Rocky Hill's #1 Abigail Boutin defends Tourtellotte's Alivia Dalpe as Maleena Muzio gaurds the corner of the zone during the Terriers 68-33 victory on Feb. 3.
Prior to the season, Rocky Hill head coach girls’ basketball coach James McKinnon was optimistic, yet unsure of what his team would look like on the court.
15 games into the season, the young Terriers are setting the stage for a postseason push with eyes on even bigger and better things in the future.
Last Thurs., Feb. 3, the team easily defeated Tourtellotte 68-33 at RHHS to earn their most lopsided win of the season and ninth victory overall.
“We have no seniors on the roster, so it’s a young group and some of them didn't play last year. They are starting to develop that confidence,” said McKinnon.
In the 35-point rout, sophomore Maleena Muzio had a terrific all-around game, scoring a team-high 12 points, grabbing six rebounds, and nabbing four steals.
The Terriers used a relentless zone press to baffle the visiting Tigers, registering 27 steals, including nine thefts in the first quarter as the home team took an 18-6 lead.
Junior captains Alyssa Gau and Kate Oostendorp have been thrust into leadership positions, guiding a youthful, yet versatile group on the court.
“They are so competitive in practice,” McKinnon said of his captains, “They are both so smart and whatever we teach them they pick up in minutes. In practice they work so hard and don’t take any drill off, and everyone else sees that.”
Gau said the closeness of the class is the key to their success, “We have a lot of chemistry from playing basketball since middle school or playing other sports together. We love hang out outside of basketball too. It’s a really good group of girls and it’s nice to have everyone involved, from freshmen to juniors.”
Because the Terriers led by double digits throughout most of the game, all twelve active players were able to play with 10 breaking into the scoring column.
“These are some of the best games. It feels good, it’s a team win,” said Oostendorp. “It is very much a team atmosphere. We are all cheering for each other no matter what. It’s a very uplifting feeling.”
Seven Terriers scored in the second quarter as the team used a 16-2 run to take a commanding 36-13 lead into the halftime locker room.
Muzio scored on a rebound-putback to start the surge. Junior Abigail Boutin followed with a layup before Gau had consecutive buckets, both assisted by Christina DeNovellis.
DeNovellis, also a junior, does a little of everything on the court and is the enforcer in the middle of the team’s zone defense.
“It’s all about teamwork and atmosphere. We all want what is best for each other and the team and we want to win. We have high expectations from each other and we get better and better each game,” said DeNovellis, who scored 11 points.
McKinnon was pleased with how his zone press worked to perfection in the win, praising Boutin for her never-ending effort atop the zone.
“She is definitely a spark plug for us,” McKinnon said of Boutin, who scored 11. “Her hands are her best attribute; she is so quick on the press. She’s a fearless leader and I love how hard she plays.”
The 68 points was a season-high for the Terriers, who used backdoor cuts and off-ball screens to create most of their points in the paint.
“Some of our plays are designed, but a lot of it is just spur-of-the-moment on how we’ve been coached,” Gau said of the efficient slashing offense. “When you don’t have the ball, screen or cut, just help your teammates as much as you can. We stress team effort in practice.”
Oostendorp added that the teammates have gotten to know each other so well that they often use non-verbal communication and know where to go just by looking at each other.
The win was extra special for the players, who were playing in front of a full crown for the first time in nearly two years.
“We had a DJ playing music and we had a student section,” said McKinnon, who is in his second year coaching the team, “Our girls fed off that energy. I hope more people come to our games and like the way we play.”
Leading 54-23 after three quarters, McKinnon emptied his bench for a majority of the fourth. Sophomore Faith Beliveau scored six of her nine in the final quarter and freshman Angelina Daley scored three straight points.
“I love getting all these kids in the game. I had them all in class in the seventh grade and to see them out here cheering each other on is encouraging,” added McKinnon, who teaches at Griswold Middle School. “They are great kids and I love coaching them every single day.”
McKinnon added that the experience they are earning now will pay big dividends next year as well, “It will build competition for playing time next year. We have talent coming in from the middle school too. I want a lot of people competing for seven, eight varsity positions. It's a great problem to have and I’ll take that any day.”
Entering the week, the Terriers stand at 9-5 and have back-to-back home games this week as they host South Windsor on Thur. Feb 10 (6:30 p.m.) and University, Fri., Feb 11 (4:00 p.m.)
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin