By John Goralski
Maeghan Chapman dove at a loose ball, her elbow immediately started to swell, but she waved off her coach’s substitution. Freshman forward Natalie Wadolowski took an elbow to her face, came away with a bloody lip, but continued to battle for rebounds in the paint.
On Friday, Dec. 21, the Lady Knight basketball team pressed and doubled Windsor players as they desperately tried to force turnovers late in the game. The team’s effort drew praise from their coach, but it helped Coach Mike Forgione, drive home a point that he’s been trying to make with his up-and-coming Knights.
To be successful in Southington’s tough schedule, it’s going to take much more than extraordinary effort. Forgione pointed to his team’s 16.4 percent shooting (9-for-55) in the 41-34 loss. The effort has to be coupled with better decisions.
“For us to be successful on the offensive end we have to play together as one unit, and we didn’t do that tonight.” said the coach. “We just played playground basketball forcing up the first shot we saw. We can’t do that. We want to play a fast break, up tempo style but if points off the break aren’t there we have to run our offensive sets.”
Forgione pointed to some of the powerhouse teams on the schedule with all-state contenders that draw college scouts. To contend with that talent, Forgione said that his team needs to execute perfectly like Ivy League teams do in the NCAA. Southington has to be smarter with good looks, open spacing, perfect passes, and screens.
“We have to have everyone involved and doing their job for us to score. We need team basketball in the purest form,” he said. “We played right into Windsor’s hands by just taking the first shot instead of being patient and taking the best shot.”
Forgione isn’t circling the wagons. He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel, and there’s no desperation in his critique. At 3-2, the Lady Knights are still in good shape to reach their season’s expectations, but Forgione wants to be even better. With their efforts in the early season, he believes that they can do it.
“Even with the shooting performance the kids never quit. We even had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter if we converted some lay-ups,” he said. “As a high school coach, the main thing you look at is effort. Are the kids working as hard as they can and never quitting? This group never stops fighting,”
Sometimes, it pays off. On Tuesday, the girls opened the week with a 43-34 win over Newington on their home floor that showcased the team at its best. Stephanie O’Keefe paced a balanced attack with 13 points and 2-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Chapman added 11 points with eight rebounds. Danielle Charamut scored nine points with 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Southington trailed 6-2 but went on a 15-0 rally. Chapman led the defense with four of their seven steals. The Knights passed well in transition, won the rebounding battle, and shot 36.4 percent as a team as the team cruised to a 43-34 win.
“Newington has some really athletic kids, but they were missing a guard that got injured last week,” said Forgione. “The kids fought all game, and the seniors and everybody else did a good job finishing. We have to do the little things like taking care of the basketball, make good passes, and have good shot selection. That was big for us. We tried to get better shot selection. We weren’t forcing shots, and I give the kids a lot of credit. This isn’t an easy game, and they’re working hard to get better.”
Even when Newington cut the lead to two points in the second half, Southington answered with another run to put the game out of reach.
“Kaitlin Paterson made a couple of good shots. Natalie Wadolowski made a couple of big layups, and Sarah Mongillo gave us some good minutes off the bench,” said the coach. “We have to play together as a team to be successful. I was really proud of the way the kids fought back and didn’t lose their composure when Newington made their run.”
Now, Forgione is looking for consistency. He’s looking for effort and intelligent decisions. He’s judging their reads off the ball and the execution of a challenging scheme.
“We have two big home games on Friday and Saturday night,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot of support [from our fans] and get back on track with two wins.”
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