Wethersfield's head coach Jeff Russell and junior guard Nicole
Gwynn after Gwynn scored her 1000th career point during Wethersfield's
50-38 victory over Newington last Monday night.
Wethersfield girls’ basketball had a lot at stake during their regular-season finale against Newington last Monday night.
The Eagles were looking to even the season series with the Indians, while attempting to capture a share of the conference crown, and guard Nicole Gwynn was within striking distance of 1000 career points.
“I told them that it was all possible,” head coach Jeff Russell said prior to tipoff.
Russell’s team responded to his message with a 50-38 victory over their rivals in front of a lively crowd at Wethersfield High School, avenging a 55-50 loss at NHS on Jan 8.
Gwynn needed 14 points to reach the milestone and was in attack mode from the opening tip, reaching the career 1000-point mark late in the first half.
“It felt good because I’ve work so hard in the offseason. It feels good to see the hard work pay off” said Gwynn, who finished with a game-high 24 points, “We wanted to beat them bad. We thought if we came out and played hard that we would win.”
Seven quick points from Gwynn, including a straight away jumper for the first points of the game, help provide Wethersfield an early eight-point advantage.
The junior continued her scoring onslaught in the second quarter with a layup and by knocking down her second from beyond the arc, upping the lead to 17-8 midway through the opening quarter.
“It was great because she didn’t play like a kid that was going after 1000 points. She played within the offense and didn’t force any shots, they were all good looks,” recalled Russell, “She knows if she’s even and if she’s one-on-one, she’s got an opportunity to score.”
Her 1000th point came with under a minute to play in the first half when she received the ball on the left wing before taking it baseline and kissing it off glass.
Russell took a timeout to recognize Gwynn’s feat, which took her less than three full seasons to accomplish.
“I felt early on, as a young player, that she was playing every game to prove something. Now I feel like she’s playing every game to win, and she knows how to play within our offense,” said Russell, who took over as the team’s coach when Gwynn was a freshman, “She’s no longer looking to prove. She’s out there to lead the team and do her job, and that is to attack and distribute. She liked the playoff run last year and she wanted to get there again.”
After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Newington’s all-conference guard Ashanti Frazier closed the first half strong and continued to excel after the break with a three pointer followed by a perfect dish to Alexie Armour in the open court for a layup, which closed the gap to 28-24 early in the third.
Following a Wethersfield miscue, Newington had another fast break opportunity on their next possession but Isabella Samse swung the momentum back towards the home team with a great individual effort.
Samse intercepted a pass near midcourt and dribbled through two Newington defenders before finishing under the basket. The play ignited a 10-1 run, which included another layup from Samse and three-point buckets from Alice Kelly and Gabriella Amoddio.
“She’s got an instinct for off-the-ball defense. It’s almost like she’s able to process it in real time,” Russell said of Samse, “She’s a diehard basketball kid, but I joke with her that she’s a runner that plays basketball three months a year. She runs in the fall and spring and it pays off because when she runs for us, it’s effective.”
“We always know where each other is on the court. If I have the ball, she knows where to go that I can get her the ball. Same with Alice too,” Gwynn said of her relationships with her fellow juniors, Samse and Kelly.
Gwynn’s celebratory night overshadowed an outstanding all-around night from Kelly, who posted a 13-point, 10-rebound, 12-block triple double.
Newington got as close as nine early in the fourth on a steal and layup from Frazier, but Gwynn closed out the contest with six free throws down the stretch. She finished hitting eight of nine from the foul line.
Over the last year Gwynn said that she has worked tirelessly with her dad, John, to improve her foul shooting, often shooting hundreds during each training session.
The loss was only the third of the year for Newington, who ended the regular season 17-3. Frazier led the team with 15 points, Armour added nine, and Karissa Zocco chipped in with six.
“I think they’re the best team we’ve played. They make you so uncomfortable because they’re a balanced team. They’re really good so they’re going to get good shots, but their ability to track the ball on rebounds is like nothing I’ve ever seen. They jump out in film, they jump out when we scout them and they jump out when we play them. Every one of their kids plays with such high energy and effort and has a nose for the ball,” said Russell, who normally runs an up-tempo attack but slowed it down in the fourth quarter to allow his defense to seal the deal.
“Coach Ryan Alger, who is my defensive coordinator, puts together our defensive game plans and he put a great one together tonight.”
The Eagles won nine of their last ten games to finished the regular season 15-5. They played their last five at home, but it was the lengthy road tests during the early part of the season which toughened the team.
“Basketball is a long season. A lot of time is spent indoors and on busses and we wanted to be confortable with that. We wanted to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” stated Russell, “We picked up a game in Waterford this year on purpose because we wanted to have one of those long bus rides. We scrimmage at Westerly earlier in the year because we wanted to take a ride to Rhode Island and play in a gym we’ve never seen. That way we can walk into any gym and we can say ‘its got two hoops, we’re ready to go.’”
Following the regular season finale was the CCC tourney, where Wethersfield fell to Berlin in the opening round last Thursday.
Newington knocked off Farmington 45-30 in the first round and then bested Berlin 58-48 behind 30 points from Frazier.
Both programs are now headed to the Class LL tourney, which starts first-round action on Tuesday, Feb 26.
Despite the loss to Wethersfield, Newington girls basketball finished the regular season as one of the state's best teams after
winning 17 of their 20 contests
Wethersfield Downs Newington in Pool
Wethersfield swimming and diving defeated Newington last Friday night at WHS, securing another conference title and improving to 10-1.
Caleb Skowronek had big night, winning the 50 Freestyle and placing finishing first in the 100 Breaststroke. The senior also teamed with Rory Stickley, Holden Hoon, and Brendon Mansuaku to win the 200 Medley Relay. Hoon also won the 200 Individual Medley and Matthew Iallonardo won the 100 Fly. Eagles divers Brian Puglielli and Jordan Griffin finished first and second during the meet.
The loss was the regular season finale for the Indians, who close out the season at 5-5. Michael Bohlke had a solid meet, finishing third in both the 200 and 500 Freestyles. Maks Ungrak placed second in the 100 Freestyle and John Famigliette took third in the diving portion.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin