Middletown High School senior Tyah Pettaway pictured with her family after she scored her 1,000th career point in a win over Lew Mills on Feb. 14
Last Monday, Middletown High School’s Tyah Pettaway had a Valentine’s Day she will never forget.
Pettaway scored her 1,000th career point in high school and was one of a half dozen senior basketball players recognized as the Blue Dragons celebrated Senior Night by beating the visiting Spartans of Lewis Mills, 64-36, in front of a packed house of family and friends at Middletown High School.
“It was a really great experience, a great feeling,” Pettaway said of the accomplishment. “I still can’t believe it; it took a lot of hard work.”
Pettaway’s memorable milestone took center stage before, during, and after the game, which clinched a Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) South divisional title for the Middletown, who finished the regular season 18-2.
Middletown head coach Rob Smernoff has a deep, experienced group who he referred to as his “Super Six” seniors. Pettaway, Shadae Bushay, Bryonna Bell, Alexa DeSena, Kaila Torres, and Jenaya Salafia make up the six seniors guiding the ship this winter.
“They get along off the court and when a team gets along off the court they get along on the court. They just trust each other,” said Smernoff.
Pettaway was aggressive from the opening tip, scoring her first points within five seconds when Bushay grabbed the opening tip and tossed it ahead to Pettway for an uncontested layup.
Bushay and Pettaway traded buckets for most of the first half, scoring 32 of the Blue Dragons 44 first-half points.
After playing together for the past four years, the two prolific scorers complement each other’s strengths.
Bushay, who leads the entire state in steals with 5.6 per game and is the team’s leader in rebounds with 6.5 per game, is also close to reaching that 1,000-point plateau.
“If we would have played a regular season last year she would have gotten 1,000. If she doesn't end up getting it, it’s only because we lost out on games. She can’t control that we only had a 12-game season last year,” Smernoff said of Bushay, who is averaging 15.5 points per game. “She is just a great all-around player.”
In the win over Lewis Mills, Middletown jumped out to a 12-2 lead within the first three minutes with Pettaway, Bushay, and Torres each scoring four points.
Pettaway, who scored 19 points in the first half as the Blue Dragons held a 44-21 lead at the break, broke the four-digit scoring barrier with 7:19 left in regulation when she drove around two defenders and hit a running bank shot from the left side.
“I was actually surprised when it banked in,” recalled a smiling Pettaway, who finished with a game-high 26 points.
A timeout allowed Pettaway to be honored with her family at center court for a mini ceremony to recognize her 1,000th point.
“She’s worked so hard. The most impressive thing with Tyah is that every year she gets better. Every year at the end of the year we give players things to work on and she not only works on those but also works on five other things,” said Smernoff. “She worked some much on her left hand where she is better going left sometimes more than right even though she is right handed. I’d like to say it’s coaching but at the end of the day it’s hard work.
Pettaway credited her success with her countless hours in the gym over the past four years.
“I remember my freshman year I really didn’t have a good year but I learned from other players,” recalled Pettway. “I worked really hard; it took a lot of sacrifice.”
She added that her development is also a credit to her teammates, “We have a very tight bond together. We play well on the court together and play hard together.”
Bushay had 19 points, seven rebounds, and five steals in the regular season finale. Torres added six points and a game-high eight rebounds.
The victory over Lewis Mills was the team’s 11th straight to close out the regular season. Three days later, the Blue Dragons were upset by Conard in the opening round of the CCC tourney on Feb. 17.
They now turn their attention to the Class LL tournament, starting March 1. Middletown finished the regular season tied for the second-best winning percentage (.900) in Class LL, trailing only Enfield who finished 19-1.
Smernoff wants to see his team sure up a few areas before the state tourney tips off.
“[The players] trust each other and that’s the key,” said Smernoff. “If we can buckle down on the defensive end and rebound, we feel confident. We feel like we can score 60 every game, so we just need to play good defense.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin