Newington sophomore Selah Prignano scored 20 points in the first half at the Nor’easters took down Rocky Hill 70-32 last Tuesday.
Newington High School girls basketball was clicking on all cylinders at Rocky Hill High School last Tuesday night, scoring at will in the first half during a 70-32 victory over the Terriers on Feb 7.
Rocky Hill was celebrating Senior Night, yet it was the visiting Nor’easters who stormed out of the gates.
Newington head coach Marc Tancredi was happy with his team’s rapid ball movement in the win, praising the team for being unselfish.
“We have multiple scoring threats,” added Tancredi. “The emphasis is to share [the ball]. It’s about making that one more pass and trusting that your teammate will be able to make the play.”
Newington used a 23-0 scoring run in the first half to take a commanding 30-point lead into the halftime break.
Sophomore Selah Prignano scored 20 points, all in the first half, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc during Newington’s scoring surge.
Prignano was a key reserve a season ago as a freshman, coming off the bench as a defensive specialist, and has now transformed into a threat on both ends of the court.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, with my shot and my overall basketball IQ,” said Prignano, who also had five steals defensively. “I feel like I’m more involved and confident and being part of the team.”
Sophomore Bella Cucuta ended any doubt of a Rocky Hill rally by knocking down a trio of 3-point shots in the third quarter, putting Newington up 54-17 early in the second half.
Cucuta is coming off an all-conference season as a freshman and now finds herself in a leadership role as well.
“I definitely feel like I’m more of a leader and have had to step up in my position,” said Cucuta, who finished with 20 points.
With a 37-point lead, both Prignano and Cucuta exited the game with 5:33 left in the third quarter.
Tancredi said his sophomore duo is playing beyond their years, crediting the pair for maturing on and off the court.
“We expected a lot out of them coming into this season and it was a slow start, but they are starting to emerge.” added Tancredi. “They are both very talented and are now growing up and learning how to play the way that we need to play to win basketball games.”
Senior captain Brianna Gadarowski added eight points, while sophomore Kendall Miller added six points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
The goals have remained lofty for a Nor’easters team that is coming off a state championship appearance a season ago.
Prignano said the championship quest a season ago, which ended with a loss to powerhouse Notre Dame-Fairfield in the Class LL championship game at Mohegan Sun, helped fueled the team’s drive this season.
“The [championship] game put into perspective where we can get to,” Prignano said of the title game last winter. “We know what we can do and we know how well we work together.”
The departure of all-state Lilly Ferguson (currently playing basketball for The University of Massachusetts) and three other influential seniors forced the team to learn on the fly with a new rotation this winter.
The early results were rough as the Nor’easters started the 2022-2023 by losing two of their first four games.
Tancredi said the team’s inexperience showed in the early stages of the season, but they have since learned to play with and play off of one another.
“We just matured and grew up a little bit. We understand what we need to do to win basketball games,” Tancredi added. “We’ve learned to play together as a team and we’re playing to our strengths.”
Since a 59-35 loss to Hamden on Dec. 28, the Nor’easter have not lost a game in the state of Connecticut with their only loss this calendar year being a game at Springfield College against St. John Vianney (NJ), who are a top-ranked team in the country.
Following the out-of-state loss, the team closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, finishing with a record of 16-3.
Tancredi said it’s the “little things” that the team needs to improve on before the conference and state tournament rolls around later this month.
“We need to have better decision making and communicate better,” added Tancredi. “We can’t have any mishaps against the best teams in the state because that could be the difference in the game.”
Despite the loss, the Terriers finished the regular season strong and posted a record of 14-6.
Senior players Christina DeNovellis, Alyssa Gau, Kate Oostendorp, and Abigail Boutin, along with senior manager Mia Mascaro were honored prior to the game.
McKinnon credited his seniors for helping him implement his brand of basketball since he took over the program three seasons ago.
“They lead by example on and off the court and I couldn't ask for better core group to be the captains of our team,” stated McKinnon
Over the last two years, the seniors have helped lead the team to back to back double digit win seasons and a pair of state tournament appearances.
“They have laid the foundations for the future and have been great role models,” added McKinnon.
Rocky Hill basketball seniors from left; Mia Mascaro (manager), Abigail Boutin, Christina DeNovellis, Kate Oostendorp, and Alyssa Gau were recognized prior to the Terriers game against Newington on Feb. 7.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin