NEWINGTON â€• The Newington and Bristol Eastern girls basketball teams met in the opening round of the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament for the second year in a row, and featured a similar result to last year.
The Norâ€™easters are headed to the quarterfinals after dispatching the Lancers 63-39 behind an effective night from behind the three-point line. They made nine threes and created open shots with intelligent ball movement to nearly double their margin of victory from when they faced Eastern in the regular season two weeks ago.
Newington moves on to face seventh-seeded E.O. Smith at Enfield High School on Saturday. The Norâ€™easters beat the Panthers by 13 on Dec. 17.
Freshman Bela Cucuta knocked down five triples for Newington and scored a team-high 22 points as she scored from all areas of the floor. Senior Lilly Ferguson added 15 points, which when combined with Cucutaâ€™s scoring comes two points short of Easternâ€™s total.
Lancers senior led all players with 28 points, but was one of three players to score on her team. Experienced with Collinsâ€™ offensive exploited, the Norâ€™eastersâ€™ defense succeeded in taking away all other options and left too much scoring for one player to take on.
â€śWe know [Eastern] has a pretty prolific scorer and we know sheâ€™s going to get her [points], so we just had to keep the other players at bey, defensively, and I think we did a really good job of it,â€ť Newington head coach Marc Tancredi said. â€śWe [took the lead] early and we didnâ€™t let up. I felt good about our performance today.â€ť
Exiting halftime with 14 points, Cucuta did not score in the third quarter, but added eight points and drilled a pair of threes in the fourth quarter to nullify any attempts at a late comeback from Eastern.
Collins notched 11 in the second half as the Lancers tried to cut into their 20-point halftime deficit, and received a six-point contribution from senior Janessa Gonzalez, but Newington consistently responded with three-pointers to keep control of the lead.
â€śWe definitely need to work on setting screens and getting open on different areas of the court,â€ť Collins said. â€śEveryone has to look for open shots, we have to start driving more. We have to open up the defense so we can get by them and take different types of shots. It shouldnâ€™t just be from the outside or all driving.â€ť
Newington took a seven-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back, with five different players finding the basket in the period. Ferguson, Cucuta and senior Karissa Zocco each hit three-pointers in the first eight minutes as the Norâ€™easters had a powerful response to Easternâ€™s best offensive quarter of the game.
â€śWe definitely came out with a little more fire in the first half, compared to last game [against Eastern],â€ť Ferguson said. â€śIn the last game we slacked off a little bit in the first half and it took us into the second half to get started. We came out strong [this time] and we were able to things done and set the tone for the second half and the rest of the game.â€ť
Collins scored all but three of the Lancersâ€™ 20 first-half points as Newington held them without a field goal for the entire second quarter. Collin made four shots in the first quarter and posted 11 points, but her six free throws accounted for all of her teamâ€™s scoring in the second period.
â€śWhen doubled-teamed [Collins], other kids [needed to] take up the slack and step to the open areas a little bit quicker,â€ť Eastern head coach Tony Floyd said. â€śI think they reacted to it, but reacted a little slower. I think this is a good test for them because now they see what they need to do.â€ť
While the defense increased its intensity, Newingtonâ€™s offense added to its lead by opening the period on a 12-4 run. Cucuta gave the Norâ€™easters three points every time she scored, drilling two threes and converting an and-one.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEWINGTON 63, BRISTOL EASTERN 39
Newington 21 19 11 12 - 63
Bristol Eastern 14 6 11 8 - 39
NEWINGTON : Lilly Ferguson 6-3-15, Arianna Barnes 1-0-2, Bela Cucuta 8-1-22, Marlie Zocco 2-0-5, Kendall Miller 3-2-9, Karissa Zocco 2-0-6, Adriana Romano 1-0-2, Selah Prignano 1-0-2. Totals 24-6-63.
BRISTOL EASTERN: Ciara Collins 9-8-28, Janessa Gonzalez 4-1-9, Emma Stavens 1-0-2. Totals 14-9-39.
Three-point goals: K. Zocco (N) 2, Cucuta (N) 5, Collins (BE) 2, M. Zocco (N), Miller (N).
Records: Newington 20-1, Bristol Eastern 8-12.