NEWINGTON - The 2021 winter season is an additionally difficult time for sports teams to bring in new players.
Teams have had less time to practice and learn how to play with each other, but it becomes much easier when those players are going to be one of the best on the team and have the talent to learn a system more quickly.
For Newington junior Lilley Ferguson, who transferred from East Catholic, she showed after one game she will have few problems fitting in with her new team. She knocked down one three-pointer in her game-high 19-point performance in Newington’s season opener against Berlin on Monday.
There were many questions for Newington entering this season as to how it would replace the impact of All-State guard Ashanti Frazier, who graduated last year, and Ferguson is showing she will be a go-to scorer this season.
“I think it went great, especially for the first game of the season,” Ferguson said. “We came out pretty strong and we didn’t let down even though it got close at one point we held the lead and pulled through.”
The game started slow for both teams as it was their first live basketball since last season, but Ferguson’s rebounding and natural feel for the game were noticeable early. She only scored five points in the first half, making one shot in each quarter, but her ability to grab a rebound and then take off in transition will be a useful tool for Newington this year.
Her offense picked up after halftime and she posted 14 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and Newington’s lead also grew from four points to 15. Now that the team has played together at game speed, they should be able to get more comfortable with each other more quickly, making Ferguson and the whole team more dangerous.
“I saw moments of really aggressive play, she attacked the hoop well for us,” Newington head coach Tancredi said. “She shot from outside pretty well and she really just controls the tempo of the game. It’s a great addition to have.”
Ferguson averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for East Catholic last year and earned All-CCC East honors while leading the Eagles to the second round of the Class MM state tournament and the final of the CCC tournament. Her accomplishments last year also featured a 20-point, 10-rebound, 10-steal triple-double in a regular season game against RHAM in which she also had five assists.
Already with a verbal commitment to play in college for UMass, her size and wide skill set on offense have the ability to make Newington a contender for the next two years.
The ability to fill up all columns of the stat sheet is invaluable on a high school team, where one player can take over a game more easily. It also creates more opportunities for everyone else on the team because of the attention they draw.
“[Playing with Ferguson] was really good, especially someone who knows what they’re doing and has good experience,” senior Lexie Armour said. “She definitely brought a good aspect to the team and I think she’s really helping us move the ball around.”
Newington has one of its 12 regular season games done so far this season and starting 1-0 always has the players feeling good, especially in their first game since last March. Ferguson said she already feels a strong bond with her teammates, despite only having a three-week preseason, and will look to find her permanent role by the end of the season.
“I think I adjusted pretty well,” Ferguson said. ‘We all worked together. They’re my sisters already.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com