contrasting styles as Ledyard pressed defensively most of the game and the Raptors used a zone.
After a slow start to the game offensively, the Raptors began to figure out Ledyard’s press defense.
“We just focused on setting really good screens. We knew they would be challenging us really hard and we tried to stay calm and not get too frantic. We worked on our passes and trusted each other,” said Luizzi.
Luizzi has developed a trust with the entire team, particularly Lizotte and the team’s third senior, Emma Mancuso.
Mancuso scored six and was the enforcer on the defensive end, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking five shots.
The three have grown up together, sharing the basketball court since grade school and even played together on the same AAU team.
Shea said of his senior captains, “They are real good leaders, quality people, good students, and they make my job a lot easier because they have good knowledge of the game and have high expectations.”
The three, along with Nudd and sophomore Cara Shea are the starting five that will be asked to log a lot of minutes this winter.
“We do have a smaller bench, so in preseason our coach was having us do a lot of running and getting in shape,” Luizzi said. “Playing with the other four I am playing with has been great. We played with each other last year, so we are just a solid team when we’re all together.”
Following the win, the Bobcats chalked up two more victories by defeating Norwich Free Academy 58-18 on Dec. 23 and Suffield 62-39 on Dec. 28, improving to 6-0.
In the win over NFA, Nudd scored 16 points and Luizzi added 10.
Against Suffield, Nudd again led the way with 22 points (19 in the first half) and 10 rebounds. Luizzi had a terrific all-around game with 13 points and nine steals.
Shea is impressed with the team’s hot start and added that they have to become a better rebounding team and take care of the ball better as they get into the second half of the season.
Bacon’s next home game is scheduled for Thurs, Jan. 6 against Windham. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin