Playing on the road against a conference rival, Newington girls’ basketball rose to the occasion and beat Glastonbury 55-39 in the quarterfinals of the Class LL state tournament at Glastonbury High School on March 8.
Sophomore sensations Bela Cucuta (18), Selah Prignano (18), and Kendall Miller (12) led the offensive charge, combining to score over 81% of the team’s points.
After the home Guardians had whittled a double-digit lead down to a single point, the Nor’easters defense began to swarm in the second half, allowing only 11 points total over the final 16 minutes.
“At this point in the season, defense is going to win basketball games,” stated NHS head coach Marc Tancredi. “I know we can score the ball, we just need to get stops and that’s what it came down to. “
A three-pointer from Cucuta put the No. 5-seed Nor’easters up 21-10 within the first minute of the second quarter and it looked like Newington would run away with the game.
But the No. 4-seed Guardians, who won 17 of 20 regular season games, were not about to go quietly into the night and went on a 20-8 run to narrow the deficit to 31-30 in the early stages of the third quarter.
Sophomore Maddy Handrahan led the Guardians’ rally, scoring seven of her team-high 17 points during the scoring run.
Tancredi said he emphasizes the basics to his team during Glastonbury’s surge.
“Just be great at the simple plays, the 50/50 plays,” Tancredi preached to his team in an effort to swing the momentum. “Basketball is not a hard game, do the simple things great and we’ll put ourselves in the position because we have players that are talented that can score. If we can dominate those little aspects of the game we will put ourselves in that position.”
Newington responded with a 6-point run, capped by another triple from Cucuta.
Cucuta, the team’s leading scorer this year, also starred on the defensive end, racking up a career-high six blocks.
“It’s about defensively getting stops and consecutive stops, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half at building that lead,” added Tancredi.
Later in the third, Miller nailed a three-pointer to prompt a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach. Miller scored seven of the nine points during the run.
“She is our unsung hero; she does all the dirty work,” Tancredi said of Miller, who added 10 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
Junior captain Ella Stair added seven points in the victory, which advanced the team to the state semifinals for the second straight season.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin