Ringing in the new year means it is time to take a long look in the mirror and commit to being better. For some, that means adjusting their diet, for others, a New Year’s resolution could be trying to read more and watch TV less.
The start of a new January also means the long-awaited start of the high school basketball season is finally in sight as teams are allowed to begin practicing Jan. 19. Even though these teams were unable to finish their postseason runs last year, here is a new year’s resolution for each of the local basketball teams for their 2021 campaign.
Boys’ resolution: Finish.
The Lancers played in 10 one-possession games last year, winning four and losing six and finished the regular season with a 6-14 record. Playing in that many tight games is very good experience, but Eastern will need to use that knowledge to make sure it comes out on top in close games more often than not. Finishing two wins away from a postseason berth with that many loses by three points or fewer will definitely be a motivator for the Lancers who return their leading scorer in Elijah Parent along with two other starters as they look to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
Girls’ resolution: Find new scoring options
The Lancers will be led on offense by junior Ciara Collins who will serve as one of the team’s primary ball handlers this season as they look to build off of their success from last season. Collins’ ability to create her own shot and score from anywhere on the court should only be improved since last season, but competing at the top of the CCC will hinge on who steps up as the next scoring option. The team just lost 1,000-point scorer Jordan Ouellette and starting forward Avery Arbuckle, leaving plenty of scoring opportunities available for this season. Senior Sage Scarritt will likely take the lead in the paint after and another player on the perimeter can contribute consistently, the offense will be difficult to stop.
Boys’ resolution: Improve outside shooting
Expectations will be high for the Rams in 2021 after their 16-4 regular season record earned them the fourth seed in the Division II state tournament last year. Led by junior Donovan Clingan, the reigning MaxPreps player of the year for Connecticut, Central was one of the most dangerous teams in the state. With Clingan anchoring the Rams on both offense and defense, the most important thing his teammates need to do is stretch the floor as much as possible to give him space and knock down the open shots he will create for them. Currently listed at seven feet and one inch tall, Clingan commands at least two defenders essentially every time he touches the ball inside the arc so surrounding him with shooters is crucial. The Rams graduated two of their best outside shooters in Shane Ouellette and Austin Brown, but with all-conference selection Sean Wininger and starting point guard Damion Glasper returning, Clingan, a willing passer with good vision, will have a variety of players he should be able to find out of a triple team and make a shot.
Girls’ resolution: Improve offensive consistency
The Rams only needed six wins to reach the state tournament last year despite not scoring with very much efficiency. The good thing is the entire team is returning in 2021 and should be able to use their chemistry to supplement some of their other shortcomings. Sophia Torreso, the team’s leading scorer and go-to option on offense is just a sophomore and is poised to make a big jump after displaying confidence to score from anywhere. To help Torreso and the rest of the team find more success on offense Central will have to be better at moving and protecting the ball, which should also help junior Ella Watson and senior Gwen Torreso find their roles as Auxiliary scorers.
Replacing starters: Both of these teams have the exact same problem. Nine of the teams’ combined 10 starters from last year graduated, including a pair of 1,000-point scorers on the girls’ side in Janessa Gonzalez and Jade Udoh. Neither team is bringing back their leaders in points, rebounds or assists and will likely have players with minimal meaningful game experience taking on sizable workloads. Will Barton is the lone returning starter from the batch and will be expected to be a leader for his team as will seniors Sophia Gerst and Zoey Rubins for the girls team because they are the two returning rotation players from last year’s team that reached the Class L quarterfinals before the season was shut down.
Boys’ resolution: Offensive consistency
Coming off of a nice 2019-20 season that yielded a top-10 seed in the Division V state tournament, the Kangaroos are well set up to have a solid year. Graduating a few of its top rotation players from a year ago, they need some new faces to step up on offense to compliment leading scorer Dylan Matulis. Terryville did not have many issues scoring last year, but was never quite clear where it was going to come from in each game. While that isn’t a problem necessarily, it does require a variety of players with offensive skills to do that successfully, something the team should be able to develop over the season.
Girls’ resolution: Keep growing
The two wins Terryville mustered last season were enough to earn a spot in the state tournament, but there is a lot of work to be done before it is a competitive team. The Kangaroos will have a new leading scorer this year with Amy Roqi’s graduation as they work with less organized basketball experience than most teams. Building off of last year’s season will be based on how much all of the returning players improve and their ability to play better together.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org