Bacon Academy girls’ basketball has started the season with six straight wins under new head coach Kevin Fennell. On the court, the Bobcats are led by all-state senior captain Marissa Nudd, who recently surpassed 1,000 career points, and junior captain Cara Shea, who scored a career-high 17 points in a win over RHAM last week.
Playing in front of a packed house, Bacon Academy girls’ basketball rallied to edge RHAM, 46-43, in their annual grudge match on Dec. 29.
Both teams entered the contest undefeated, yet it was the home Bobcats that remained unblemished thanks to a memorable night from junior Cara Shea.
Trailing by six points heading into the fourth, Shea scored nine of her career-high 17 points to help erased the deficit and improve the Bobcats to 5-0.
Shea, who also had a team-high five steals, said it was the team’s work on the defensive end that allowed the Bobcats to claw back into the game.
“We had to get back at it and get those steals to get the offense going,” Shea said of the team’s approach heading into the final quarter. “Once we got those first steals we felt like our old selves and got that confidence we needed.”
In the opening minute of the fourth, Shea made a layup to start a 10-0 run and later knocked down seven free throws down the stretch to single-handedly outscore the visiting Raptors (9-6) over the final eight minutes.
Shea did a little of everything on the night, also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out five assists. The versatile junior has taken over as the team’s point guard this winter and head coach Kevin Fennell said that Shea is thriving in the role of floor general.
“Cara is a very opportunistic player; she finds an opportunity and takes advantage,” stated Fennell. “She had a couple of big stops on defense that ended up being the difference in the game.”
Fennell is in his first year back leading the team after previously coaching the program from 1999-2007.
It’s been a triumphant return for Fennell, who has yet to lose since retaking over a program that is coming off a Class M state championship appearance a season ago under previous head coach John Shea.
Guiding the team with Fennell is assistant coach and longtime friend Brian Fleming, who has college basketball coaching experience.
“Brian is one of my closest friends and we have always discussed hoops for the past 25 years,” said Fennell. “We finally have an opportunity to work together.”
Also helping Fennell’s transition back to the sidelines is that he works at the high school, teaching health and physical education.
“There is already a rapport I have with [the players] and it’s been fun to work with them in this setting as well,” added Fennell. “They have been very coachable, they work very hard, and they’re one unit.”
Shea and senior Marissa Nudd are Fennell’s captains on the court.
Nudd, a Southern Connecticut State University basketball-commit, recently surpassed the 1,000-point career mark in a win over Ledyard on Dec. 20.
Following an all-state junior year, Nudd has returned as the team’s leading scorer and has embraced the role as senior leader.
“Honestly it has been really easy, because we have a team full of athletes and a team full of players that want to win,” Nudd said of her role as a senior captain. “We all want to be here, we all want to get better, and when you have a team full of friends it’s not hard at all.”
Playing against RHAM’s defensive standout Sarah West, Nudd struggled to find her range in the win, yet scored four straight points during a Bacon Academy 10-point run in the decisive fourth quarter.
After RHAM responded with back-to-back three pointers to temporarily retake the lead in the fourth, Katelyn Novak (12 points) tied the game on a baseline jumper and Shea ended the game with the final four points from the foul line.
Fennell said the late trips to the foul line made the difference in the fourth.
“It was a matter of kids taking the ball strong to the basket in the fourth and going through the contact and getting to the line,” added Fennell.
Nudd added, “We talked about valuing every possession we have.”
On Tuesday, Bacon Academy improved to 6-0 with another come-from-behind victory (40-38) over Fitch, ending the contest on a scoring 16-0 run.
Freshman Alannah Baehr scored with 4.3 second left to cap the miraculous comeback. Nudd scored a team-high 13 points and Novak scored nine of her 10 points in the fourth to help the Bobcats dig out of a 14-point hole.
The Bobcats next host Brookfield this Saturday, Jan 7. Tip-off at BAHS is 1:30 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin