(Rocky Hill's Will White and Newington's J.P. DeCastro look on during the Indians 59-40 victory at NHS)
Resiliency paid off for Newington boys’ basketball.
After losing 15 of their first 18 contests the Indians won back-to-back games to close out the season, including an impressive 59-40 season-finale victory over Rocky Hill to celebrate Senior Night last Tuesday at NHS.
“People identify wins as the success but I identify wins as the end result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said Newington’s first-year head coach Ed Quick, “We got better throughout the year and we closed the right way. We played a top schedule in the state and the kids never stopped playing and never gave in. They came in every day and pulled each other up and we got better.”
Quick took over a program that had only three seniors returning from a season ago, but the three were vital for helping develop the younger players and they departed on a high note, receiving countless ovations throughout their special night.
Guard J.P. DeCastro was particularly spectacular from start to finish, scoring a game-high 21 points in the finale over Rocky Hill.
“It’s my senior year and the season didn’t go the way I wanted it to but to end it the way we did means a lot,” DeCastro said immediately following his final game at Newington, “It was very special night and I just love the way we ended it.”
DeCastro wasted little time Tuesday night, scoring 11 first-quarter points, which included a pair of three pointers in the first couple of minutes of the game. He also started the second half by knocking down two more long-range triples.
“I wanted to leave it all on the floor and I think I did,” added DeCastro.
Thanks to DeCastro’s efforts and the emotions and energy of the night, the Indians jumped out to a 15-3 advantage after the first quarter and led by as many at 26 points late in the third quarter.
“It was definitely a disappointing effort both mentally and physically. We just didn’t give it,” said Rocky Hill head coach Josh Dinerman, whose team won the previous matchup with Newington, 57-53, on Jan 18, “We respected them and I told the team that they are a much improved team and don’t let their record fool you. They have a lot of talent and got off to a hot start and a couple of their seniors stepped up and came up big. We just fell behind and didn’t have the motivation and determination to get over the hump.”
After scoring only three points in the first quarter, the Terriers were unable to generate a consistent offense and the deficit grew. Newington’s length made it difficult for the road team to get easy looks at the basket and the Indians frontcourt also stepped up on the offensive end.
Forward Theodore Fravel showed an array of moves on the night, hitting a hook shot early and canning a pair of jump shots later. The junior finished with 10 points.
Fellow big man Mason Romano added nine points, which included a two-handed tip dunk in the second quarter that nearly brought the house down.
The two offered a glimpse at what the future of boys’ basketball in Newington will look like, but the night belonged to the seniors and they did not disappoint.
Like DeCastro, James Holley and Colin Freeman also tasted victory on their final game inside Richard Rogalski Gymnasium.
Holley scored eight points and was a defensive shadow on the perimeter. Freeman had a solid all-around game, added two points in the third.
“The seniors did an awesome job and I’m really proud of them. They’re all terrific kids and they’re as important as anyone in the program because the challenge I gave him all year was being a part of the brick building that we’re trying to establish. They mean a lot to me because they came every day and worked hard,” stated Quick, “I just kept telling them that we’ll get better today. We don’t control what happened yesterday, we can only control what happens today and the seniors came in every day and did a great job.”
“I feel like I showed everyone what I love about this school and this game,” said DeCastro, who will major in Criminology in college and hopes to continue his basketball career at the next level, “Not only did I build a family with this team but I feel like the legacy that I left here and the passion that I brought every day to practice and the games will carry over into next year.”
Quick added that planning and training for next year starts immediately and that the approach and mentality will remain the same.
“I’ve been through this four times as a head coach and every time the formula is the same. Come in and establish what you believe in, work hard in practice, and make growth the right way,” said Quick, who has previous coaching experience at both the high school and collegiate level, “As far as kids attitude and effort, I don’t think that every changes no matter what level you’re at. The thing I like about high school is that you can really build a community and there’s awesome support here at Newington. I couldn’t ask for more from the athletic director, the administration, the parents, and the kids.”
Quick will have a slew of talent will be returning next season. Fravel and Romano will be joined by Jarden Morris, Louis Egbuna, and Izayah Ciarcia, who all came off the bench against Rocky Hill and made an impact.
Morris scored five straight points late in the third quarter, Egbuna was a force defensively, and Carcia added four points, showcasing his ability to get to the bucket on both of his baskets.
All told the team has nearly 30 players coming back next season, not including the incoming freshmen.
“We’ve designed a lot of things to build the program with some of the young kids that are here. I just want what is best for this program. I envision us just getting better every day like we did this year,” Quick added.
Quick’s previous coaching stops include Trinity College, Wesleyan, Western Connecticut, as well as, Glastonbury and Hartford Public High School. He’s leaning on his years of experience and the mentoring he’s received from those closest to him.
“It’s not my first rodeo, it’s just my last,” the veteran coach said with a chuckle, “I played for a great high school coach and a great college coach and I have awesome parents. I’ve been a part of a lot of successful programs and all the people that I’ve been around, including my parents and grandparents, never let you get too high but they never let you get too low. I call it reverse mentoring, they always showed more love and caring when you were down and they helped pull you back up. They thought me how to win with humility and lose with dignity. Those are the lesson we want to teach and we want to make it a real community program here in Newington.”
Senior night signified the end of the season Quick and his team, but Rocky Hill has some unfinished business this winter.
The loss to Newington stung but the Terriers won eight regular season games and qualified for the Division IV tourney, which starts next week.
“It was a disappointing game overall for us. It’s the simple stuff like moving without the ball and we’re just not communicating. It wasn’t the way we wanted to end the regular season but we have two weeks to prepare and I told them that there will be no day off tomorrow. We’ll be right back at it and we have a chance going in but we have to put in the work day in and day out,” stated Dinerman.
Andrew DiMatteo led the Terriers with 17 points, all coming after the first quarter. Sean Walsh, Riley Donovan, and Joseph Schiavone each scored five.
“It’s going to take the seniors will, want, and determination to get over that hump. They need to focus and realize that we can’t take these two weeks lightly,” added Dinerman, “I’m going to set up scrimmages, we’re going to get after it every single day and hopefully we get better and be ready for the tournament.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin