SOUTHINGTON - Last season when the Southington boys basketball team played Weaver it lost by 45 points and didn’t provide much competition. This season, the game between the two teams was completely different as the Blue Knights were able to keep it close for three quarters in an eventual 53-44 loss Wednesday night.
Losing a game by nine is not something that coaches typically view as a positive, but considering last year’s game and the fact that Weaver is perennially a state championship contender in Class LL, Southington head coach John Cessario was happy with the way his team showed out.
“I don’t think any of these guys have been in a game like that against an opponent like that,” Cessario said. “I’ve always talked about how our guys needed to grow some fangs and they needed to be ready and I think they did that [Wednesday]. It feels great. You obviously want the win and you want them to be rewarded for the hard work that they have been putting in in practice, but when I look at what every single guy did [on Wednesday] I’m proud.”
Weaver was coming off a game against Windsor in which it scored 102 points the night before. The Blue Knights were able to hold them to almost half that despite the fact that it committed a lot of turnovers and struggled on the defensive glass.
“I think our defense is coming together slowly but surely,” said Southington’s Brendan Taylor who had 20 points in the loss.
A lot of the Beavers’ points in the contest came in transition, either off of turnovers or off a Blue Knights miss, especially in the first half. Southington, though, was solid in half-court defense and forced Weaver into some tough shots.
The team came into the game with the game plan of forcing contested jump shots and for the most part it was able to execute that plan. The problem was the Blue Knights’ inability to rebound consistently. There were several possessions when Weaver had two or three chances to score and against a team as talented as the Beavers that is not a recipe for success.
“As far as rebounding, oh yeah, we struggled,” Cessario said. “We have to rely on the fundamental of boxing out and when you are not doing that against an active team like Weaver you are going to get hurt on the boards. I would say, off hand, there were six or seven possessions where they got three shots and that doesn’t help. We have to become a one-and-done defense and we will work on that in practice.”
Despite the rebounding struggles though, Cessario had no complaints about his team’s effort overall and particularly on the defensive end.
“I felt we played the right tempo and we were hitting shots allowing us to get back,” the head coach said. “When you can score offensively, it allows you to get back for that one or two seconds. I’m going to tell them that they have to feel good about this. You should feel good about your effort you just need to sure up a couple of the things that hurt you when you are undersized and you are a little bit slower.”
The Blue Knights are coming off of a season in which they won just five games and despite the fact that the loss to Weaver dropped them to 0-2 on the young season, this team feels like it has a chance to be much better than it was last year.
“I’m really confident in our team this year,” Taylor said. “Coming into the season I was really confident because we had guys playing in the summer and fall leagues and I just feel like we have a really good team.
“We had a bad season last year but our goal at the end of this year is to make the tournament and hopefully win a few games.”
Southington entered the game against Weaver knowing that it would not be easy. The players obviously wanted to, and felt like they could, win but it didn’t happen. Yet even with the loss, there are a lot of positive signs for the Blue Knights.
The players on the team are not used to playing in a winning environment so being in a game with a team like Weaver for three-quarters and proving they can handle the constant pressure is something to build upon. It’s games like Wednesday night’s that provide hope for the team’s ability to make some noise this season.
“We have young pups that need to grow fangs,” Cessario said. “You need to be ready to handle pressure and limit your turnovers. It’s a very simple formula. Weaver doesn't allow you to do that. To do what we did [on Wednesday] for three quarters is something that I can, rest assured, tell them they have nothing to be disappointed about and I’m excited to see what we can do this season.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org