By BRIAN JENNINGS
The No. 7 Lady Knights (18-3) are moving on to the second round of the Class LL state tournament after defeating No.26 Norwalk (10-11), 62-51, at home on Saturday, Feb. 27. But the victory didn’t come easily.
The Knights came out quickly, building a a nine-point lead by the end of the first quarter, but the Bears cut the deficit to five heading into halftime, 36-31.
A new brand of basketball was presented in the second half as the physicality of the game kicked up a notch. Girls dove for loose balls on the floor and pressure defense was applied. But through all of the scraping and clawing, the Bears outscored the Knights 15-6 and were able to pull ahead of the Knights by four points after the third quarter, 46-42.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights struck back, sending the Bears into hibernation with clutch foul shooting, outscoring Norwalk 20-5. The Knights went 17-for-21 from the charity stripe in the game, but went 14-for-16 in the fourth quarter alone.
Southington coach Mike Forgione said that they knew Norwalk was a very athletic team going into the game. “They come from a really strong conference,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We let them get back into in the third quarter, but to give my kids credit, we bounced back. To get a double-digit win in the first round is really good.”
Although foul shooting was a strength for the Knights, defense was also a big part of the win, as the Knights only allowed the Bears to score one field goal in the fourth quarter.
“I told the kids that we’re going to have to play great defense and make your foul shots,” said Forgione. “That’s how you win tournament games, especially in Class LL.”
Defense and foul shots down the stretch proved to be the difference. Southington went 17-for-21 (.810) from the foul line. Norwalk garnered more steals, 11-14, but Southington won the battle in the paint, edging the Bears in rebounds (34-26) and blocked shots (5-3).
“We did a great job of preventing them from getting good looks at the rim,” said Forgione. “When we got the rebounds and they fouled us, we converted.”
Janette Wadolowski (4 assists) marshaled the Knights’ conquest with a double-double of 25 points and 16 rebounds, going 6-for-8 from the foul line. Maggie Meehan (3 steals, 2 assists) stepped in to produce 19 points on a pair of three pointers. Natalie Wadolowski (4 steals, 3 blocks) scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Asiah Knight led the Bears with 13 points.
The Knights will take on No.10 Greenwich (16-3) in the second round of the tournament at home on Thursday, March 3 at 6pm. The Cardinals defeated No.23 Avon (10-11) in the first round, 74-55.
The Knights defeated Avon, 45-37, at their place during the regular season, who has 6-foot-3, University of Wisconsin recruit, Abigail Laszewski. Like Avon, Greenwich also poses a threat down in the paint with 6-foot-4 forward, Abigail Wolf.
While Laszewski has the ability to shoot the ball from the outside, Forgione said that Wolf plays more like a post player. Wolf plans to attend Northwestern University in Illinois.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at email@example.com.