Season Preview: Experience will be key for area girls basketball teams

Published on Sunday, 7 February 2021 20:04
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

More than two rounds of the girls basketball state tournaments were complete when the winter season came to an unceremonious end last March and many senior-heavy teams were unable to find out how their years were supposed to finish. This upcoming season will feature a lot of changes in the local area for girls basketball and plenty of new faces, and some old, will have their chance to step up for their teams.

There are few guarantees that many of the teams that were good last year, will be as good this year, and as sports in the pandemic have shown, experience is a tremendous help in these times. Here is a preview of what is happening with the area’s girls basketball teams ahead of the season starting Monday:

BRISTOL EASTERN

Head coach: Tony Floyd (40th season)

Last year: 18-6 (lost in second round of Class L state tournament)

Key losses: Jordan Ouellette (Guard/Forward), Avery Arbuckle (Forward).

Key returnees: Ciara Collins (Jr., Guard), Cali Doyon (Sr., Guard), Sage Scarritt (Sr., Forward), Janessa Gonzalez (Jr., Guard).

Outlook: After sharing the offensive load with Ouellette last season, Collins will be looked at as the Lancers main scorer this season. A two-time all-CCC selection in two seasons, Collins can create her own shot from anywhere on the court and will make Eastern a tough team to beat. Expect increased scoring outputs from Scarritt, who will take control of paint for this team after playing well on both sides of the floor last year.

First game: Feb. 9 at Farmington

BRISTOL CENTRAL

Head coach: Steve Gaudet (16th season)

Last year: 6-15 (lost in first round of Class L state tournament)

Key losses: Laney Maher (Forward), Destinee Craft (Forward).

Key returnees: Gwen Torreso (Sr., Guard), Janessa Bartell (Sr., Forward), Damani Hough (Sr., Guard), Ella Watson Jr., Guard), Sophia Torreso (So., Guard/Forward).

Possible newcomers: Alyah Rodriguez (Jr., Forward), Brooke Watson (Fr., Guard), Arianna Rivera (Fr., Guard).

Outlook: The Rams live and die by the scoring of Sophia Torreso who was never afraid to shoot as the team’s leading scorer last year. This year’s schedule will make things difficult for the young team, but with many of last year’s starters returning they will definitely show improvement.

First game: Feb. 9 at Avon

NEW BRITAIN

Head coach: Beryl Piper (20th season, first since 2007)

Last year: 11-10 (lost in first round of Class LL state tournament)

Key losses: Tianna Sweeney (Forward), Nataly Hernandez (Guard/Forward).

Key returnees: Maya Slisz (Sr., Guard).

Outlook: Pipers first season back with the Hurricanes in 14 years will be something to watch even if many people cannot go and watch it. With Slisz coming back and less than 300 points away from scoring 1,000, the senior should be on a mission after averaging more than 16 points per game last year.

First game: Feb. 9 at Southington

BERLIN

Head coach: Sheila McCabe-King (16th season)

Last year: 20-4 (lost in second round of Class MM state tournament)

Key losses: Lyzi Litwinko (Guard), Callie Gendron (Forward).

Key returnees: Carly Grega (Sr., Guard), Wynter Yovan (Sr., Forward), Clare McGeever (Jr., Guard/Forward)

Possible newcomers: Rylee Cop (Jr., Guard/Forward), Kailee DiMaio (So., Forward), Alivia Halkias (So., Guard/Forward).

Outlook: Losing the program’s all-time leading scorer in Litwinko will not be easy on the program, but the return of many talented players, such as an all-conference selection in Grega will make them competitive once more. The localized schedule may be a challenge for the Redcoats, but this team is poised for a solid season.

First game: Feb. 8 at Newington

NEWINGTON

Head coach: Marc Tancredi (3rd season)

Last year: 20-4 (reached quarterfinals of Class L state tournament)

Key losses: Ashanti Frazier (Guard), Sabrina Soler (Forward)

Key returnees: Karissa Zocco (Jr., Guard), Alexie Armour (Sr., Forward), Marlie Zocco (Jr., Guard).

Possible newcomers: Lily Ferguson (Jr., Guard).

Outlook: Newington was one of the best teams in the state last year and are set up to recreate that success despite the loss of an all-state player like Frazier. With three returning starters, including all-CCC selection Karissa Zocco, and East Catholic transfer Lily Ferguson, who was also all-CCC last year and is verbally committed to UMass, this team should be very successful in its shortened season.

First game: Feb. 8 vs. Berlin

SOUTHINGTON

Head coach: Howie Hewitt (2nd season)

Last year: 16-7 (lost in second round of Class LL state tournament)

Key losses: Brianna Harris (Guard), Megan Mikosz (Forward).

Key returnees: Taylor Sullivan (Jr., Guard), Livvy Pizzitola (Sr., Guard), Julia Korp (Jr., Guard), Kelley Marshall (Sr., Forward), Allison Carr (Sr., Forward), Samantha Sullivan (Jr., Forward), Alison Barretta (Jr., Forward).

Outlook: The Blue Knights were really banged up by the time they were eliminated from last year’s playoffs, but with nearly all of last year’s players returning and a year of experience under Hewitt, they should be well set to build on last season’s success. Marshall, Pizzitola and Carr will be three of the team’s go-to options on offense following strong scoring years.

First game: Feb. 9 vs. New Britain

PLAINVILLE

Head coach: Jessica Neuweiler (5th season)

Last year: 7-14 (lost in first round of Class M state tournament)

Key losses: Olivia Wazorko (Guard), Vanessa Xiques (Forward).

Key returnees: Jaida Vasquez (Sr., Guard), Kori Jones (Sr., Forward), Tessa Susco (Sr., Guard), Lilly Wazorko (Jr., Guard).

Outlook: The Blue Devils nearly pulled off the upset against Seymour in last year’s state tournament and with a two-time all-CCC guard in Vasquez entering her senior year, Plainville will be competitive in their regionalized schedule. The team is bringing back a lot of seniors this year, which will be massive when the teams have had such little practice time.

First game: Feb. 9 vs. Lewis Mills

GOODWIN TECH

Head coach: Jeff Bemis (8th season)

Last year: 13-10 (lost in first round of Class M state tournament)

Key losses: Justina Rodriguez (Forward), Aiyana Montes (Guard).

Key returnees: Nyssa Foster De Oro (Sr., Center), Ericka Aponte (Jr., Guard).

Outlook: The Gladiators had a nice season in the CTC last year and should be able to do the same with the return of Aponte. They will always be in search of that go-to scoring option, but Bemis always does his best to get the most out of his team.

First game: Feb. 9 vs. Vinal Tech

INNOVATION

Head coach: Michael Jessie (8th season)

Last year: 7-15 (lost in first round of Class M state tournament)

Key losses: Breanna Santana (Forward), Chelsea Wray-Brown (Guard).

Key returnees: Te’ijah Roberts (Jr., Guard), Ariana Rivas (Jr., Forward/Guard).

Outlook: Innovation will have a young roster this year that will hope to recreate the success of last year that produced conference and state tournament berths.

“We are young mostly sophomore and freshman,” Jessie said. “We will focus on getting better everyday and having fun plus being thankful for the opportunity to play.”

First game: Feb. 12 at Parish Hill

TERRYVILLE

Head coach: Breeann Redman (1st season)

Last year: 2-18 (opted out of first round of Class S state tournament)

Key losses: Amy Roqi (Guard).

Key returnees: Zoe Zappone (Jr., Guard), Tiffany Pires (Sr., Forward), Taylor Barnett (Jr., Forward).

Possible newcomer: Alice Benson (So.)

Outlook: The Kangoroos qualified for the state tournament last year despite winning just two games and with Roqi graduating they will need someone else to take one of the lead scoring roles.

“We have a lot to learn as a young team and we are only going to grow every step of the way during this season,” Redman said approaching her first season as the full-time head coach. She will look to hard-working players like Zappone and Barnett to take steps forward from last year and lead the team.

First game: Feb. 8 vs. Northwestern

ST. PAUL

Head coach: Joe Mone (26th season)

Last year: 22-3 (reached quarterfinals of Class L state tournament)

Key losses: Janessa Gonzalez (guard), Jade Udoh (Forward), Kailyn Bielecki (Guard), Olivia Heslin (Forward), Olivia Stump (Guard).

Key returnees: Sophia Gerst (Sr., Forward), Sarah Lindquist (Jr., Forward), Alexis Tierpack (Jr., Forward), Zoey Rubins (Jr., Guard), Sam Naples (Jr., Guard), Lily Sirois (Jr., Guard).

Outlook: Graduating all five starters, three of which are playing college basketball and two 1,000-point scorers is a load to overcome in such a bizarre season. Not many of these players saw many varsity minutes last season, but did have the benefit of learning under an incredibly accomplished group. Even though the players are inexperienced, they are very talented and well-coached.

First game: Feb. 16 vs. Seymour



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, Plainville, Southington, St. Paul, Terryville on Sunday, 7 February 2021 20:04. Updated: Sunday, 7 February 2021 20:07.