NEWINGTON - A second-round Class LL state tournament matchup between the Newington and Glastonbury girls basketball teams on Friday night quickly turned into the Karissa Zocco Show.
Newington’s freshman sharpshooter caught fire, hitting six of her first eight 3-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points in a 55-44 win.
Zocco led the No. 3 Indians (22-4) to a date with No. 2 New London (23-2) in the quarterfinals (7 p.m. Thursday) by knocking down three straight from downtown to start the second half.
The trio of treys sparked an 11-2 run that extended Newington’s nine-point halftime lead to 44-26 with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter.
It was a ceremonious return for Zocco, who sat out the Indians last three games after sustaining a concussion in their first-round CCC Tournament game Feb. 14.
“I thought I would be [rusty], but it felt great getting back out there,” said Zocco, who also tallied five rebounds and four assists. “I’m so proud of my team. I had to sit on the bench and watch them do their thing, and they did great. But it felt so good to be back out there with them.”
When she checked into the game less than two minutes in, Zocco was met with loud cheers from the crowd and a “Welcome back!” announcement from Newington’s PA announcer.
There was some anxiety for the freshman guard at first, but as soon as she drilled her first 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, those feeling dissipated.
“I was a little nervous at first. I didn’t know how it was gonna go, but when I hit my first shot it felt great,” Zocco said. “Normally, when I make my first shot, I’m like, ‘All right.’ And when I miss my first shot, I’m [still] like, ‘All right, just keep shooting.’ My teammates are always proud of me and have my back no matter what. It was just so good to be back out with my team, and I just love them all.”
Zocco’s second trey gave Newington a 14-7 lead, and the Indians held a 17-14 edge after one period.
Ashanti Frazier (13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) stepped into a wide-open 3-pointer off a Zocco pass and knocked it down for a 22-16 lead in the second period. The junior guard then slithered into the paint on a baseline drive, finishing off glass to start a 9-1 run that helped give the Indians a 33-24 halftime lead.
Frazier gave the Indians a 49-35 lead with less than a minute left in the third period, slicing into the lane before banking in a floater.
Alexie Armour, a key Newington rotation player who started several games this season and also missed the last three games with an injury, extended the Indians’ lead to 16 early in the fourth quarter. Frazier then converted a steal into a fast-break layup for a 55-37 lead with less than five minutes remaining, and Newington outlasted a 7-0 Glastonbury run over the final few minutes.
Indians head coach Marc Tancredi wasn’t taken aback by what the No. 10 Tomahawks (17-7) threw at his team.
“They spread us out. [Glastonbury coach Chris Vozzolo] runs some really good stuff, running their shooters off of screens,” Tancredi said. “I told our team it was gonna be a game of defense and how many stops we were gonna get. When we were up 14, or even nine at half, I told our team we can’t get comfortable because this is a team that can get back in the game in two or three possessions. Usually, we’re in the low 50s, high 40s and 55 tonight. It’s great holding Glastonbury to 44 because they had 75 in the first round [against Middletown].”