NEWINGTON - The gym at Newington High School felt spacious and quiet as the schoolâ€™s girls basketball team opened its season against Berlin. The cheerleaders were the only people inside that werenâ€™t part of the game, which set off the shortened season for these two schools that awaited this moment for months.Â
The contest featured a pair of squads coming off of successful seasons in which both teams entered their respective state tournaments as a top-three seed, with Newingtonâ€™s season ended by the coronavirus and not a loss.Â
â€śIt felt really good [to play again],â€ť Newington senior Lexie Armour said. â€śWeâ€™ve been waiting for it. So to finally get on the court and play together was a really good feeling.â€ť
Despite the combined 40 wins a year ago, both teams had major adjustments to make heading into this year and Newington appeared more equipped to replace lost talent, winning 52-37 on Monday night.Â
â€śI think we did well,â€ť Newington head coach Marc Tancredi said. â€śIt was a competitive basketball game. I think we had spurts of really good moments, but weâ€™re still a work in progress, so weâ€™ll see what we can do when we get back on the practice court.â€ť
Newington had two of the gameâ€™s double-digit scorers led by East Catholic transfer and reigning All-CCC selection Lilley Ferguson, who scored 19 in her school debut, along with senior Lexie Armourâ€™s 13 points. Sophomore Alivia Halkias posted 11 for the Redcoats in the loss.
After leading by four at halftime as both teams got adjusted to playing their first live basketball games together, Newington came out strong in the third quarter and doubled its point total from the first half. Amour scored six in the quarter, which is as much as Berlin in the same time frame.
Newingtonâ€™s defense in the half court was overwhelming for the Redcoats, who made a variety of turnovers in the first three quarters that led to easy transition scores for Newington.Â
Berlinâ€™s offense came alive in the fourth quarter as Rylee Cop and Halkias each netted five points and Wynter Yovan scored four en route to an 18-point period after scoring 19 points in the first 24 minutes of the game. The Redcoats began forcing turnovers on Newington and created a pair of and-one opportunities in transition.Â
â€śI thought they played well,â€ť Berlin head coach Sheila King said. â€śMy kids came out, I thought they played together as a unit, had some glimpses of some really nice stuff, and a little bit of down time and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to have to fix.â€ť
Newington hung right with them, however, as Ferguson poured in 10 points in the quarter and All-CCC selection from last year Karissa Zocco made her only scoring contributions with a pair of three-pointers.Â
â€śTransferring from East Catholic, it feels good to play on Newington, play on a solid team,â€ť Ferguson said. â€śItâ€™s coming together, weâ€™re coming together as a team, it feels good to play.â€ť
Newington returns to action Thursday on the road against Wethersfield while Berlin plays its home opener against Middletown the same day.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWINGTON 52, BERLIN 37
Berlin Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6Â 7 Â 6 Â 18 - 37
NewingtonÂ 11Â 6Â 17Â 18 - 52
BERLIN: Carly Grega 1-0-2, Wynter Yovan 2-2-7, Claire McGeever 2-0-4, Rylee Cop 2-3-7, Alivia Halkias 5-1-11, Kailee DiMaio 3-0-6. Totals 15-6-37.
NEWINGTON: Lilly Ferguson 7-4-19, Karissa Zocco 2-0-6, Alexie Armour 5-3-13, Adriana Romano 4-0-8, Brianna Gadarowski 2-0-6. Totals 20-7-52.
Three-point goals: Gadarowski (N) 2, Ferguson (N), Zocco (N) 2, Yovan (B).Â
Records: Newington 1-0, Berlin 0-1.