Cinderella Story; Lady Knights reach the finals of the conference tournament

By John Goralski
Sports Writer

It took overtime to knock off the top seed. It took three chances for higher-ranked teams to knock out the Lady Knights.
While most teams are scrambling for scrimmages to prepare for the Class LL tournament, Southington was having some fun. On Monday, the No. 8 Knights became the lowest seed to win a CCC tournament contest, and they rode that momentum right into the championship game.
“Who would have thought that we would have been here?” said Lady Knight basketball coach Mike Forgione. “There were 32 teams opening up that first day of the season. One of their goals was to make the CCC tournament and make it to the finals. Glastonbury and us were the last two remaining.”
The Knights aren’t finished with the conference. In fact, they’re just getting started. In a cruel test of fate, Southington has drawn a conference rival in the opening rounds of the Class LL tournament. Twice, they fought off Newington rallies to secure regular season wins. Can they do it again?
“It’s not going to be easy, but who would have thought that these kids would be where they are now?” said Forgione. “We’re going to keep fighting and hope for the best on Tuesday.”

Breaking Down Berlin’s Wall
Southington opened the tournament with an 8-0 run. With three straight jump shots, the Lady Knights put a quick end to Berlin’s zone defense.
On Monday, Feb. 18, the Knights held off an early Berlin comeback. They battled the the top seed to a deadlock after 32 minutes and rallied for 17 of the final 22 points to become the first No. 8 seed to win against the conference’s top team.
“We’ve been playing these types of games all year, and we knew that we were going to have to battle in each game of the CCC tournament,” Forgione said. “The CCC West was so balanced this year. Even teams like New Britain and Hall that didn’t make the state tournament have quality teams. I told the kids that we were going to take it one game at a time like we’ve been doing all year. We’ll leave everything on the court.”
Kaitlin Paterson led the charge with 18 points, but Stephanie O’Keefe added 14 points as the Knights buried Berlin from the perimeter. Maeghan Chapman (9), Natalie Wadolowski (8), Danielle Charamut (7), and Sarah Mongillo (2) each contributed as the Knights held on for a 58-46 overtime win.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
The Wednesday match-up with Farmington was a chance to right a wrong. The Indians stole a late season victory from the Knights to clinch the CCC West. On Feb. 20, Southington returned the favor.
The Knights fell behind 5-0 in the first quarter and 13-9 in the second, but Southington battled back for a two point halftime lead. The Lady Knights stretched the lead to seven at the end of the third quarter and held on for a 42-35 win.
“This group is a special group,” said Forgione. “I only have six kids. I have no bench. We have a freshman that’s playing with a torn ACL, and she didn’t get cleared until two days before we started practice. My sixth man is a junior that never played varsity before, and I’ve got three seniors and a sophomore that had limited experience last year. I think they just decided to stick together and play hard.”
Danielle Charamut anchored the Knights with 19 points and 10 rebounds. When Farmington rallied to tie the game late in the third quarter, it was Charamut that answered back with a pair of mid-range jumpers.
O’Keefe finished with 11 points and two steals. Chapman had eight points with seven boards, and Mongillo bolstered the defense with a pair of steals. Once again, Forgione credited the entire squad.
“Every game that we’re going to win is going to have to be a full team effort,” he said. “We don’t have any superstars. We have no one getting scholarships, and no one getting scholarships in other sports like a lot of teams do. We just want to play together as a team, and they did that tonight.

Close But No Cigar
On Thursday, Southington’s run came to an end against No. 2 Glastonbury. Courtney Latham picked apart the Knights with 23 points. The Tomahawk big men held Southington to just one shot each possession. Paterson rallied for 13 points in the championship game, but Glastonbury cruised to a 52-30 win.
“They controlled the boards, and that really hurt us, but I was really proud of our effort,” said Forgione. “I was proud of them for getting here. I think it’s the first time that we’ve been here in the CCC finals…My kids never quit, but give Glastonbury credit. They were everywhere tonight.”
Chapman managed nine points for the Knights, but noboy else scored more than two baskets in the loss.
Now, the Knights will try to regroup for the Class LL tournament as they prepare to face Newington (10-10) in the opening round. Southington (18-5) enters the opening round as the No. 15 seed.

By John Goralski Southington guard Stephanie O’Keefe splits a pair of defenders during a 42-35 win over Farmington in the CCC Tournament semifinals.

By John Goralski
Southington guard Stephanie O’Keefe splits a pair of defenders during a 42-35 win over Farmington in the CCC Tournament semifinals.

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