Newington girls basketball gearing up for lengthy postseason run

Published on Friday, 18 February 2022 19:28


Finishing the regular season with one loss, the Newington girls basketball team knows every opponent moving forward can detrimentally interfere with their high expectations for the year, and wants to be the team that takes down the state’s top-ranked squad.

The Nor’easters opened their postseason with a 24-point win over Bristol Eastern in the first round of the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament, and showed it is equally ready to strive towards their championship aspirations. They almost doubled the difference in score from their game against Eastern in the regular season as they look to repeat as conference champions.

Newington head coach Marc Tancredi said the goal is to simplify the game plan as much as possible to help balance out the increasing intensity of each game. Up next is the team’s first neutral-site game of the postseason Saturday, as it plays a familiar opponent in E.O. Smith, which the Nor’easters beat by 13 points.

“We know that we’re going to be everybody’s biggest game and we’re going have everybody’s [highest] effort. That’s been evident in the last couple of regular season games with us being down early. We just come in with the mindset that we’re going to get peoples’ best and we need to meet that competitive level, or we’re going to put ourselves in a situation that we shouldn’t necessarily be in,” Tancredi said.

Anchored by the ideals of “communication, energy and urgency,” Newington wants to take control of the game early to neutralize opponents at their most energized. The Nor’easters led by seven points after the first quarter Thursday night and only became more comfortable from then, as their lead reached 20 by halftime.

“We’re just focusing on coming out with fire, coming out with energy and playing all 32 minutes,” senior Lilly Ferguson said. “We’re definitely focused on having that winner mentality because we can’t lose anymore going into the postseason.”

Ferguson led her team with six points in the opening period on her way to finishing with 15, but her team’s defense was the biggest difference-maker. Newington challenged Eastern’s young guards near the mid-court line throughout the game and held the Lancers to six points in the second quarter.

Alongside the swarming defense, was nine quick points from Freshman Bela Cucuta, who ended the game with a team-high 22 points. Cucuta made five three-pointers in the contest while also attacking the basket to give the Nor’easter a diverse scoring attack.

“We have players that score all around the floor, even off the bench,” Ferguson said. “We’re focusing on having good offensive nights. On defense, we have to shut teams down.”

Newington displayed its shooting ability Thursday night with four players combining for nine threes. The Nor’easters knocked down open shots and are a confident team from beyond the arc, but Tancredi knows the dangers of relying on scoring far from the basket.

“We know our ability to shoot outside,” Tancredi said. “At times, we haven’t shot the ball well, but we were pretty consistent [Thursday] from the perimeter. That’s the word of the season, consistency. When our shots-selection dips a little bit, that’s when we find ourselves in a more difficult situation, but we shot it really well today.”

After having such a limited postseason last year, the Nor’easters are excited to take on the best all of Connecticut has to offer by having a state tournament this year. They will be the top seed in Class L regardless of their performance in the CCC Tournament, which starts Feb. 25.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Friday, 18 February 2022 19:28. Updated: Friday, 18 February 2022 19:31.