Newington falls in State Championship Game after second-half surge from Notre Dame - Fairfield

Published on Sunday, 20 March 2022 02:55
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

UNCASVILLE ― Newington high school celebrated its appearance in the Class L girls basketball state championship game with the unveiling of its new mascot, Nor’e the Nor’easter, but were unable to welcome him with a win.

Nor’e, a student in a Yeti costume, led the Newington student section in cheers as their team, the number-one seed in the tournament, put forth a strong first-half effort against third-seeded Notre Dame - Fairfield. Unfortunately for the Nor’easters, one half of quality play did not suffice for them to bring home the school’s second state championship in three days, as the Lancers outlasted them 60-45.

The loss ends an incredibly successful campaign for Newington, which finished with a 25-3 record after reaching the finals of both their conference and state tournaments. A senior-laden team whose four-year players averaged three losses per season, their impact on the program’s culture will live on through its talented younger group.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more from anyone in our program, especially our seniors,” Newington head coach Marc Tancredi said. “Our seniors are 82-12 in their four years here at Newington and that’s pretty good. We’ll be back at some point.”

Newington led by two at halftime, but were already losing momentum before the break as Notre Dame - Fairfield senior Sarah Macary scored eight consecutive points to cut the Lancers’ deficit from eight points to two. The Nor’easters made three shots in the second quarter that each came more than three minutes apart, which was not enough to support their defense that held strong early, but had no answers for Macary’s arsenal of post moves.

Notre Dame - Fairfield capitalized on its run to end the first half and its offense exploded out of halftime. Senior Marquette-commit Aizhanique Mayo drilled a three-pointer on the first shot of the third quarter to lead a 24-point period for the Lancers. Mayo scored 12 of her 22 points in the third period, including three triples, as she sent her team into the final period with an eight-point lead and complete control of the contest.

“I think [the shift] started before the second half when we gave up that 8-0 run,” Tancredi said. “[Macary] scored eight straight points and gave them the momentum. Then there were little defensive things that we didn’t execute the way we wanted to and they took advantage of it. Our defense wasn’t where it needed to be to win that basketball game.”

Newington shot the exact same shooting percentage in the both halves, making seven of 23 field goal attempts (30.4 percent). Notre Dame - Fairfield, however, doubled its offensive output from the opening half, making 63.2 percent of its shots in the final two quarters. The Lancers finished the game averaging 1.15 points per possession while the Nor’easters averaged 0.87.

“We did have some really good looks [in the second half], but we didn’t knock them down and they made us pay on the other end. That’s what happens when you play good teams, you have to convert, and when you don’t convert it’s going to start to pile up.”

Mayo and Macary were the game’s leading scorers with 22 and 15 points, respectively, while Taylor Gibbs was a rebound away from a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Bela Cucuta was Newington’s top scorer with 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half, and was closely followed by Lilly Ferguson’s 12.

Ferguson will be headed to play basketball at the University of Massachusetts next year as Newington says goodbye to five seniors.

“I’m happy to play my senior year with this group of girls,” Ferguson, who transferred to Newington after two years at East Catholic, said. “I’m happy to be coached by Tancredi, he was one of the greatest coaches I’ve had in my life so far. This was just a phenomenal group to be with, I’m so happy for all the things we achieved.”

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com.

NOTRE DAME - FAIRFIELD 60, NEWINGTON 45,

At Mohegan Sun Arena

Newington 15 7 14 9 - 45

Notre Dame 12 8 24 16 - 60

NEWINGTON : Lilly Ferguson 4-4-12, Kendall Miller 0-2-2, Karissa Zocco 2-1-6, Selah Prignano 2-1-5, Marlie Zocco 1-2-5, Bela Cucuta 4-4-13, Arianna Barnes 1-0-2. Totals 14-14-45.

NOTRE DAME - FAIRFIELD: Sarah Macary 6-1-13, Aizhanique Mayo 7-5-22, Taylor Gibbs 5-0-10, Kayla Tilus 1-0-2, Rowan Houston 1-0-3. Totals 0-0-60.

Three-point goals: M. Zocco (Ne), K. Zocco (Ne), Mayo (ND) 3, Houston (ND), Cucuta (Ne).

Records: Newington 25-3, Notre Dame - Fairfield 23-3.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Sunday, 20 March 2022 02:55. Updated: Sunday, 20 March 2022 02:58.