new britain area
The winter season ended with shock and anger when the CIAC canceled the remainder of all state tournaments to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. There were protests at the CIAC office and overwhelming outcry on social media, marking a disappointing end to high school winter sports.
Despite its unprecedented end, the winter season still provided a load of memorable moments from local teams and athletes, so here is a look back at the best of the best across all winter sports.
Ravens complete three-peat: The Innovation boys basketball team, coming off its first-ever state championship, didn’t get a chance to repeat, at least not at the state level. Just days before state tournaments were canceled, Innovation edged Achievement First 46-42 to complete its third straight CRAL Tournament championship.
“I’m really proud of this senior class and how they have a banner of their own,” Ravens head coach Matt Lance said. “I’m happy they got to create their own story.”
L.J. Hazelwood, in the final game of his All-State career, finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds to help Innovation hang on in the fourth quarter.
Honorable mention: New Britain’s Tahmeen Dupree didn’t know the first round of the Division I state tournament would be his last game, but he made sure it was in style, netting his 1,000th career point in a win over Wilton.
Litwinko stands alone: Lyzi Litwinko became the Berlin girls basketball team’s all-time leading scorer on Feb. 3, passing Katelyn Zarotney’s mark of 1,267 career points. Shortly after, Litwinko knocked down a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock to beat Wethersfield 44-42, which came just days after sinking a 35-foot desperation heave at the buzzer to beat E.O. Smith, the defending CCC Tournament champions.
“It was all happening at once,” Litwinko said of the eventful three-day span. “It was definitely a good feeling.”
The Redcoats’ season ended with a loss in the second round of the Class M state tournament, but Litwinko cemented her case as the best all-around player the program has ever seen.
Honorable mention: Litwinko isn’t the only star point guard in the local area. Newington senior Ashanti Frazier netted her 1,000th career point on Jan. 16 in a win over East Catholic. Fittingly, it came on a tough driving layup, the ones Frazier seemingly finishes with ease.
Carr’s comeback, Reed’s redemption: Southington senior Billy Carr (182) was trailing 3-2 in the final round of the State Open championship match against Amity’s Simon Flaherty, but a takedown with just six seconds left gave him a 4-3 lead, and Carr held on for dear life during the final five seconds to complete a dramatic journey to a State Open title.
“I got him as time was expiring, and next thing you know, I won,” Carr said. “It was amazing.”
Carr went on to place sixth at the New England Championships, and ended his high school career with more than 100 varsity victories. His win in the State Open was likely the one he’ll remember most.’
Earlier that same day, Carr’s teammate Ashley Reed won the first-ever CT Girls Wrestling Invitational, completing a comeback of her own, though not in that particular match. Reed struggled with injuries dating back to last year, but overcame multiple setbacks to finish atop the podium.
Honorable mention: Carr lost to New Britain’s Isaiah Medina in a dramatic match during the regular season finale, and that win for Medina completed a perfect regular season for the senior. He took fifth at the State Open.
Berlin conquers Middletown demons: The Redcoats hadn’t beaten the Blue Dragons since 2010, but that changed on Jan. 29, when Berlin took down Middletown 98-88 at home in a back-and-forth affair that saw the Redcoats battle for what was a historic victory.
The Blue Dragons led after the 200 medley relay, but Ethan Snyder, Matthew Dennis and Greg Wadinger all secured top-four finishes in the 200 freestyle to give the lead back to the Redcoats. The meet was tied soon after, and Middletown took the lead after the diving event before Berlin turned it on, getting a first-place finish in the 100 butterfly by Andrew Roberti and a win in the 200 freestyle relay by Matt Uryga, Ryan Hunt, Roberty and Kiernan Jennings to give the Redcoats the lead for good and finally take down the Blue Dragons.
Honorable mention: Southington won seven individual meets at the CCC West Conference Championships to take first place as a team. Tyler Heidgerd won two individual meets, while also helping the 200 medley relay team of Jon Cocchiola, Landon Colby and Derek Melanson to a first-place finish with a time of 1:40.93, good for a conference record.
Southington’s dynamic duo: Southington girls indoor track star Trinity Cardillo continued her dominant high school career when she won the shot put at the Class LL state championships with a throw of 43 feet, 7.5 inches, then finished second in the State Open with a mark of 43 feet, 4.75 inches. Teammate Sydney Garrison won the high jump at the State Open after finishing second at the state championships. Both ended their indoor careers in memorable fashion.
Honorable mention: New Britain’s Stella Ofei also took first at the Class LL state championships, winning the 55 meter dash with a top time of 7.37. She also took fourth in the 300 meter dash.
BOYS ICE HOCKEY
Cannon is Coach of the Year: Just months after undergoing surgery that resulted in his leg and part of his hip to be removed due to a rare form of cancer, Hall-Southington head coach Brian Cannon won the Division III Coach of the Year award by Connecticut High School Hockey.
Cannon led the Warrior-Knights to a 13-7 regular season record and a dominant 6-2 win over Staples in the first round of the state tournament before it was canceled.
Honorable mention: The Newington-Berlin boys ice hockey team was hit with untimely injuries and bounced from the first round of the Division III tournament, but when healthy, the Indians were tough to beat. In fact, from Jan. 25 to Feb. 22, the team won 10 games in a row, including a thrilling overtime win over WMRP of Division II on Feb. 8.