By John Goralski
You’re never as good as your wins or as bad as your losses. That’s the lesson that Coach Mike Forgione wants his Lady Knight basketball team to take out of the first week of the winter season.
Southington manhandled Bloomfield for a lopsided win on opening day, but they squandered a late lead in the conference opener on Friday.
Forgione judges the first week by the reaction of his players, and he said that they passed the test. After the win, the girls entered the postgame huddle with a pointed critique of their mistakes. After the loss, you could hear a pin drop on the ride home.
“There wasn’t a sound on the bus,” said Forgione. “I’m not the kind of coach that tells them they can’t talk. They were upset, and that shows that they care.”
It’s too early to circle the wagons, and Forgione’s expectations haven’t wavered.
“This was a hard one. The conference schedule will get harder, so this is one we really needed,” he said. “We’re just trying to get better every day. We’re taking it one game at a time, and it’s the little things to close out games—protecting the basketball, playing good defense, boxing out, and making foul shots.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 5, the Knights could do no wrong as they raced out to an early 8-0 lead. Danielle Charamut scored two of her four blocked shots in the opening minutes as Southington rallied to a 23-11 lead in the second quarter. Bloomfield switched to a full-court press to cut the lead to four points, but the Lady Knights out-scored the Warhawks, 21-4 in the third quarter and held on for a 58-33 win.
“At halftime we made some adjustments and talked about what we needed to do to get that pressure back. We wanted to attack it, and I think that the girls made some good adjustments at halftime to play a great third quarter,” Forgione said. “We wanted to give a lot of pressure. We talk about getting our hands on balls. We talk about deflections and 50/50s. All those little clichés are important, and I think we did a good job with it tonight. Those things turned into layups on the other end.”
Charamut paced the offense with 16 points. Maeghan Chapman scored 11 points with nine rebounds, and Stephanie O’Keefe scored 13 points with eight boards and six assists. But it was the defense that powered the win. O’Keefe had four steals. Chapman and Kaitlin Paterson had three steals apiece. Defenders combined for 17 blocks and 10 steals as they held Bloomfield to just 25 percent shooting.
All-state contender Corrine Williams was held to just 16 points with just eight points from the floor, and nobody else scored more than seven points for the Warhawks.
“We wanted to take [Williams] out of her game, and I think the girls battled,” said Forgione. “We said that we’d let somebody else beat us, and we did some really good things. We did a great job running our fast break, and we were able to finish our layups.”
On Friday, it started out much the same. The defense held Simsbury to just 34.1 percent shooting with 18 turnovers. The Knights opened a six-point lead at the break and led by seven with just a few minutes remaining. Then, it fell apart.
The Trojans packed the paint with a 2-3 defense, and Southington struggled down the stretch. They still clung to a one-point lead in the final minute, but a turnover and a string of foul shots tipped the scales. The Knights fell, 43-41.
“We got some good looks. We just had trouble converting,” said Forgione. “We tried everything. We set screens. We tried to reverse the ball and work it inside-out. We built a lead in the third quarter, but the fourth quarter came down to protecting the basketball, playing good defense, and finishing. We just couldn’t do it.”
Southington scored three players in double digits with 10 points apiece. Chapman had 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Charamut added six steals, and O’Keefe had three assists. Paterson scored seven points, but the Knights struggled down the stretch.
“These are games that we have to have because things will get much harder with teams like Newington, NW Catholic, Farmington, Hall, and New Britain coming up,” said the coach. “The bottom line is that they packed in a 2-3 zone, and we shot 16-for-50 from the field.”
The girls will try to regroup this week against Plainville before entering the heart of their conference schedule the following week. Forgione hopes they learned their lessons in week one.
He’ll find out soon enough.