Postseason play is underway across all winter sports, and with the increased intensity comes a greater need for players to step up and keep teams’ seasons alive.
Last week, two area talents stepped up and helped their respective squads either capture a postseason title or stay alive for a chance to do the same. One was a usual suspect who has had a dominant overall season, and another was an unexpected contributor who made the most out of her varsity minutes.
Southington’s Derek Melanson and Newington’s Brianna Gadarowski are this week’s Athletes of the Week for getting it done when the lights shined the brightest.
The Southington boys swim team continued its strong season last Wednesday when it took home the CCC west conference championship, winning seven events to beat Farmington for first place. Melanson helped account for three of those top finishes, helping the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams take first before winning the individual medley. He also placed second in the 100 butterfly to complete a dominant afternoon in the pool.
Melanson, a senior, has been a leader for the Blue Knights all season and will likely be a major factor in state championship play. Melanson has qualified for states in every event he has competed in throughout the season, winning 21 of 22 individual events, and is hoping for another big splash in state competition before calling it a career.
“This impressive individual success for Derek has also translated into success for our team as a whole,” head coach Evan Tuttle said. “Going 10-1 and 5-0 in the conference required individual athletes to step up in big moments when the meet was on the line, and Derek did so consistently throughout the season. As we move forward into the LL state meet, our team will look to continue the success they have achieved this season, and one thing is for sure, Derek will be at the center of that success.”
Melanson has been in the thick of Southington’s success since he arrived to the team as a freshman. An all-conference winner all three years during his tenure with the Blue Knights, Melanson has been a fixture for a Southington program that is always in the running for conference titles and beyond.
“Derek has been a standout since day one of freshman year,” Tuttle said. “Now four years later he is leading our team and dominating in the pool. He works tirelessly to improve in the sport that he loves, and the times he is producing in his senior campaign are showing the fruits of this labor.”
Melanson will continue to work as his career winds down, with the Class LL trials coming up on Saturday morning, and the finals on Tuesday afternoon.
The Newington girls basketball team’s season is also still going, thanks to a win over CCC Tournament champion E.O. Smith in the second round of the Class L state tournament on Friday night. But before that win, the Indians had to get past Hartford Public in the first round last Tuesday, and after building a big lead over the Owls, head coach Marc Tancredi emptied his bench to give some of his younger players a taste of state tournament competition. One of those young players was Gadarowski, and the freshman didn’t waste a second of her time on the court.
Gadarowski kept the crowd into a game that had seemingly already been decided by lighting it up from beyond the arc, knocking down four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points on the night, behind only all-conference senior Ashanti Frazier, who finished with 14. Even in limited minutes, Gadarowski showed her ability to score in bunches, and showed her ability to hit from long range.
Gadarowski has only played 49 varsity minutes this season, but has already hit six 3-pointers on 19 attempts, good for an efficient 32 percent clip. Of her 22 points scored, 18 of them have come from 3-point range. With sharp-shooting guard Karissa Zocco back for another two years after this season, Gadarowski could help make up a lethal 3-point shooting duo for Newington in the years to come. But first, the Indians have their eye on a state championship.