The Innovation girls and boys basketball teams both enjoyed successful performances during last week’s action, and a pair of productive individual performances were behind the teams’ victories.
Whether it was continued team success of a first win of the season, the Ravens needed their established producers to come through and get their respective teams a win, and an upperclassman and underclassman both rose to the challenge.
Innovation’s LJ Hazelwood and Chelsea Wray-Brown are our Athletes of the Week for their performances on the court during last week’s games.
The Innovation boys basketball team is still undefeated on the season after going 2-0 last week, and it can thank its senior Hazelwood for a big part of its two victories.
The Ravens won both in close fashion and by way of blowout, and Hazelwood was the team’s top performer in both games. In a 43-38 win over Wethersfield on Monday night, Hazelwood led the team with 12 points and was a monster on the defensive end, grabbing six rebounds to go along with his five blocks and five steals. Hazelwood’s stops on defense helped Innovation outscore the Eagles 17-10 in the fourth quarter to erase a narrow deficit.
The Ravens had a much easier time on Friday night, shutting down MLC in a dominant 76-43 win at home. Once again, Hazelwood led the way, narrowly missing a triple-double by racking up a team-high 22 points, 20 rebounds and five assists. He was also again a force protecting the rim, finishing with eight blocks to finish the week with 13 rejections in a span of two games.
The productive week was anything but an anomaly for Hazelwood. In the team’s win over East Haven last Friday, he put up another double-double, ending the game with 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four blocks. The senior seems to have no problem filling all columns of the stat sheet, and it’s helping the Ravens fill up the win column as well.
Hazelwood, who is one of the only remaining contributors from last year’s state championship team, is coming off of an All-State season and was expected to be the team’s leader on the floor this year, a role he was ready to take on as soon as the season began.
“I think that’s one of my roles,” Hazelwood said of his expected leadership. “Now that our main guards are gone, I feel like I have to facilitate more and get the offense going. That’s something we’re going to need.”
So far, Hazelwood has more than done his part, and the Ravens are still unbeaten because of it.
The Innovation girls basketball team hadn’t enjoyed the kind of fast start that the boys team did to begin the season, but thanks to Brown, the Ravens are officially on the board.
After opening the year with two straight losses, Innovation traveled to face MLC on Friday and dominated from the start, running out to a 23-2 lead in the first quarter and never looking back, cruising to a 48-19 win thanks in large part to Wray-Brown, who led all scorers with 21 points and played strong defense to help hold MLC to just seven points in the first half.
Wray-Brown’s big night was another part of what has been a much improved season from her freshman campaign. So far this year, Wray-Brown is averaging 15.3 points per game, the highest mark on the team, which is a big jump from her offensive output last year. She also has been attacking the glass, averaging 4.5 points per game, nearly two full rebounds per game higher than last year’s output.
Ravens head coach Michael Jessie has seen Brown’s improvement as a product of what she has been able to do on the defensive end, not just increasing her rebound output but also playing better on-ball defense to generate higher percentage shots on the other end, which has led to a much higher scoring output.
“She’s really doing great on defense,” Jessie said. “She’s moving her feet and staying in front of people. I think that’s helped her scoring. When you get steals, you get easy baskets.”
Wray-Brown has shown tremendous improvement in just her sophomore season, and is showing flashes of being the team’s sturdy foundation for years to come. But her contributions are already glaring this year as well, and helped get the Ravens their first win of the season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org