By BRIAN JENNINGS
After pulling upsets in the first two rounds of the Class LL tournament and advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, the Cinderella run finally came to an end on Thursday, March 9 when the No. 23 Lady Knights fell, 54-43, at second ranked Enfield in the quarterfinals.
Southington coach Mike Forgione said he wasn’t surprised with the way his team clawed their way through a number of upsets and the way they battled one of the top teams in the tournament.
“When you come watch a Southington basketball game, you’re going to watch kids give 32 minutes of everything they have,” said the coach. “We left everything on the court and went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the state. It’s just that we didn’t knock down enough shots at the end of the day.”
The Eagles led, 28-21, at halftime and pulled away from the Knights by going 7-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points in each of the first, second, and fourth quarters. Most of Enfield’s points came in transition.
Janette Wadolowski marshaled the offense with 21 points as the only Southington player to score in double figures. Hartlee Meier backed Wadolowski with eight points, and Brianna Harris contributed six. Maggie Meehan averaged over 20 points a game coming into the quarterfinal contest, but Enfield held her to four points.
Meier and Meehan, a torrid long-range combination throughout the tournament, was held without a three-pointer in the final game. The duo averaged over five three-pointers per game. The Knights finished the game with just three triples.
“When you don’t have a lot of size inside, lots of times you live and die with the perimeter game,” said Forgione. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Forgione has never really had a true center well over six feet in his tenure with the Knights, but he seems to find himself coaching against them come tournament time. The Knights went up against 6-foot-4 Abigail Wolf when they fell to Greenwich in the quarterfinals of last year’s state tournament and 6-foot-3 Brielle Wilborn when they fell to Middletown in the first round of this year’s CCC tournament.
The Knights saw another lengthy girl on Thursday. Enfield’s Mary Baskerville stands 6-foot-3 and finished the game with 10 points. But Baskerville wasn’t the only length Enfield had on the hardwood.
Whether they played man-to-man or a 2-3 zone, the Eagles extended their defense and spread the floor against the Knights. Forgione said that Enfield took the Lady Knights out of their offensive comfort zone, which was a key factor to the game.
“When you’re catching the ball, you’re not really catching it in scoring position,” said Forgione. “We couldn’t catch and shoot because we were so far away from the basket. We had to catch and penetrate or come off a screen and do something else in order to score. It made it a lot more difficult.”
The Knights played a box-and-one on Enfield’s Danielle Delano, but it wasn’t enough to keep her from reaching double figures. Delano paced the Eagles with 22 points on a pair of threes and went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“We actually did everything we wanted to do defensively against their three big players,” said Forgione. “We had a few turnovers, but I thought we did a nice job against their pressure with their 2-2-1 full-court press.”
Although the Knights came up short of reaching the semifinals, Forgione said that making it to the quarterfinals was still a good experience for those girls returning next year.
“The underclassmen realize what it takes now to play at a Class LL school and play in the Class LL tournament,” said Forgione. “I’m excited about the freshmen group coming in for next year, and there’s going to be a lot of competition to earn varsity spots.”
Top-seeded Trumbull (22-1) will play No. 5 Mercy (20-3) at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, and No. 2 Enfield will play No. 3 New London (21-2) at Glastonbury High School in the semifinals on Monday, March 13.
Southington finished the season with an overall record of 14-9.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/03/15/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-march-17-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.