By John Goralski
The most impressive numbers can’t be found in the box score. In both victories last week. You have to look betwen the lines to find it.
Maeghan Chapman held Weaver’s top scorer to just three points, and she matched that feat against Newington’s go-to shooter. Sarah Mongillo and freshman Natalie Wadolowski held Newington’s No. 2 threat to just two points on Friday.
Weaver is still a postseason favorite, but the Knights held them to just 25 percent shooting. Newington is a tough team at home, but Southington held them to just 19.4 percent from the floor. Nobody scored more than seven points in any quarter, and the Lady Knights came two steps closer to clinching a home game in the postseason.
“Since day one, I’ve said it. Our kids are going to play hard for four quarters and for 20 games. We may not shoot well on certain nights. We may have a few mistakes, but we’re always going to play hard,” said Lady Knight basketball coach Mike Forgione. “When you play hard, good things can happen.”
How good are the Knights? It’s a question that’s been whispered by fans on the sidelines and by parents after games.
They have no 20-point scorers, but they’ve been able to out-run teams. They have just six players in most contests, but they’ve been able to out-last all but three opponents. At home or on the road, it doesn’t matter. With just over two weeks remaining on the schedule, the Knights are atop the conference standings. Even Forgione has been surprised by his team’s success.
“It’s been really nice. We’re right there in the mix, and I don’t think many people thought we would be when the season started,” said the coach. “I know we’ve definitely surprised some people by the number of texts that I’ve been getting from coaches around the state. It’s been fun. The kids have earned it. They’re working hard. We’ll get ready for the next one, and we’ll take it one game at a time.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Weaver posed one of the biggest road tests of the winter, and Southington passed with flying colors. ZZ Parker scored 30 points against Windsor and 32 against East Catholic. She had a game with 22 points and one with 19.
Chapman held her to three points in the game.
“It’s just all heart and desire. She has the ability, so she can stay with these guards with her speed and quickness,” Forgione said. “The bottom line is that, to D up a good player, you have to want to do it. She gets after it every night.”
Weaver’s second threat is Alyssa Stewart, and both girls are being scouted for the next level. Stewart had 28 points against Middletown and 27 against Manchester.
Southington’s defense held her to her season average (19) and the rest of the team to five points. The Lady Knights rolled to a 49-27 win over a team that could still win a state title.
“It was a great team effort,” said the coach. “Obviously they are a very athletic team. They’ve gotten a lot of quality wins this year, and they’ll be a favorite to win Class M tournament. We knew that they might make a run, but we wanted to be tougher. Nobody practices harder than we did on Sunday and Monday, so we deserved this night. We got it done.”
Everybody pitched in. Danielle Charamut had 14 points with 10 rebounds. Stephanie O’Keefe converted a pair of three pointers to score 11 points. Chapman finished with 10 points and two blocks. Mongillo (6 points), Kaitlin Paterson (3 steals), and Wadolowski (5 points, 9 rebounds) contributed, and the Knights rallied for a 22-point win.
“We were going into another tough environment. Friday night, we were at New Britain. Tonight, we were at Weaver,” said Forgione. “I told the kids that we had to come out with intensity and really attack them. And they did that. We just kept the pressure on them, and we took Weaver out of their game.”
The momentum carried into Friday’s contest at Newington. Chapman scored 11 points with four steals. O’Keefe added nine, but the offense was slowed by Newington’s pressure. No matter.
The Knights turned up the pressure. Charamut finished with 12 rebounds. Wadolowski had three steals. Newington’s top two scorers were held to a total of five points, and the Lady Knights went 9-for-11 from the free throw line in the final quarter to get a 30-20 victory.
With the win, Southington improved to 12-3 overall. The 7-2 conference record is tied by Farmington atop the CCC West standings. Can the Knights hold on?
“When you have to go on the road to face Farmington, and NW Catholic in the next week, we can’t really get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Forgione. “I’m really enjoying this. I’m pushing them really hard in practice, but the kids are really enjoying their success. They earned it. We don’t have anybody that can take over a game, but we play team basketball and that’s a lot of fun to watch.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.