ENFIELD - Despite its loss to No. 2 seed Enfield - a team that has lost just once this season - on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament, the Southington girls basketball team still enjoyed a great season.
“Oh, I definitely consider this season a success,” junior Janette Wadolowski said. “We only had three upperclassmen and the rest of our roster is freshmen and sophomores, so they stepped up real big, especially toward the end.
“They just never gave up and the combination of the young kids and us upperclassmen worked really well. I’m surprised we made it as far as we did.”
Southington finished the regular season 12-8 and lost its first round game of the CCC tournament, but the team responded with two upset wins to start the state tournament over No. 10-seed Ridgefield and No. 7-seed Hall. The Blue Knights couldn’t overcome Enfield, but they were in the game throughout.
The record is not the best indicator of the season Southington had, considering how much adversity the team faced.
Aside from only having three upperclassmen, Wadolowski - arguably the team’s best player - missed a good chunk of the season with a broken hand. When she returned, the team went on a run and made some serious noise.
This shouldn’t just be a one-off season for the Blue Knights, as they are only using one player from this year’s team to graduation. That one loss, Maggie Meehan, is a huge one, as she was the lone captain and leading scorer.
“It’s tough to see it end,” head coach Mike Forgione said. “When you have a senior like Maggie it’s always tough to say goodbye. I told her that she put us on the map statewide. A lot of people in the Hartford area knew us as a good team, but to get that recognition around the state it takes a player like Maggie and she did that for us.”
“She was a huge part of our team and we are definitely going to miss her,” Wadolowski said. “She’s going to do big things next year at Williams [College].”
Even with Meehan gone, the team still has Wadolowski, who will presumably be healthier throughout the year; Hartlee Meier, who averaged double-figures in scoring this season; and a bunch of young players that gained valuable experience.
Even with all of that talent returning, Wadolowski thinks that Southington could play under the radar next season because Meehan was the marquee player and she will no longer be there.
“We are going to be working really hard together over the summer and we are going to come out next year ready to go,” Wadolowski said. “I feel like people are going to think we won’t be that good because we lost Maggie and have so many younger kids, but we are going to surprise some people.”
Forgione also has some excitement headed into next season, but his is tempered because he knows the schedule will be tough as always. On top of that, he knows that the team’s potential will depend on the work that is done in the offseason.
The one thing he is certain about is that the young players now know what he expects from them moving forward.
“I think these young kids know now what it takes to compete at this level,” Forgione said. “Now it is up to them to put in the work in the offseason. What are they going to do? They understand now what it takes and our expectations, so hopefully they have that in mind when getting ready for next season.”
One of the big things for the returning players to work on is gaining strength. The one thing Southington was missing this season was a true center.
“I want to get stronger,” Wadolowski said. “I think everybody wants to be stronger, but I think as a team in the offseason that’s an area we can focus and that’s what the offseason is for.”
“We don’t have size, so we have to hope that we have the strength,” Forgione said. “That’s something that we have to really talk about in the offseason and we will see what happens.
“I think there will be a lot of competition for spots next season, so hopefully that competition will drive everybody to get better.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5