SOUTHINGTON — Pandemic aside, nobody wanted to be on the court more than Southington seniors Kelley Marshall and Allison Carr.
And nobody was happier to see the pair healthy again than fellow senior Liv Pizzitola.
Behind Marshall’s team-high 12 points, the Southington girls basketball team opened its long-awaited season Wednesday night with a 67-34 Central Connecticut Conference win over New Britain.
The Blue Knights led 31-16 by halftime and never let the Golden Hurricanes get within 20 points after opening up a 38-18 lead with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
Pizzitola scored eight of her 11 points in the first half, while Carr had seven of her nine after halftime.
Sophomore Alison Mikosz also scored 11 points for Southington. New Britain was led by a game-high 17 points from Maya Slisz.
Last season turned into a what-could-have-been situation for the Blue Knights, due to more than than just a postseason cancelled by COVID-19. Both Marshall and Carr missed the last month-plus of the season with injuries suffered at a time when Southington was ranked No. 1 in the Class LL playoff points.
Pizzitola could only do so much in their absence as the Blue Knights struggled down the stretch.
“I love playing with Kelly and Allie,” Pizzitola said Wednesday night. “t was a good start.”
Southington actually missed its first 11 shots of the game before a CIAC-instituted mask break four minutes into the game. The Blue Knight trailed 7-6 late in the quarter before Carr’s steal and fast-break layup tied the game at 8 after eight minutes.
Southington’s slow start, however, was quickly erased with a 23-10 second quarter that featured eight points by Pizzitola and a pair of 3-pointers by Gabby Dangelo. In all, the Blue Knights hit seven treys in the game.
“I wrote to the girls this morning, ‘We’ve waited a long time for this,” Southington head coach Howie Hewitt said.
As for the Blue Knights’ slow start?
“Last year, I was telling Livvy today, we were down 5-3 (to New Britain) after the first quarter. So today, we had eight and I was thinking, ‘We are killing them,’” joked Hewitt.
Marshall’s inside presence, Carr’s play-making ability and Pizzitola’s all-around play ultimately proved too much for New Britain.
Carr started the second quarter with a 3-pointer. Dangelo hit the first of her pair of treys to make it 19-14. Marshall got into the act with a triple of her own and, suddenly, it was 24-16 Southington with two minutes to play in the half.
Pizzitola was then fouled after a steal and fast-break layup. Her free throw put Southington up 27-16. Baskets by Marshall and a Pizzitola layup at the buzzer gave the Blue Knights their halftime cushion.
“They all have a skill that compliments each other,” Hewitt said of his trio of seniors.
For Marshall and Carr, just getting back on the court was reward enough.
“It was awful watching,” said Marshall, who was leading the Blue Knights in scoring before missing the final five games of last season with a hip injury. “It felt really good to get out there. We all just work really well together because we’ve played with each other for so long. It was easy to get back in the flow of things.”
Carr couldn’t agree more.
“We had a good run last year until, obviously, we got injured,” Carr said. “Being back out there, personally and for the whole team, we were just so excited. We’ve been looking forward to this forever and, knock on wood, we can keep it up.
“We were a little rusty at first; we’d only scrimmaged a couple of teams,” Carr added. “Tonight, it was game time. We found some things we can work on, so we’ll work on those things and hope for the best.”
Carr’s jumper with 5:52 left in the third quarter gave Southington its first 20-point lead of the night. Her steal and layup gave the Blue Knights a 42-20 lead and forced New Britain to call a timeout with 4:55 to play in the quarter.
The break did little to slow down Southington, which led 46-20 on a basket by junior Samatha Sullivan. The Blue Knights took a 46-26 lead into the final quarter.
Pizzitola’s only points of the second half came to open the fourth as she nailed a 3-pointer to put Southington up 55-26 with 6:49 to play. Carr hit the Blue Knights’ sixth 3-pointer of the game as the lead grew to 58-26.
Dangelo capped off the Blue Knights’ long-range shooting with a 3 to put Southington up 62-32.