And a rookie shall lead them

WILLIMANTIC — The Eastern Connecticut State University’s women’s basketball team is currently playing its best ball of the season. Southington’s Jordyn Nappi is a big reason for the Warriors’ success.

The 5-foot-5 freshman guard is coming off a career-high 23 points in Saturday’s 75-64 Little East Conference victory over Southern Maine. The win over the defending LEC champion was Eastern’s seventh conquest in its last eight games.

Nappi drilled a season-high five 3-pointers in nine attempts against Southern Maine.

“I made my first and second shot, and that helped the rest of the game,” the elementary education major said Tuesday. “It really got me going. I was able to get out in transition and I got a lot of open looks.”

Nappi, 18, has started each of the Warriors’ 15 games this season. She was expected to start heading into the season, but her role on the team has grown because of a pair of injuries to other players — injuries that have made it more incumbent on Nappi to score.

“She has been very consistent from the beginning of the season on the offensive end and is averaging double figures as a freshman,” Eastern coach Denise Bierly said. “We have had injuries and she has stepped up. She doesn’t play like a freshman. She plays even-keeled and doesn’t get rattled.”

Eastern is 11-4 overall and sits in first place of the Little East Conference at 4-1.

“I think the chemistry is a big reason why we are in first place,” Nappi said. “We play as a team. We look to get each other the ball. I try not to get overwhelmed and just play my game.”

Nappi, who entered the Division III collegiate ranks after a state championship run with Mercy, said it was a goal of hers to start for Eastern from the beginning of the season. She put in extra work over the summer to make sure it happened.

Since then, she has averaged 11.5 points per game as the starting two-guard. Her scoring average has jumped up in recent weeks.

“Night in and night out she is consistent,” Bierly said. “We have started to put the ball in her hands in key situations. She knows the game and how to play. She seems to know what the moment needs. No situation is ever too big for her to handle.”

Nappi said the biggest adjustment to college basketball is the shot clock. The freshman said the Warriors like to run a lot of clock in their triangle offense.

She does most of her damage shooting from the perimeter, Nappi added, but has been penetrating more than she has in the past.

Nappi said she also has improved her defense since arriving at Eastern. The Warriors mainly play man to man.

Nappi said she just wants to keep the Warriors winning. The team already has more wins than it did for all of last season.

“I just want to keep playing up to my potential,” Nappi said. “I want to win LEC championship. I think we can do it.”



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