BEST OF THE BUNCH: One heck of a game of 3-on-3 is on tap

MERIDEN — Transfers made a big splash on area courts this basketball season.

So did homegrown talent. So did veterans. So did rookies.

They’re all represented here as we roll out the finalists for Record-Journal Basketball Players of the Year.

It’s a game of 3-on-3. Take a man — no zone defenses here — and let’s jump it up.

The pack is paced by the All-Stater, Platt’s Anthony Nimani.

The 6-foot-4 junior guard led the Panthers to the Division III state tournament, where they hosted their first home tourney game since 2003 and won it, 64-45, over Joel Barlow.

Nimani was the area’s leading scorer. With 531 points on the season, he averaged 23.1 a game.

On three occasions, Nimani hit for 30 points or more in a single game: 30 vs. Avon on Jan. 21, 32 vs. Daniel Hand on Feb. 12 and 34 vs. Simsbury three nights later on Feb. 15.

He won the Avon game with a backcourt steal and corner trey in the waning seconds. The 34 versus Simsbury were the area’s single-game high.

A force all over the floor, Nimani was also good for 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals a night.

Nimani did have help, and a good deal of it came from Makhai Anderson. A sophomore transfer from Hamden, Anderson averaged 15.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his first season on the West Side.

The 6-foot-5 Anderson made his presence known right away. On opening night, he piled up 22 points and 21 rebounds against Bloomfield. The All-CCC South selection signed off by scoring 23 points in each of Platt’s two state tournament games, first against Barlow and then against No. 2 St. Bernard.

The other star transfer to hit Meriden this year, of course, was Maloney’s Jaylice Rosario.

The 5-foot-11 junior came in from Wilbur Cross and led the Spartans, a team that had won two games the year prior, to a 15-5 regular season. Seeded No. 7 in Class L, the Spartans won their first state tournament game since 1988 and finished 17-8 overall.

Rosario was the area’s scoring leader among the girls with 503 points, an average of 21.87 points a game. She was also the leading rebounder at just under 12 boards a game.

The All-CCC South forward’s triple-double of 34 points, 20 rebounds and 10 steals on Jan. 11 at Tolland stands the area’s most dominant single-game performance of the season.

Rosario will be back for one more season. So will Cheshire’s Jack Markarian.

One of the area’s most consistent players in 2021-22, Markarian was in double figures in all but three games.

The longer the season went on, the stronger Markarian got. The junior forward went over 20 points in five of Cheshire’s last six games, including a season-high 29 against Career on Feb. 16.

Markarian had to be good. He was Cheshire’s lone returning starter. By season’s end, he had a team-high average of 14.5 points a game.

The post player was also a strong passer and a force a defense, consistently blocking or altering enemy shots.

Oddly, Markarian did not make All-Conference in the SCC, though Lord knows it was a loaded league, home to one state champ (Hand) and one state runner-up (Notre Dame). Expect Markarian’s postseason fortunes to change next season.

As for Southington’s Lily Cooper, there’s no reason to think her trajectory won’t continue its ascension. It’s already at a considerable altitude.

Only a freshman, Cooper was selected All-CCC West after guiding the 20-5 Lady Knights to the CCC Tournament semifinals and the Class LL state quarterfinals. The guard led Southington in scoring with 13.3 points a game.

Cooper’s 47 3-pointers, 97 assists and 80 steals were also team highs.

And it’s not like Cooper was some sort of mad bomber. She shot 43 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range and was 83-of-104 from the free throw line.

Her season high of 26 points, coming against Manchester on Feb. 3, featured seven 3-pointers.

There is one last finalist on our list and, remarkably, she’s the only senior: Sheehan center Darla Jagrosse.

Following in the footsteps of former R-J Girls Basketball Players of the Year Liv Robles and Caitlyn Hunt, Jagrosse continued Sheehan’s recent run of dominant post players.

The 5-11 senior led the 13-10 Titans in scoring at 11.5 points a game and rebounding at 8.0. She shot better than 50 percent from the floor and was named to the All-SCC First Team.

It was hardly smooth sailing, though. Jagrosse missed a stretch to a leg injury after putting up 60 points in Sheehan’s first four games.

Returning to action, Jagrosse drew increased attention from opponents and adjusted, adding a reliable mid-range jumper to complement her strength and speed in the post.

Now it’s off to Stonehill College — not, however, to play basketball. You get the feeling this Record-Journal Athletes of the Year series hasn’t seen the last of Darla Jagrosse.


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