NEW BRITAIN - The clock ticked to less than 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the gold medal matchup of the Nutmeg State Games’ 11th grade girls basketball tournament on Sunday when the CT Trotters of New Britain put their foot down on the New Britain Hurricanes’ final comeback bid.
Mary-Lou Gonzalez and Maya Slisz hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Gonzalez stole a Trotters pass at mid-court before running in for a layup to cut the Hurricanes’ 16-point deficit to 32-24 with 4:50 remaining.
But after Mikayla Mobley’s free throw increased that lead to nine, a Hurricanes 3-pointer that would have cut the Trotters’ lead to six points at the 3:25 mark rimmed out, and the Trotters put the game away moments later.
Pashan Walker spun an athletic reverse layup off the backboard, and Aamaya Rivera drained a three to give the Trotters plenty of breathing room en route to a 39-26 victory at New Britain High School.
“For most of the game, our shots weren’t falling,” Rivera said. “We had a slow start so those shots really put us up there and gave us our momentum back.”
Rivera, who was held scoreless in the first half as her team built a 12-8 lead after the first 20 minutes, scored a game-high 12 points, and Mobley scored just four points. Her lone field goal, though, came with 11:20 remaining, when she collected a steal before sprinting coast-to-coast and finishing with a scoop-shot layup while being fouled.
That play gave the Trotters a 10-point cushion, and they tacked on with Edisha Galan’s steal and smooth dish to Rivera for a baseline floater, plus two free throws from Fatihah Singleton, to cap a 16-6 run that gave the squad a 28-14 cushion with less than 8 minutes remaining.
Following great perimeter ball movement on the Trotters’ next possession, Rivera connected on her first triple of the game from the left wing, and a free throw from Mobley gave them a 32-16 lead with 6:21 left before holding off the Hurricanes’ final push.
“These girls knew not winning was not an option,” Trotters head coach John Lozefski said. “They came in here with high intensity so we just had to pull them back a little bit and play smart basketball. It’s a very talented team. I love those girls. It’s the first time we’ve played together, and it’s a great team.”
The Trotters’ team is comprised of players scattered all over the area, including New Britain, Plainville, Thomaston, Manchester and Waterbury. They were able to come together, however, in their first season as a program to capture the championship in the last day of the Nutmeg Games.
“[This gave us a lot of confidence] because this is our first year as a team with all these people so it’s good for us,” Rivera said. “We came together well toward the end of the season.”
The Hurricanes also believe the tournament was a good experience overall, despite taking a silver medal in a loss that came down to a pair of miscues in areas that need to be shored up.
“We missed some shots, but the defense was there. The second half was different, but we turned the ball over too many times, and we didn’t make foul shots. It really came down to that,” Hurricanes head coach Bryan Sweeney said. “Some of that is because of the experience. We have some new girls this year. We have some veterans and newer girls who are talented.”
New Britain High School girls basketball head coach Marc Wesoly is listed as the summer team program’s head coach but is unable to coach in the Nutmeg Games, per rules not allowing the coach of the high school team to coach in the games.
Sweeney, therefore, coached the Hurricanes during this weekend’s tournament, and he believes good things are on the horizon for the winter program.
“In my opinion, our New Britain High School team this year is one of the best girls teams we’ve had in a long time because they’re athletic,” Sweeney said. “We’ve just gotta get them a little more disciplined, not turn the ball over and play a little smarter. As far as the athletes, we have a boat load of them. I think that’s gonna go a long way during the season.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or