By John Goralski
These days, Coach Mike Forgione believes in karma. If he didn’t believe before Thursday’s game, he certainly does now.
What else could explain it? The head coach is also an assistant coach for the football team, but he had to make a decision between teams when his winter sports contest was scheduled at the same time as the fall championship game.
Forgione chose his girls, and they rewarded him with their own brand of excitement. He missed the comeback win on the gridiron, but Forgione’s girls treated the coach to a double-overtime comeback on the road.
Now that’s karma.
“It was a really exciting win,” said Forgione. “I told them that we weren’t going to quit. I knew that we were going to keep at it, and we really persevered in that second overtime. It was a good, team win.”
It didn’t start out that well as Rocky Hill rallied for eight consecutive points to start the game. At the same time, the Lady Knights seemed to falter on the offensive end as they limped into the break with just 13 points in the opening half. Still, the Knights were within striking distance at the break.
“Rocky Hill came right out at us,” said the coach. “Their big inside threat, Kirstyn Arcata had 12 points in the first quarter and it was mostly on fast breaks. She was just running the floor as a post and was just finishing. We struggled. We were making some bad decisions, and we were missing shots, but we were only down by eight.”
So, Forgione gave a pep talk about defense and he challenged his team to show the will to get back in the game. Little did he know that his gridiron coaches were giving the same talk to their team on the other side of the state. Both talks paid off.
“We had to do two things,” said Forgione. “We had to really tighten up our defense, and we had to be more aggressive to match their aggressiveness. We really picked it up in the third quarter, and we had balanced scoring. That was the difference.”
Nicole Fischer scored six of her 15 points in the third quarter surge. Natalie Wadolowski and Maggie Meehan scored four points apiece, and Kaitlin Paterson added three. Sarah Mongillo scored a bucket in the paint. The defense put a stranglehold on Rocky Hill’s big men, and Southington tied the score, 42-42, at the start of the fourth quarter.
“We just got more aggressive on both ends, offensively and defensively,” said Forgione. “We started attacking the rim better, and our defense really tightened up.”
Arcata scored a dozen points in the opening quarter, but Southington held her to 20 points in the game. Meanwhile, Meehan rallied for 23 points. Wadolowski collected 15 points with 14 rebounds, and Fischer rallied for 15 points.
It took a last second rebound by Rocky Hill to push the game into overtime. It took an NBA-range three pointer at the overtime buzzer to seal a Southington win, but the Lady Knights went 10-for-12 at the foul line in the second overtime to pull away for the win.
“We got a little bit of a lead in that second overtime, and they had to foul,” said Forgione. “When good teams get a lead, they have to play good defense and make foul shots. We did that.”
With the victory, the Lady Knights improved to 3-0 in the early season. They will try to continue that momentum with games against Conard, Suffield, and Maloney in the holiday week. No matter what happens, Southington’s already clinched a .500 record at the new year.
“The kids understand that our schedule will get harder every week as we get into our conference schedule, but we’re really excited about our start,” said the coach. “I think our kids realize that they have to be ready to play every day. Today, we learned that we can’t give a team an edge at the beginning of the game. We have to play four quarters, but the kids never ever quit when the going got hard in the first half or when Rocky Hill made two great plays to send it into overtime and double overtime. We stayed the course and got it done.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.