SOUTHINGTON - The Southington girls basketball team has pulled off two upsets on its way to the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament. First the Blue Knights defeated 10th seeded Ridgefield, then they discarded No. 7 seed Hall in a wild comeback in round two.
Next up for Southington will be its toughest game yet and that is against second-seeded Enfield, a team that has lost just one game this season. But head coach Mike Forgione believes that playing tough opponents in the first two rounds has prepared his team to play Enfield.
“In Class LL you are going to be playing good teams every round,” Forgione said. “We are kind of fortunate looking back that we played against some really tough teams in the first round so we know what it is going to take to come out with a win.”
The Eagles’ only loss this season came against E.O. Smith at the end of January. Southington has not seen the film of that game but has watched enough to get a good idea of what Enfield likes to do.
“Everything runs through their big center [Mary] Bakersville,” Forgione said. “She is a big, physical and strong presence down low. She will definitely create some matchup problems for us because she isn’t just a 6-foot-3 string-bean. She is imposing.”
On top of Bakersville, Enfield also has two junior guards that popped out on tape in Caterina Fonseca and Danielle Delano. Bakersville, Fonseca and Delano are all juniors and are the Eagles’ three best players but the starting lineup is filled out by two seniors.
“They have a good club and have players with a lot of experience,” Forgione said. “It starts inside but when she kicks it out those two junior guards can do a lot of things with the ball.”
The guards are certainly on the radar for the Blue Knights but it is Bakersville that could cause the biggest problem. The tallest players in Southington’s rotation are Madison Hulten and Janette Wadolowski, who are both 5-foot-10, so defending Bakersville will have to be a team effort.
“It’s going to take everybody,” Forgione said. “The main thing is that we have to play our game. We can’t stop doing what we are good at because of what other teams do.
“It is certainly going to be a challenge to defend her but we have faced big girls like that before. We just have to battle like we have all season.”
It isn’t just on offense that Bakersville could cause trouble though. Given the team’s size disadvantage, it could be tough for Southington to get buckets inside so the game plan may have to be a little bit more perimeter oriented, which the team is comfortable with as the three main scoring options, Wadolowski, Hartlee Meier and Maggie Meehan, are all capable jump shooters.
“Her height and stature definitely will make it tough for us to score inside,” Forgione said. “If you go inside and don’t give a pump fake or make a good move, she could send it into the bleachers. We will have to be smart with the shots we take.”
A key for Southington if it wants to pull off its third straight upset is getting out to a fast start. In each of the team’s first two tournament games it fell behind early and had to battle back to win. The Blue Knights went down 7-0 to start against Ridgefield and were down by 16 at half against Hall.
Against a team as good as Enfield, Southington cannot afford to dig itself a hole like it did in those first two games. Forgione is aware of this issue and it taking the necessary precautions.
“It’s one of those things you just kind of can’t put your finger on,” he said. “We show up early and make sure we get enough shots up in their gym, but for whatever reason, the past two games we struggled early on.
“We are focused entering [tonight] though. We know that we need to play a really good game to win so hopefully we knock down some shots in the early going and gain some quick confidence.”
The Blue Knights enter the game as an underdog as they have all tournament thus far and there will be more challenges for Southington in this game then there were in previous two. But getting a win would send major shockwaves through the rest of Class LL.
“The one thing I can guarantee is that we are going to play hard for all four quarters,” Forgione said. “No matter what is happening these girls will continue to fight so we will see what happens.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5