Southington was in this position before, and the ball seemed to find the same player’s hands as the last time. For the second time this season, senior Livvy Pizzitola sank a shot in the final seconds to lift the Lady Knights to a dramatic win. This game-winner allowed No. 9 Southington to defeat No. 24 Middletown to move on in the Class LL tournament.
Ironically, Pizzitola’s other game-winning basket this season came against Glastonbury, who the Knights played in the Class LL second round on Thursday, March 5 and in the first round of the Central Connecticut Conference tournament.
Pizzitola made other shots that changed the momentum throughout the game. After Brianna Harris made a three with five seconds left in the first half to give Southington a 26-20 halftime lead, Middletown began the second half on a 12-1 run.
“We could not have played a much worse third quarter,” head coach Howie Hewitt said. “We were looking to pass too much instead of shooting the ball. Their zone was giving us that free-throw line jumper. That is a tough shot to make but we have been practicing that. I know that some of it was the pressures of the state tournament but I want our girls to be shooting the basketball.”
The Knights were having trouble putting the ball in the basket, but Pizzitola cashed in on a wide open three with two minutes left in the third quarter to stop the bleeding.
“Livvy has made those big plays in the big spots before,” Hewitt said. “She made that big three when we were down five. That was very helpful. In the final seconds, she wanted the ball and she came up big once again.”
A minute into the final period, Harris made another three to give the lead back to Southington. Minutes later, Jenaya Salafia of Middletown responded with a three of her own to tie the game as 37.
Pizzitola made another potential game-winner with 2:30 left to give Southington a 39-37 lead, but Aysia Henderson grabbed an offensive rebound with 1:05 left and put it back in to tie it once again. Jessica Carr drove for a layup with 45 seconds left, but the Blue Dragons scored right back on the other end before the Knights could get back to tie it right back up.
That is when Southington held for the last shot, and Pizzitola dribbled along the baseline and hit a ten-footer with five seconds left to seal the win.
Like the second half, Middletown opened up the first round matchup on a 7-0 run. Then Southington made back-to-back triples, one by Pizzitola, to give the Lady Knights some life. Alison Barretta found Pizzitola for an and-one layup and just like that, the game was tied at 9-9. Southington did not trail again until the second half.
Pizzitola led Southington with 17 points, while Harris had 11. Carr chipped in with nine points of her own.
Hewitt said the offense has definitely improved in the weeks since the starting lineup experienced a shake-up due to injuries.
“We definitely executed a lot better on offense tonight,” Hewitt said. “Their pressure did not allow us to work on our zone offense but the zone offense certainly looks better. But shooting the ball is still one of our last thoughts.”
Southington played at No. 8 Glastonbury on Thursday (March 5). If they won that matchup, they would play the winner of No. 1 Staples and No. 16 Wilbur Cross on Monday (March 9) at 7 p.m.
“Playing in the tournament is exciting no matter what,” Hewitt said. “I am just happy for the girls. It would have broken my heart if we went through the end of the season without a win. This helps them feel better about what they are doing, and they should because they work hard at it every single day.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at Sports@SouthingtonObserver.com.