NEWINGTON - Saturday morningâ€™s matchup against Cromwell was a little too close for the Newington girls basketball teamâ€™s liking, at least through the first three quarters before pulling away for a 50-39 win.
The Indians, which trailed in the third quarter and led by just three entering the fourth, struggled offensively before going on a 15-2 run to start the final period, finally giving the team a chance to breathe. But for a team that plans on making a deep run in the state tournament, Saturday morningâ€™s dogfight may have been exactly what Newington needed to see.
â€śThatâ€™s why we schedule these types of opponents at this point in the season,â€ť head coach Marc Tancredi said. â€śWe want to have competitive games down the stretch and get us ready for postseason play.â€ť
The schedule Tancredi and the Indians put together should certainly get the team ready for the state tournament, which will likely see Newington as a high seed given its 15-2 record. Through those 17 games, the Indiansâ€™ opponents have an average record of 10-6 at the end of last weekâ€™s action, with 11 of the 14 teams on the schedule boasting a winning record. One of those rare teams with a losing record is Hall, which has lost eight in a row after losing its best player to injury.
Five opponents on Newingtonâ€™s schedule received votes in the most recent GameTimeCT top-10 rankings, where the Indians are currently slated at fifth. Newingtonâ€™s record is impressive on its own, but factoring in who itâ€™s had to beat during that time, and it becomes even more deserving of recognition.
For Tancredi, this gauntlet of a schedule is exactly what he had hoped for heading into the season. If his team was to find its potential and win games in the state tournament, it would have to play every game with playoff intensity.
â€śThatâ€™s how we designed the schedule,â€ť Tancredi explained. â€śWeâ€™re fortunate that these games have been very competitive and that weâ€™ve been able to win those basketball games. Every team is going to be a similar quality, so youâ€™re not going to have an easy game. Our next game is always our toughest game and thatâ€™s how itâ€™s going to be from here on out.â€ť
While the wins have piled on, so has the confidence for Newington, which now has a load of evidence that it can play with, and beat, some of the top teams in Connecticut.
â€śWe need to play good teams to get ourselves used to being in uncomfortable spots for state tournament runs,â€ť senior guard Ashanti Frazier said after scoring 20 points in Saturdayâ€™s victory.
The win on Saturday morning was yet another positive sign for the Indians, who shot just 6-for-23 in the first half in a game where they clearly didnâ€™t have their best for the majority of the game. Still, Newington was able to grind through and pick up a win against a team that entered the matchup with an impressive 11-5 record.
â€śItâ€™s just this team,â€ť Frazier said. â€śWe like to claw. Any way the game goes, weâ€™re together through everything. Even if weâ€™re down on the scoreboard, we know how to come together and play well.â€ť
The Indians will still have to play well the rest of the way, as the tough matchups donâ€™t stop with Cromwell. A 10-win New Britain team still waits, as does a top-15 team in Wethersfield. The tests wonâ€™t stop, but thatâ€™s just fine with Newington, which wants every chance to get better before the tournament.
â€śWe still need to improve,â€ť Tancredi said. â€śWe want to try and hit our peak, and I donâ€™t think weâ€™ve peaked yet.â€ť