Even with the holiday break, the winter season has been moving right along. And despite the season hitting the quarter mark of the schedule, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been plenty of quality performances throughout.
Berlin Lyzi Litwinko and Newington’s Julian Oritz were two of the athletes that have not only continued to do well, but helped their respective teams out along the way.
The Redcoats girls basketball team is just one win away already from qualifying for the postseason after opening up the year with seven straight victories before losing a tightly-contest game to Canton on Friday. Much of the team’s early success has to do in part with Litwinko’s play.
Coming off a highly successful sophomore seasons, the now junior captain has been able to improve her game and has shown an ability to not only score, often reaching double figures each night, but gets her teammates involved as well. Litwinko consistently leads Berlin in assists most games and can be highly effective on the boards.
“We have a very unselfish group and they have great chemistry,” Redcoats head coach Sheila King said. “They’re going to share the ball and find the kid who’s getting it done.”
This season, Berlin has averaged 49.9 points per game, while giving up 39.8 and has been help to fewer than 50 points just three times. But while Litwinko always does her part, she’s also quick to praise her teammates as well, especially with the Redcoats have a number of different offensive threats to rely on each game.
“That’s the absolutely great thing about this year,” Litwinko said. “We’re taking advantage of it. We’re getting Carly [Grega] up the floor to finish some fast break layups and hitting her for the 3-pointers and then Angela [Perrelli] is a 3-point threat, Ashley [Wenzel] does it all, I try to make plays. So, we’re all contributing in spots we need to, to make plays and adjusting when we need to.”
As the season continues along, Berlin will have a chance to lock up a state tournament spot this Friday against Platt and in order to make a run at a state title later in February, will need Litwinko to continue to play at a high level.
She certainly seems up for a challenge.
Like the Redcoats, the Newington boys basketball team has gotten off to a strong start. The Indians are just a single win from matching their total for last year after starting off the season 4-1. Their lone loss of the season came in the Farmington High School Holiday Tournament Saturday afternoon.
But one of the main reasons for Newington’s turnaround has been the play of the upperclassmen, now in their second year under the tutelage of head coach Ed Quick, one of those being Ortiz.
The senior forward has been key with his ability to play in the paint so far this season and to make adjustments games go along. Against St. Paul on Thursday night, which ended up being a 20-point win for the Indians, Ortiz finished with 14 points, all of which came in the second half.
“We pride ourselves in not trying jacking up a lot of 3s,” Quick said. “We want to get the ball inside and Julian had a really good second half. But we feel if we can get the ball inside, play off the rim I say, you have a chance shoot a better percentage.”
Of course, it also helps when a team has the capability to make plays inside as well.
“I feel like we have great guys who can play down low,” senior guard Jaden Morris said. “I know Julian, Mason [Romano] and Teddy [Freval] are dogs. They’re going to go for every rebound. They’re going to try to put everything back up and they’re not going to stop. We know when we give it to them, they’re going to make something happen.
A lot of that also has to do with the team-first attitude. Newington operates with the attitude of doing the little things like finding the open man, making the right pass at the right time, take good shots and play hard. If the players do that, the wins will take care of themselves.
“We just have to go out and compete,” Ortiz said. “We want to get everyone going in the game. We want to make sure everyone feels good and gets theirs. We love seeing everyone doing well. If we compete, we’re going to be in games.”