By BRIAN JENNINGS
With a pair of victories this past week, the Lady Knight hoopsters finally got a breather from a grueling schedule of tough, conference matchups that has helped erase memories of a slow start.
The girls began the season with just one win in four games, but with lopsided victories over New Britain and NW Catholic, Southington (8-4) has clinched a berth in the upcoming Class LL tournament.
“The main thing about playing games where you have maybe a little more talent is that you don’t want to play down to their level,” said Southington coach Mike Forgione. “You just want to continue to do the things that you’re doing and not get sloppy. Sometimes, you look forward to it because our schedule is so difficult.”
Playing arguably their laxest week of the regular season helped them qualify for the Class LL tournament for the 18th-straight year, as the Knights have now won seven of their last eight games. But it also meant changing things up and experimenting with the lineup for Forgione.
“It was nice to see some of the girls that play a lot of varsity minutes night in and night out supporting some of the girls that play more JV minutes that were getting more varsity minutes, especially Friday night at NW Catholic,” said Forgione. “They’re continuing to work and develop.”
Although the Knights qualified for the state tournament, they have yet to achieve their first goal for the regular season: qualify for the CCC tournament. Now past the midpoint of the regular season, the Knights have no room for error after dropping three of their first four games against CCC opponents. Qualified for the conference tournament of not, Forgione said that the girls continue to want to work and get better as the season progresses, and that might be enough to help get them into the conference tournament.
“I told them that I’m going to challenge them every day. I’m not going to let up,” said Forgione. “We’re not going to settle for mediocrity or get lazy. We’re always going to be looking to get better. It’s my job to continue to push them and get the most out of their abilities. They know we’re not going to let up, and I think that’s the way they like it.”
The Knights will look to fight for better seeding in the state tournament next week when they travel to Berlin (5-6) on Monday, Jan. 22 and then return home to host South Windsor (3-10) on Friday, Jan. 26. Friday night’s game against South Windsor is Southington’s annual Kay Yow Pink Zone game. Game time is 6:45 p.m. Southington is currently 8-4.
The Knights began the week with a 50-33 rout of New Britain at home on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Although the Golden Hurricanes garnered just three wins coming into Tuesday’s contest, Forgione noted that they were still concerned about them. One of New Britain’s wins came against a Plainville team that the Knights beat by eight earlier in the season.
The Knights held a six-point lead at the half after keeping the Hurricanes scoreless in the opening quarter of play, but they struggled with just 15 points in the first half. However, the Knights managed to pull away with the help of 22 points and eight of 10 free throws made in the third quarter.
“I was kind of frustrated with the first half,” said Forgione. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and were just a little sluggish. But we came out in the third quarter and kind of picked it up.”
Janette Wadolowski (5 steals, 2 blocks) paced the offense with 22 points and attacked the glass with a team high of 12 rebounds. Julia Collins contributed with six points.
The Knights capped off the week by clinching a seat in the state tournament on Friday. They earned their fourth-straight win with a 60-21 rout of the Lions at divisional NW Catholic, which is their largest victory of the season.
The Knights held a 28-point lead at the half, limiting the Lions to just two points in the first quarter. Wadolowski paced the offense with 32 points on four three-pointers, which was her second-highest total in a game this season. Wadolowski also went 4-for-6 from the foul line. Brianna Harris contributed with eight points.
Wadolowski is now 42 points away from 1,000 career points. She missed her entire freshman season and part of her junior season, due to injuries.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2018/01/23/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-jan-26-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.