New Britain Herald Athletes of the Week are Innovation's Lenny Okonya and Berlin's Ashley Wenzel

Published on Monday, 4 February 2019 21:19


Two athletes sparkled on the hardwood in last week’s action, as Innovation boys basketball’s Lenny Okonya and Berlin girls basketball’s Ashley Wenzel put up spectacular numbers en route to Athlete of the Week honors.

The Innovation boys basketball team is riding a seven-game winning streak entering the week, thanks in large part to 6-foot-4 senior Okonya, who continues to be a force on both ends of the floor.

Last Monday night was no different, as Okonya posted a triple-double that included 10 blocks in an 82-47 rout of Achievement First.

“It was one of my goals to record a triple-double this season,” Okonya said of his performance. “I felt like I would be able to get it with my shot-blocking ability and I’m a big who can score and rebound as well. I felt like it was a matter of time, and I was able to break out that game. I was very happy.”

While opposing team’s have to worry about Okonya’s shot-blocking prowess on the defensive end, they also have been trying to slow him down on offense, where a heightened sense of aggression has made Okonya a scoring threat from anywhere on the hardwood.

“He’s been more aggressive in terms of putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim,” Innovation head coach Matt Lance said. “I think he’s more versatile this year as opposed to last year. He’s always been able to protect the rim, but when you add more rebounding and scoring, it makes our team that much better.”

Lance was most impressed by Okonya’s rebounding and scoring ability in the win against Achievement First, especially given the quality of opponent.

“Achievement First was definitely one of our quickest opponents, and they’re a really big rebounding team,” Lance said. “[Okonya] was all over the place, recording that triple-double. He got to the rim at least five times with one or two dribbles from the perimeter. That game you could just see he wanted any rebound that was close to him.”

The 10 blocks against Achievement First was a career-high for the senior, who has realized that he can block more shots when he remains aggressive and seeks opportunities out. Against Achievement First, he sniffed out every last one.

“I feel my aggressiveness has improved the most from last season,” Okonya said. “Last year I was more of a passive player on offense and defense, but this year I’ve expanded my horizons and have been attacking more.”

The Berlin girls basketball team is currently boasting a winning streak of its own, having won each of its past four games heading into Monday night’s road matchup against Newington.

A major catalyst behind the Redcoats’ recent surge has been the play of sophomore Ashley Wenzel, who dropped 20 points in Thursday’s win against Ledyard, while shooting 62 percent from the floor.

Since the beginning of the season, Wenzel has embraced her ever-increasing role in the team’s offense despite being an underclassman, and has been thriving of late.

Prior to her 20-point performance, last week, she poured in 18 points in another win against New Britain.

“She has a great maturity to her game,” Berlin head coach Sheila King said. “She’s a great shooter and can drive to the hole as well.”

King raves about Wenzel’s insatiable desire to improve her game, noticing the upstart sophomore staying behind after practice to work on her craft, while the rest of the team hits the showers. The extra work has paid off, as Wenzel has averaged 18.5 points per game over the past four contests, all of which have ended in wins for Berlin, which was 13-3 entering Monday night’s game against the Indians.

“For just a sophomore, she’s already displayed great leadership,” King said. “She’s one of those players you can rely on night after night. She’s going to show up in big games. She’s an intense competitor and has great focus.”

As the coming games get bigger and more important for Berlin, King will likely be leaning more heavily on her budding sophomore with both the CCC and state tournaments approaching.

So far, as Wenzel has demonstrated so far, she has been more than up to the challenge.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Athletes of the Week, Innovation, New Britain on Monday, 4 February 2019 21:19. Updated: Monday, 4 February 2019 21:21.