NEW BRITAIN - Behind Morgan Murphy’s 11 points, the Connecticut Heat (New Britain) beat the Connecticut Spirit (Hartford) 43-14 in its second contest of the Nutmeg Games 12 & Under Girls Basketball Tournament Wednesday night.
Murphy set the tone early for her team by scoring five of its first 10 points. Murphy showed off strong court vision and her footwork down low helped her get easy buckets in the paint.
“She’s a great player and a great kid most importantly and she works her butt off so I’m glad it shows,” Heat coach Taylor Nkonoki said.
The Heat started out strong by scoring the first five points of the game, using its size advantage to get points in the paint and dominate the boards.
At the conclusion of the first half, the Heat had a convincing 20-4 lead but with the intensity from coach Nkonoki being instilled in her players, the team made sure not to take its first half lead for granted.
In the second half, the Heat outscored the Spirit 23-10. While still a large gap between the two teams, the Spirit showed a lot of fight in the second half and did not back down after scoring just four first half points.
“They’re very skilled,” Nkonoki said. “The score doesn’t reflect how skilled they are and I know they’re well coached as well.”
For the Heat, Lailianna Mejia finished with eight points. Kameryn Perry and Alexis Jablonecki also had impressive games. Perry had 6 points for the Heat in the game and Jablonecki contributed four points of her own.
Being a smaller team, the Spirit tried to gain an advantage by shooting three-point shots and avoiding the paint. The team hit some open three-pointers but not nearly enough to keep up with the Heat.
The Spirit received strong performances from Isabella Jones, Jessica Roy and Olivia Stevens. Jones had six points. Roy and Stevens each hit a three-pointer in the game.
Jones was the only player that the Spirit had on its roster to match up down low with Murphy and Perry, the two bigs for the Heat.
The closest score in the game was 22-7 early on in the second half before the Heat put the game away.
Still in the preliminary stage, there is a lot of basketball left in the tournament. But with the win, the Heat advance to 2-0 in the Nutmeg Games after winning their first game 56-7. On the other side, the Spirit fell to 1-1 with the loss.
“My goal is to have them play at a level that is high no matter who the other team is,” Nkonoki said. “Because if it is a UConn caliber team or somebody else I just want them to play with their heart and have fun.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan