Sports talent varied from town to town. One school may excel in a particular sport, while their cross-town rival may excel in another. This creates healthy competition and evens the playing field for schools when competing in a variety of sports.
The same can be said for boys and girls sports programs at each school. It is rare that both the boys and girls programs in a particular sport can compete at the highest level.
The Cromwell basketball programs seem to have found a loophole in the system.
The boys and girls basketball teams at Cromwell High School are amongst the elite teams in the state and are both primed to make title runs over the next month. Cromwell basketball finished the regular season with a combined record of 40-3 and are the two hottest teams entering the Class M tournament.
The boys, coached by former NBA player John Pinone, finished the regular season winning their last ten games and are favorites to win the Shoreline Conference Championship. Pinone has the Panther boys peaking, playing unselfish and disciplined basketball with the boy’s tournament starting next week.
Four Panther players, Jake Regula, Matt Turkington, Josh Green, and Mike McNally, finished the season averaging double-figures in scoring. The sharp-shooting Regula led all scorers, dumping in 14 points per game, including a season-high 29 in Cromwell’s regular season home finale, an 84-57 victory over Westbrook.
Point guard DeAndre Hamlin has helped spread the scoring around, dishing out five assists per game. The 5’10 senior has also added seven points per game and is a force on the defensive end of the court. Hamlin has helped Cromwell’s stingy defense hold their opponents to an average of less than 45 points per game this season, with the team only surrendered 50 or more points four times in 21 games.
The girls, coached by Kelly Maher, are hitting on all cylinders, winning 40 of their last 41 games, including last season. Maher’s girls shook off an early season loss and are entering the tournament on a 21-game winning streak. The lady Panthers earned a top-seed in the tournament after a dramatic 41-40 victory over rival Morgan in the Shoreline Conference Championship game.
All-conference forward Janelle Harrison is the catalyst behind the team‘s success, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per games. The senior captain has also mentored a group of young sophomores that are paying big dividends for Cromwell.
Emma Belcourt, Araya Lessard, and Alyssa Wright have all been key contributors as sophomores. Fellow second year sensation Mya Villard has not only been a contributor, but she has also excelled statistically. The versatile Villard can dominate near the basket and has the ability to step out the key and knock down jumpers, averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The group of super sophomores is hoping to help Harrison end her high school career with back-to-back state titles. Harrison, along with fellow senior Emily Appleby, were vital parts of last season undefeated run, en route to a state championship.
The lady Panthers will open the Class M tournament at home and if they win the first round game they will host the winner of Plainville and Stonington on Thursday. The second round clash will tip at 7 p.m. at Jake Salafia Gymnasium.
Girls Basketball Tournament Roundup
Terriers Tournament Bound
The Rocky Hill Terriers began the season losing three of their first four games. It looked like it may take a while for first year head coach Allyson Toulouse to put her defensive stamp on the program. However, Rocky Hill quickly turned up the defensive intensity and won 11 of their final 16 games to earn a spot in the Class M tournament.
The Terriers deep rotation of girls has allowed the team to stay fresh all season and they enter the tournament well rested. They closed the regular season with a convincing 63-34 victory over Rockville and they will play their first round tournament game coming off eleven days rest.
The Terriers (12-8) enter the tournament as underdogs and will travel north to battle Suffield. If they can beat Suffield they will play the play the winner of Morgan and Cheney Tech on Thursday. If Morgan wins, the Terriers will travel to Clinton, but they would host Cheney Tech if the Manchester-based school pulls off the upset.
Newington Earn Class LL Tournament Spot
The Newington Indians earned a trip to the highly competitive Class LL tournament after finishing the season 11-9. Their record was good enough to earn them the 23rd seed and a date with Hartford-based E.O. Smith in the first round.
The team now has the tall task of advancing in the tournament. In order to advance, they will rely on the offense of Stasha Greenalch and Kayla Guest. The two seniors have carried a bulk of the offensive responsibilities for the Indians in the regular season, averaging 16 and 13 points respectively. The dynamic duo has accounted for 68% of Newington’s offensive output this season.
If Newington can upset E.O. Smith they take on the winner of Norwich Free Academy and Newtown. Norwich will host the game if they win, but if Newtown wins, they will travel to Newington. Tipoff for the potential second round matchup would be Thursday at 7 p.m.
Wethersfield Make Tournament, Facing Tough First Rounder
The Wethersfield Eagles fought and clawed their way into the Class L tournament by winning three of their final four games. Their only loss in the last month of the season was a heartbreaking four-point loss to Glastonbury. They are hoping to keep the late-season momentum going into the tournament.
The Eagles have the tough task of facing RHAM and the state’s leading scorer Sarah Veilleux in the first round. Veilleux averaged 34 points a game during the regular season and will most likely take home her second straight Gatorade Player of the Year award by season‘s end.
Wethersfield coach Michelle Libby will rely on her group of defenders and her senior leadership to help contain Veilleux and spark the upset. If they hold off RHAM they will face the winner of Avon and Bethel. If Avon wins they would host the game, but if underdog Bethel wins, they would travel to Wethersfield for a potential second round shakedown. Tipoff for the game would be Friday at 7 p.m.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin