UNCASVILLE â€• Newington high school celebrated its appearance in the Class L girls basketball state championship game with the unveiling of its new mascot, Norâ€™e the Norâ€™easter, but were unable to welcome him with a win.
Norâ€™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 Norâ€™easters, one half of quality play did not suffice for them to bring home the schoolâ€™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 programâ€™s culture will live on through its talented younger group.
â€śI couldnâ€™t ask for anything more from anyone in our program, especially our seniors,â€ť Newington head coach Marc Tancredi said. â€śOur seniors are 82-12 in their four years here at Newington and thatâ€™s pretty good. Weâ€™ll be back at some point.â€ť
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 Lancersâ€™ deficit from eight points to two. The Norâ€™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 Macaryâ€™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.
â€śI think [the shift] started before the second half when we gave up that 8-0 run,â€ť Tancredi said. â€ś[Macary] scored eight straight points and gave them the momentum. Then there were little defensive things that we didnâ€™t execute the way we wanted to and they took advantage of it. Our defense wasnâ€™t where it needed to be to win that basketball game.â€ť
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 Norâ€™easters averaged 0.87.
â€śWe did have some really good looks [in the second half], but we didnâ€™t knock them down and they made us pay on the other end. Thatâ€™s what happens when you play good teams, you have to convert, and when you donâ€™t convert itâ€™s going to start to pile up.â€ť
Mayo and Macary were the gameâ€™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 Newingtonâ€™s top scorer with 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half, and was closely followed by Lilly Fergusonâ€™s 12.
Ferguson will be headed to play basketball at the University of Massachusetts next year as Newington says goodbye to five seniors.
â€śIâ€™m happy to play my senior year with this group of girls,â€ť Ferguson, who transferred to Newington after two years at East Catholic, said. â€śIâ€™m happy to be coached by Tancredi, he was one of the greatest coaches Iâ€™ve had in my life so far. This was just a phenomenal group to be with, Iâ€™m so happy for all the things we achieved.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.