Sydney Kehl and Kiley Feeney carried a lot of weight on their shoulders this winter.
The two were the only seniors on the Glastonbury High School girls’ basketball team, which lost four of five starters from a season ago
Along with filling a production void, they also had to mentor a crop of new court visionaries that will take over next winter.
The result was a 13-win regular season and a memorable victory in the Class LL tournament, defeating New Britain 43-24 at Glastonbury High School in the opening round of the state tourney on Feb. 28.
It would mark the final time that Kehl and Feeney would step on the court together at GHS.
“It was definitely on my mind before the game,” said Kehl, who was the only returning starter from last winter. “This was the last time that Kiley and I would wear out white uniforms and we had a big crowd come out. I said to [the team] ‘don’t just play for us, play for everyone here’.”
With the 12th Man—GHS’s student section— back at full force, the Guardians lived up to their name, protecting home court with an intense, swarming defensive effort.
It was also the first day since March of 2020 in which the players, coaches, officials, and spectators were not required to wear masks indoors, giving the game some extra juice.
“I think having the student section here and having the gym open gave us so much momentum,” said Feeney. “We just rode that energy.”
Feeney got things started by canning a three pointer after receiving an assist from freshman point guard Maddy Handrahan. A few moments later, Handrahan drained her own three-pointer before sophomore Gisel Astiasaran made a pair of layups to end the quarter.
The offense provided the highlights, but it was a stout defense that took away New Britain’s will.
The Guardians, who were the 15-seed in the tourney, limited the visiting #18 Golden Hurricane to two points in the opening quarter.
The defensive pressure continued into the second quarter as Glastonbury forced New Britain to shoot five airballs over the first 16 minutes.
“They had a few girls that we had scouting reports on that we knew we had to hold and I think we did a great job at that. We shut down their best players and got the job done,” said Feeney.
Late in the second quarter, Kehl knocked down a triple and Handrahan followed with another three-pointer as the Guardians took a healthy 23-7 lead into the half.
Leading by 19 points in the third quarter, the two seniors put the game out of reach by connecting one final time on the court when Kehl drove into the lane before kicking it out to Feeney, who nailed her second three-pointer to make it 33-11.
All told the Guardians made seven shots from beyond the arc, nearly matching New Britain’s entire scoring output.
With just under a minute to play in regulation, the seniors checked out of the game for the final time, walking to the bench together as the home crowd gave a standing ovation.
“It feels amazing,” Kehl said of the win. “I got a little emotional with it being my last game here, but it feels great.”
Feeney, who experienced a similar feeling in the fall when she captained the GHS volleyball team that also hosted and won a state tournament game, added, “We came in knowing that we were going to win and got the job done.”
Astiasaran led the team with 12 points in the tourney win, while Feeney and Handrahan each had nine. Skylar Fiske added six points, Kehl five, and Lilly Woodworth came off the bench to get a bucket in the fourth quarter.
Two days later, Glastonbury fell to second-seeded East Hartford in round two of the tourney, ending the season and the high school basketball careers for Kehl and Feeney.
Kehl said she hopes that they left a positive impression on the returning girls, adding that head coach Chris Vozzolo would often use their play as examples of “senior effort”, referring to diving after loose balls, boxing out, and other hustle plays.
“We have that experience because we’ve been on the team for a while,” added Feeney. “It’s about giving all the knowledge that we’ve gotten through the years to the younger players.”
Glastonbury's Alyssa Healy defends an in-bounds pass from New Britain's Adrianna Faienza during the Guardians 43-24 victory on Feb. 28
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin