Wethersfield's Vanessa Venditti inbounds as Rocky Hill's Kate Oostendorp defends.
Late in the third quarter, Wethersfield’s Vanessa Venditti had just missed a pair of free throws and Rocky Hill had reduced a once double-digit lead to four points.
Venditti, a sophomore who head coach Jeff Russell praised for her swag, was undeterred and took over by draining three straight three pointers over a three-minute span as the Eagles held off the visiting Terriers 36-27 last Tuesday night at WHS.
“She’s got genuine confidence. It’s helpful that she does have confidence, because in high school sports if you have a kid that can go get a bucket you’re in games,” added Russell, “She’s been that person for us so far this year. She’s got the ability to get hot quick.”
Wethersfield led from start to finish, charging out to a 11-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Alexa Grenier dominated the paint early, scoring 7 of her game-high 13 points in the first quarter.
Grenier, a junior, missed the start of the season but has since been a steady force.
Russell said that Grenier always had the ability and now she has the confidence to go along with it, “She’s had a couple spurts this year where she has taken over defensively and offensively. She had a couple of threes tonight, she made some inside plays, and she’s a terrific passer.”
Following a disappointing start, Rocky Hill slowly clawed back into the game behind an exceptional defensive effort. After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Terriers limited the Eagles to 12 (all from beyond the arc) over the final 16 minutes.
Head coach James McKinnon praised his team for the defensive turnaround when addressing them following the loss, “I think we need to believe that we can be in games against these top schools. It takes us four or five minutes to catch on that we are just as good as these schools, and I think defensively we we’re right there.”
After holding the Eagles scoreless for the first four minutes of the third, Peggy Minga’s three-pointer narrowed the deficit to 24-20.
On the following possession, Venditti nailed a three from the right wing.
Rocky Hill senior Jennifer Kimball countered by banking in a three-pointer from straight away before Grenier canned a clutch shot from downtown in the closing seconds of the third, providing the home team a 30-24 advantage.
Venditti hit two more triples early in the fourth and the Terriers offense stalled, scoring only three in the final frame.
“I’ve got to give Venditti credit, she can shoot from anywhere and she really stepped up for them,” added McKinnon, “We need to get better offensively, like finishing around the basket. We’re not there yet and we can’t afford to miss these shots in the paint. We make a few more of those it’s a different game down the stretch but give Wethersfield credit they made the shots when they needed to.”
Minga had a team-high nine points and grabbed six rebounds, while Jillian Chipkin added seven points and a ripped down a dozen rebounds.
Minga has worked her way back from an injury to add much-needed firepower for the Terriers lineup.
“It’s great to have Peggy back. She’s a hard worker with so much perseverance after 13 months of rehab with torn ACL and meniscus. For her to come back was emotional for her and her family and I’m so glad that she’s able to finish out her senior year playing.”
Following the Wethersfield loss, the Terriers closed the regular season with a home win over Maloney and a loss to Newington, wrapping up a 2-5 regular season.
Due to a Covid-related delayed start, Rocky Hill was forced to play all seven games over a 10-day span.
Hannah Conneely had a team-high 10 points in each of the final two home game, adding seven steals in the win over Maloney.
Chipkin added 12 more rebounds against Maloney, finishing the regular season with double-digit boards in six of seven games.
Wethersfield followed with a convincing win over Bulkeley/SMSA, closing the regular season at 9-3.
It was the team’s ninth win in ten games, following an 0-2 start.
Russell credited the turnaround with a deep bench that rounded into shape.
“Some kids have developed into those integral roles. Our kids have more clearly defined roles, which allows you to play and practice better because you’re repeating the things in practice that you need to do in a game. Also, our intensity picked up and we still struggle to score a bit but our defense and our rebounding is better. We’ve only been outrebounded in one game this year,” stated Russell, who commended the team for rolling with the punches during an unconventional season, “It’s a very energetic group. Good or bad, even if we miss free throws or something doesn’t go right, things roll off their backs. It’s nice to have kids that are always ready for the next play. They’re easily coached.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin