SOUTHINGTON - The Southington boys basketball team prides itself on defense. The team is far from flashy but it gets the job done because of its prowess on that side of the ball.
Almost three-quarters of the way through the season the Blue Knights have a 6-7 record, but have yet to score more than 58 points in any game. That is a testament to how good they are at preventing teams from filling up the score sheet.
“Defense is always something that I pride my teams on and I pride myself on teaching in a practice setting,” head coach John Cessario said. “I know that the kids pride themselves on their defense too. We have had some tough shooting nights but you get to stay in games with good defense and we do some really special things on that end.”
Keeping games close is something that Southington has excelled at all season. The Blue Knights’ largest margin of defeat on the season was against Cheshire in the third game of the season when they lost by 18. Even in that game, Southington only allowed 45 points and that’s about what the team is averaging in terms of points allowed this season.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Blue Knights have held high scoring teams to low totals consistently. Weaver is a perfect example, as the Beavers have scored more than 100 points on multiple occasions this season and are regularly in the 80’s. But against Southington, they only scored 53 points in a close win.
“It’s really important for us to play really good defense,” junior guard Andrew Lohneiss said. “We are not a team that puts up 70 points a game, so the fact that we can hold high scoring teams well below their average is huge for us.
“At the same time though, our point totals have been lower than we would like. I think we are starting to feel a little bit more comfortable on the offensive end even though the point totals don’t show it.”
The Blue Knights’ defense has been the clear reason why the team has the record it does but it would be helpful if the offense started to catch up. Southington doesn’t have a go-to offensive player and relies on ball and player movement to get open shots. The team thinks the offense is starting to come together, but it also realizes that there is room for it to grow.
As for what the Blue Knights can do to help the offense catch up to the defense, Lohneiss has a couple of ideas.
“I think we need to run a little bit more,” said Lohneiss who scored a team-high 15 points in Saturday night’s 55-40 loss to Northwest Catholic. “Right now we kind of just hold the ball out and let them come up and guard us. Running when we get rebounds off of misses will help us get easier buckets.”
But as good as Southington’s defense has been all season, it hasn’t led to all that many run-outs and fast-break points. The next step for the Blue Knights is to turn that defense into offense consistently.
“We want tips for trips,” Cessario said. “We need our defense to lead to offense. We need to get out after a rebound, after a steal or after a tipped pass and we need to create some stuff in transition. That doesn’t always happen, but we need guys to feel a little bit more comfortable in their own skin moving forward.”
In the end, Southington is just two wins away from qualifying for the state tournament one year after accruing just five wins. Defense is the Blue Knights’ calling card and if it starts leading to better offense than that’s a bonus, but what they have been doing so far has been working pretty well.
“Our defense gives us a chance to win every night,” Cessario said. “It has kept us in our first 13 games and it is going to have to continue to do that for the last seven.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5