By John Goralski
With six seconds left, freshman Maggie Meehan skipped the basketball to a junior on the wing. With four seconds left, Kaitlin Paterson fed Sarah Mongillo the ball in the paint. Mongillo missed her first shot, but she crashed the boards to get her own rebound.
With just over one second remaining, Mongillo scored the game winner.
Coach Mike Forgione watched his Lady Knights celebrate their second win in the early season. Few could have predicted a 2-0 start for the inexperienced team, but Forgione has learned to expect the unexpected.
“At the end of the day, we always talk about wanting it more,” said the coach. “I’m proud of our girls. Newington played a really, really aggressive 2-3 zone, but we battled back and forth. We were down by a point at halftime. We were down by a point at the end of the third quarter, but the kids came up big tonight.”
The Lady Knights kicked off the winter season last week with a pair of hard-fought victories. A rookie stepped up to win the first one. A bench player from last year’s team partnered with an up-and-coming senior in the second one, and a sophomore forward anchored the defense in both contests.
That’s what Forgione was hoping to see in the first week of the season. His group of inexperienced players came together to form a team, and that will be Southington’s recipe for success this winter.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen after losing all that scoring, over 90 percent with our three seniors graduating, but we knew that we were going to play hard,” the coach said after an 11-point win in the season opener. “The kids always do that. We take pride in that, and they really did that tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of the entire group.”
Southington wasted no time on Wednesday, Dec. 11 as they rallied to an early 10-6 lead against Manchester before the Indians turned to desperations shots from the perimeter. Southington players turned over the ball 20 times in a game that introduced almost half the team to varsity basketball, but an early second half run turned a one-point halftime deficit into a game dictated by the Lady Knights.
Meehan exploded for 15 points in the second half to lead the Knights with 21 points. Natalie Wadolowski anchored the locals in the middle with nine points, 17 rebounds, three blocks, and four steals. Sarah Mongillo scored seven points with six rebounds, and the Knights rallied for a 48-37 win.
“We went to our full court press to attack them,” Forgione said about the second half surge. “When you play teams like this you’re so worried about their pressure. Sometimes you have to throw it right back at them. We did that, and we got some steals. We converted some to points, and that gave us a little bit of a breathing room.”
Paterson only had four points, but she anchored the full court press with five steals. She had only one assist, but she battled through more than 30 minutes of the game despite being cleared just hours before tip-off. Forgione said that her effort was the spark plug for the Lady Knights.
“She came up big for us,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team, but I want to say something a little bit special about Kaitlin because that’s a gutsy effort. She was in some pain tonight.”
The momentum carried over to Friday’s road game against Newington. Forgione said that it took a full team effort to contain Newington’s two-pronged attack with seniors Kayla Guest and Stasha Gremlich. That was Forgione’s main concern at the start, and he shuffled players in and out of the lineup in an effort to contain them.
We were out-sized, but Nicole Fisher she guarded Stasha for most of the game and held her to six points,” said Forgione. “That was the key. We couldn’t have two players go off. I put Maggie on Stash for a while. I had Kaitlin on her for a while. I had Natalie guard Guest in the fourth quarter, and she held her to four points in that quarter. It was another team effort.”
Defensively, the Knights managed to stay within striking distance. Offensively, Fisher led the attack, going 6-for-7 from the floor and 4-for-4 from three point range for 18 points. Wadolowski finished with seven points and 16 rebounds.
We were out-sized, but Nicole Fischer went 6-for-6 from the field with four three pointers. Wadolowski finished with seven points and 16 rebounds. Paterson had six points. Meehan scored all four of her points in the fourth quarter comeback, and Emily Bonomi exploded off the bench for eight points and eight rebounds.
“It was another great team win,” said Forgione. “We played hard, and we wanted it more.”
Now, the Knights will try to carry that momentum through the holidays with a game at Rocky Hill this week, games against Suffield and Maloney on either side of Christmas, and a home game against Maloney on New Year’s Eve.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it will take every player if the Lady Knights are going to rally to the new year.
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By John Goralski