One common theme to any of the Southington girls basketball team’s seven losses this season was that the Lady Knights never quit until the final buzzer. That was especially evident on March 5 when they, once again, took on Glastonbury in the Class LL tournament.
Southington and Glastonbury played each other in the Central Connecticut Conference tournament a week prior.
Over the first 11:30 of the game, the Tomahawks went on a 26-4 run. It would be very unlikely for a team to comeback from such a deficit, but the Lady Knights almost made it a reality.
Over the next 16 minutes of game time, Southington would storm back, outscoring Glastonbury, 28-11. After a Brianna Harris steal, Livvy Pizzitola made a fast break layup with 3:24 left in the game. That capped off a 9-0 run and slimmed Glastonbury’s lead to its shortest of the game since the first quarter, as the score was 37-32.
“It really was an inspirational second half,” head coach Howie Hewitt said. “There was nothing really special, except for playing as hard as they can play. It is too bad but as long as they knew they played as hard as they can play, they can still be happy about what they did. I am very happy for them.”
Glastonbury attempted to play keep-away to burn some clock but a missed layup with 1:18 left gave Southington the ball back with a chance to bring the score within one possession. Harris was able to grab an offensive rebound off her own missed shot and find an open Pizzitola beyond the three-point line, but the junior point guard could not get the shot to go.
Glastonbury’s Sydney Kehl missed the front end of a one-and-one but Rachel Roman was able to grab the offensive rebound. Roman went to make both free throws after being fouled, pushing the Tomahawk’s lead back to seven with 33 seconds to go.
Roman then stole the ensuing in-bound from Southington and hit two more free throws to put the game out of reach for the Knights.
Julia Korp was able to stop the bleeding in the first half after an and-one layup made it 26-7. Southington’s deficit was cut from 22 points to 18 at the break. Still down by 20 points with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter, Pizzitola converted a free throw after her basket to make it 35-18. Just over a minute later, Pizzitola converted a three-pointer to make it 35-21.
“At halftime, I told the team that strategy is not everything,” Hewitt said. “It is not what you do, it is how you do it. You can’t back down from people. We were too tentative offensively. You can’t just go through the motions in these games. They came out and played much harder in the second half.”
Jessica Carr made a jumper to start the fourth quarter to slim the lead to 12. Glastonbury began their keep-away strategy but Southington’s defense kept fighting, tipping two balls out of bounds. Southington was finally able to grab the rebound and Pizzitola made another triple with 5:12 remaining in the game to bring the score within single digits.
After forcing a turnover, Carr grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 4:30 left to make it 37-30. Pizzitola’s layup a minute later would be the closest Southington would get.
Southington shot better from the field at 35% versus Glastonbury’s 31%, but the Knights committed three more turnovers and were outrebounded by nine.
Pizzitola led the way with 12 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. Carr had eight points, four rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Madison Hulten had four points and four rebounds.
It was a complete turnaround for the Lady Knights in Hewitt’s first season at the helm, as they followed a 5-15 record in 2018-2019 with a 16-7 record this season, including the postseason.
The Knights will only lose three players to graduation, though they are key losses in Harris, Hulten, and Megan Mikosz. However, Jessica Carr, Pizzitola, and Alison Barretta, each starters last week, will return. They will also return their two leading scorers on the season, Kelley Marshall (9.6 points per game) and Allison Carr (7.6 points per game), who were forced to sit the remainder of this season with injuries.
Other key returning players will include Korp, Gabby D’Angelo, Taylor Sullivan, Samantha Sullivan, Sarah Soloman, Hailey Zembrzuski, and Allison Mikosz. Five of those seven players received minutes in last week’s loss to Glastonbury.
“There is no reason why not,” Hewitt said when asked if next season can be successful. “I look around at the teams we play and I see where I want these girls to get. It is not that we aren’t talented enough. We just haven’t put enough time and energy into it.”
The remainder of all CIAC winter tournaments were suspended due to concerns over the coronavirus.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at Sports@SouthingtonObserver.com.