By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls basketball hit rock bottom during a 42-30 loss to Joel Barlow on Dec. 27 in the first round of the second annual John Rossi Memorial Tournament at Wolcott High School. It wasn’t how they finished. It was how they started.
The final score was closer than the game actually was. Southington scored just two points in the first quarter, trailed by 15 points at halftime and was down as much as 20 in the second half before rallying to within 10 in the fourth quarter. The loss was the third straight for the Lady Knights.
The following day, Southington faced Wolcott, another team that has been struggling, in the consolation game. After another slow start, the Knights quickly rebounded and blew away the Eagles 65-26 to improve to 2-3 on the season.
“We really kind of hit rock bottom last night in our loss to Joel Barlow,” coach Mike Forgione said. “We talked about coming out with some more energy and really bringing it on the defensive end. Even though we got off to that little bit of a slow start, I thought we really picked it up in the first quarter, then played a really good second quarter.”
Here’s what happened in each game:
Bad start leads to loss
DEC. 27—The Knights couldn’t get anything going early against the undefeated Falcons in their first game of the tournament, and it cost them.
Southington didn’t score its first basket until Sam Sullivan’s layup off of a Julia Korp assist with 3:39 left in the first quarter. The bucket cut the Barlow lead to 7-2. The Knights trailed 15-2 after one quarter and 25-10 at halftime. Southington missed all eight of its free throw attempts in the first half.
The Falcons led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter before settling for a 36-17 lead after three quarters. The Knights went on an 11-2 run to get to within 38-28 in the fourth quarter, but they never got closer than 10 points.
Kelley Marshall scored nine points, all in the second half, to lead Southington. Freshman Sam Sullivan scored eight points and played well off of the bench for the Knights. Megan Mikosz scored six points, all in the second quarter.
Improvement in victory
DEC. 28—The Knights fell behind the Eagles 7-2, but outscored the tournament hosts 19-4 for the rest of the first quarter and never looked back on the way to a blowout victory. Still, Forgione indicated that he wasn’t happy with the slow start in the first quarter, and another one at the beginning of the third.
“I think in general, we were disappointed with the way we played against Joel Barlow,” Forgione said. “The way we came out, we’ve been having trouble with that all year. Even tonight, Wolcott got off to a 7-2 start to start the game, and they got off to an 8-2 start to start the third quarter.”
Happily for Southington, things went well between the slow starts to each half. The Knights used strong defense and transition offense to grab a 21-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. Southington then held Wolcott scoreless in the second quarter on the way to a 40-11 halftime advantage.
“They were seeing the ball and seeing their man, and by having that good vision, they were able to jump in front of some passes,” Forgione said. “That kind of leads us into transition, which helped us.”
The defensive effort started up front with the guards and traveled down low to the forwards. The guards and forwards took turns stepping into passing lanes to deflect or steal the ball. Marshall was disruptive under the basket on defense and led the way offensively with a game-high 16 points. Kristen Longley connected for three 3-pointers on her way to 13 points. Off the bench, Ali Barretta tallied eight points while Sam Sullivan added four points. Sullivan was a bright spot during both games for Southington.
“She’s a quiet kid, but she plays hard,” Forgione said. “You don’t have to be a vocal person to be an aggressive player, and I think she shows that out there. She anticipates the ball well, she understands the game, she sees the floor. She’s given us a nice lift off the bench.”
Up next: The Knights hit the road on Wednesday for a game against Plainville. Southington is back on the road Friday at Conard. The Knights won the first matchup 60-58 on Dec. 13 at Southington. Forgione said the schedule will get much tougher in the New Year, so constant improvement is a big key.
“We’re just trying to get better,” Forgione said. “I told the kid, lots of times we’re not going to define seasons by wins and losses. It’s got to be about improvement.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com