NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain girls basketball team put its three-game winning streak to the test on Tuesday night against a quality Newington squad, but after the Hurricanes held tough for two quarters, the Indians showed their might.
Leading by five heading into the second half, Newington’s offense erupted behind Karissa Zocco, who opened the third quarter with five straight points to suddenly extend the lead to 10 and send the Indians on their way to a 61-43 victory.
“Coach [Marc Tancredi] told us in the locker room that we needed to pick it up as a team and work together,” Zocco said. “We managed to do that in the second half.”
The Hurricanes (4-4) had kept Zocco in check through most of the first half, but the sophomore wound up with a team-high 21 points, while New Britain was led by the hot hand of Maya Slisz, who scored a game-high 22 points behind four 3-pointers.
“I hadn’t been shooting that well in the past couple games,” Slisz said. “But I knew once I got going, I could just keep it going.”
The Zocco sisters opened the game firing from deep for Newington (6-1), as Karissa drained a 3-pointer on the Indians’ first possession, and Marliese Zocco followed with a triple of her own on the ensuing possession from almost the same spot as Karissa to give Newington an early 6-0 lead.
New Britain got on the board midway through the first on a layup from Slisz to cut the deficit to 8-2, and pulled within a pair with 2:37 left in the opening period after a pair of free throws by Nataly Hernandez and a running floater from the baseline by Raven-Symone Jarrett, and the deficit remained just two heading into the second quarter thanks to a stingy Hurricanes defense that allowed just two field goals after the Zoccos opened the game with two 3-pointers.
“That was probably our best defensive half of the year,” New Britain head coach Marc Wesoly said. “We were down, but we held them and came back behind our defense. The score won’t reflect the way we played defensively.”
New Britain’s defense kept Newington’s leading scorer Ashanti Frazier off the board until the 5:27 mark of the second quarter, when the senior drove inside and drew a foul on Jarrett while hooking in a wild shot with the right hand. Frazier, who finished with 13 points, sank the ensuing free throw, and after a miss on the other end, the Indians extended their lead to eight on a driving layup by Alexie Armour, forcing a timeout from Wesoly.
The timeout settled down the Hurricanes, who came out of the break with six straight points, capped off by a corner three from Slisz, to pull back within two. Newington answered with four straight of its own, but Slisz came back down the other end and sank another three to cut the Indians lead to three in the waning minutes of the first half.
“New Britain did an excellent job of controlling the tempo in the first half and I don’t think we were mentally ready for that,” Tancredi said. “We made adjustments in the second half to get a bigger lead.”
Leading by two with five seconds left in the half, Newington secured a defensive rebound and Frazier found a streaking Armour on the other end of the floor, and the junior put home a right-handed layup while drawing a foul, and finished the 3-point play to give the Indians a five-point edge at the break.
“Instead of going into halftime down two, now we’re down five,” Wesoly said. “That was a big momentum shift, but we tried not to talk about it. We knew we just had to get back to doing what we were doing in the first half.”
Karissa opened the second like she did the first, getting the scoring started right away with a layup after a kickout from Frazier, who fell hard after the pass and left with an ankle injury. Karissa helped aid the temporary loss of Frazier (who returned with six minutes left in the third) by knocking down a three on Newington’s next possession to extend the lead to 10, the team’s largest of the night. The lead grew to 12 with just over five minutes left in the third after Madison Romanello put home a layup off a Hurricanes turnover, forcing a timeout from New Britain.
“We struggled to score so far this season, so when we see (Karissa) put the ball in the hole, it kind of energizes our offense,” Tancredi said, “and our defense too.”
Slisz knocked down her third triple of the night out of the timeout to pull the Hurricanes back within nine, but the Indians continued to keep a distance, getting two straight buckets from Frazier and Sabrina Soler to increase the lead to 13 with two minutes left in the quarter. Newington nudged its lead to 14 with less than 10 seconds left in the quarter when Karissa knocked down a straightaway three to give her 11 points on the night, nine coming from beyond the arc.
“I think our help defense got a little tired in the second half,” Slisz said. “We just weren’t performing like we were in the first half.”
The Indians continued to dominate in the fourth, getting consecutive buckets from Kayleigh Sanchez and Frazier to stretch the lead to 21 with six minutes left in the game, as Newington’s dynamic scorers continued to wear down New Britain’s defense after the Hurricanes held strong for 16 minutes.
New Britain continued to battle and cut the lead back down to 11 with 2:25 to go after a fast break layup by Jarrett off a Newington turnover, but Karissa drained another deep three with 1:30 to go to seal the Indians’ second win in a row and help Newington put forth one of its best offensive performances of the season, even after a gritty first half.
“That was the first time we’ve broken 60 points this season,” Tancredi said. “Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
NEWINGTON 61, NEW BRITAIN 43
At New Britain
Newington 10 15 16 20 - 61
New Britain 8 12 7 11 - 43
Newington: Sabrina Soler 2-0-4, Karissa Zocco 6-4-21, Alexie Armour 4-2-10, Madison Romanello 3-0-6, Ashanti Frazier 6-1-13, Kayleigh Sanchez 1-0-2, Marliese Zocco 1-0-3, Brianna Gadarowski 0-2-2. Totals: 23-9-61.
New Britain: Maya Slisz 8-2-22, Nataly Hernandez 0-3-3, Adrianna Faienza 1-1-5, Tianna Sweeney 0-5-5, Raven Symone-Jarrett 4-0-8. Totals: 13-11-43.
Records: Newington 6-1, New Britain 4-4.