By John Goralski
With six minutes left in the game, one senior co-captain fouled out. With 1:32 remaining, a second senior fell to the floor clutching her leg. A five point lead shrank to one possession and vanished as time expired in the fourth quarter.
On Friday, Jan. 4, the Lady Knights were headed to overtime against NW Catholic with just one tired senior remaining on the court.
Was this the end for the Lady Knight winning streak?
“Even though the people on the court were young—we had two sophomores, a freshman, and a junior—they really stepped up in this game,” said senior co-captain Maeghan Chapman. “I think we just wanted it more in the end. That’s why we came out with a victory.”
Sarah Mongillo, a junior, led the fast break with back-to-back layups. Freshman Natalie Wadolowski (6 points) and Mongillo held a future division one forward to just one basket in the extra period, and a fatigued Chapman did the rest.
The senior co-captain drained seven of eight free throws down the stretch, and the Knights won their fourth straight game with a 48-41 win over the Indians.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team,” said Lady Knight coach Mike Forgione. “At the end of the day, you just have to want it more than they do. We battled all game. Sarah Mongillo was big in overtime, and she’s getting better every day. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Natalie Wadolowski is only a freshman out there with the way she handles the pressure. Both of those kids really had to step up when our seniors went out, and they did a great job.”
The win came on the heels of two lopsided victories over Maloney and Conard. The Knights have one four in a row to secure a 7-2 record. With more than half the season ahead of them, Southington needs just one more win to clinch a postseason berth.
Forgione said that he was happy with his team’s maturity during the streak, but that the win over NW Catholic showed his team’s true potential.
“I kind of lump together Monday and Wednesday because we kind of took care of business,” said the coach. “I think we were a little bit more athletic than those teams. We attacked them. We went at them, but we knew that NW Catholic would be a different story. We just wanted it more.”
In a New Year’s Eve matinee, the Knights rolled over Maloney, 52-36. Charamut paced the attack with 17 points. O’Keefe (11 points) converted a trio of three pointers. Kaitlin Paterson and Mongillo scored seven points apiece, and Chapman added six.
The momentum carried into Wednesday’s conference game against Conard. Chapman, Charamut, and O’Keefe combined for 15 points in the first quarter as the Knights opened a 26-12 lead at the half.
O’Keefe finished with 13 points. Chapman added 11, and Paterson scored eight. Charamut (7) and Mongillo (6) contributed but just five Knights scored in the 45-28 victory.
That’s why the NW Catholic victory was so important to Forgione. It proved that the team could rise above adversity, overcome the loss of two starters, and win with their bench.
“They have a division one center (Alyssa Reaves) going to University of Hartford on a full scholarship. Their other post is athletic, and their guards are quick,” said Forgione. “We knew that they were going to make runs, but the big question was whether we were going to be able to respond to those runs. The kids never backed down. They played tough to the end.”
NW Catholic’s big men held Charamut to just six points before she fouled out at the start of the fourth quarter. O’Keefe led all scorers with 15 points and three from long range. Wadolowski (6) and Paterson (5) contributed, and it was the team defense that forced the win.
NW Catholic managed just seven points in the fourth quarter and just four points in the overtime period. Reaves was held to just two baskets after the first quarter of play.
“We went back to those three words—Want it more,” said Forgione. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to dig down deep. We knew it was going to be tough, but you have to try to answer. The kids really responded.”
According to Chapman, the victory raises the bar for the Knights. “This is a very good team,” she said. “By stepping up and winning this game, we showed that we have every opportunity to win the rest of the way.”
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