Winter sports are officially underway, and on the hardwood, area teams have high expectations for the new season.
Whether it is due to a load of returning talent or a quickly-evolving young core, a number of teams are expecting to reach the state tournament, and maybe make another deep run.
Over the past week, two athletes helped make sure their respective teams started off towards that goal on the right foot, turning in impressive individual performances to get their squads in the win column.
This week’s Athletes of the Week are New Britain’s Tahmeen Dupree and Newington’s Ashanti Frazier for getting their teams off to undefeated starts on the young season.
The New Britain boys basketball team began its season this past weekend after reaching the state final back in March, and despite a rough beginning, the Hurricanes were able to pull out a win thanks in large part to their only returning starter from last year’s group.
Dupree, a senior, led all scorers with 27 points in a 69-58 win over Bloomfield during the Spirit of Doc Classic at Trinity College, earning the game’s MVP Award. Dupree also dished out nine assists in the win, including a smooth entry pass to fellow senior Nyzaiah Diaz, which gave New Britain the lead early in a fourth quarter that saw the Hurricanes outscore the Warhawks 25-13 to grab the victory.
Down the stretch of the fourth quarter, while Bloomfield tried to mount a comeback, Dupree helped seal the win with crucial free throws in the final minute and finished 7-for-9 from the foul line. He was also efficient from the floor, shooting 7-for-13 and connecting on a pair of 3-pointers.
After losing nine seniors from last year’s historic team, New Britain will need a lot from its returning seniors this year, and Saturday’s win showed that Dupree is likely more than up for the challenge. An all-conference selection last season, Dupree has seen plenty of success from the Hurricanes’ trip to Mohegan Sun Arena last year. This past summer, he won a national championship with the New Haven Heat-North, and AAU team based out of Hartford. During that run, Dupree averaged 15 points per game while playing the type of lockdown defense that made the Hurricanes so successful in their run to a state final.
“He’s the best on-ball high school defender I have ever seen,” said Dwayne Bray, Dupree’s coach with the Heat.
Dupree will likely be New Britain’s offensive and defensive centerpiece this season, as it looks to make a successful transition from one of the best seasons the program has ever experienced. Dupree is a crucial returning talent from that group, and got his new teammates off to a good start over the weekend.
The Newington girls basketball team is off to a strong start of its own to begin the new season, as the Indians have stormed out to a 3-0 start on the year, all three victories coming by at least 10 points. In a dominant 52-24 win over Rocky Hill on Saturday afternoon, in which Newington led for the entire game, Frazier dropped in 10 points, which tied for the high mark of the contest, and added a game-high eight assists. Thanks to Frazier’s facilitation as the offensive leader, eight players in an Indians uniform found the scoring column in the lopsided win.
In a battle against fellow all-conference guard Shailyn Pinkney and East Hartford on Thursday, Frazier was in double figures again, scoring 12 points to help Newington turn a three-point lead in the fourth quarter into a more comfortable 47-37 victory. In the team’s season opener against Glastonbury, Frazier was in double figures again, dropping 12 points while grabbing 10 rebounds in a 46-35 win. Frazier also dished out five assists while grabbing five steals on the defensive end in an all-around dominant effort.
The Indians have high hopes for this season, and with a guard as skilled as Frazier, their expectations are warranted. Frazier is looking for her fourth all-conference selection this year, and given her performance over the team’s first three games of the season, she’s off to a good start in making her final year with Newington a memorable one.