BERLIN — Winning on another team’s court is never easy. It’s even harder to win when the visitors give the home team more than one chance to score.
The Southington girls basketball team started its season-long, five-game road trip Tuesday night on the wrong foot in a CCC interdivisional affair at Berlin.
The Blue Knights fell behind early and never recovered, losing to the Redcoats 55-40 to fall to .500 on the season.
SHS came out reluctant to shoot at times in a cavernous Berlin gymnasium. And when they did, the Blue Knights missed 15 of 21 shots in the first half to trail 26-16 at halftime.
Then, after cutting the Redcoats’ lead to seven heading to the fourth quarter, SHS allowed too many second-chance points to complete the comeback.
Berlin matched its largest lead with 5:45 to play, 48-36, on consecutive and-1 layups by Emma Ellison (16 points) and Jenna Wenzel (15).
Wenzel’s inside basket and free throw came after two Berlin offensive rebounds. The more aggressive Redcoats grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the game and scored 10 second-chance points.
The Redcoats would then win going away, as they opened up a 54-38 lead with 2:10 to play on two free throws each by Wenzel and Ava Desmarias (7 points).
The Blue Knights, who never led and trailed by double digits for most of the second half, were led by Lilly Cooper’s 11 points.
Gabby Dangelo and Bethany Borges each had 8 points, while Ciara Sockwell added 7.
“We came out good after halftime, but eventually they went on a run and kept getting and-1s,” Dangelo said.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Southington (7-7). The Blue Knights hit the road for CCC encounters at Simsbury, East Hartford, Newington and Glastonbury.
Southington’s next four foes had combined for 36 wins heading into Tuesday night. Berlin improved to 7-6.
At this point last season, these same SHS girls who are now struggling for consistency were 12-2 and on their way to a 20-5 season that ended in the Class LL state quarterfinals with a loss to CCC foe Enfield.
On Tuesday night, Southington head coach Howie Hewitt was at a loss for words trying to explain his team’s lack of consistency in 2022-23.
Hewitt and Dangelo both said the graduation of last year’s only senior, Ali Barretta, despite her not playing a minute last season due to a back injury, has contributed to this season’s struggles.
Hewitt added that the competition has also improved and that opponents didn’t know just how good last year’s freshmen, who are now being scouted differently as sophomores, would become.
“We have girls in different roles; that doesn’t help,” Hewitt said. “But after 14 games and four scrimmages, there’s not much left to say (at halftime).”
Whatever Hewitt and his coaches said at the break worked. A more assertive Southington came out in the third quarter.
Cooper was noticeably more aggressive on offense, shooting more than distributing. Scoring 8 of her 11 points in the quarter, Cooper was a factor in the Blue Knights getting within 40-24 with 59 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Cooper scored or assisted on seven straight SHS points. The sophomore guard fed both a cutting Dangelo and Borges for inside hoops.
She then drove for another basket and grabbed an offensive rebound that led to Mikosz making one of three free throws.
The Redcoats opened up their largest lead of the first half with 1:25 to play in the second quarter when Wenzel hit a 3 to put Berlin up 26-13.
Dangelo’s trey with 20 seconds to play in the half got a friendly bounce on the Blue Knights’ next possession to cut the lead to 26-16.
Earlier, the Blue Knights got within 16-13 on back-to-back baskets by Sockwell midway through the second quarter.
But SHS turned the ball over on its next three possessions to fall behind 21-13. The Blue Knights also made just 6 of 21 shots in the first half to let the Redcoats pull ahead.
“I though Ciara played well,” Hewitt said. “And we battled (in the third quarter), but they just kept getting second-chances.”
Southington’s struggles from the field started in the first quarter, when the Blue Knights shot 2-for-10, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, to fall behind 7-4.
Berlin, meanwhile, made four 3’s in the first half.
Cooper hit the Blue Knights’ first 3 of the game to get SHS within 13-9 after Borges started the quarter with an inside hoop. Mikosz and Borges made the only two SHS shots in the first eight minutes.