MERIDEN — Never have we had an All-RJ squad as young as this year’s All-Record-Journal Girls Basketball Team.
Ipso facto: Never have we had a season so dominated by rookies.
From opening night, when Maloney’s Skyler Burke put up 15 points and Sheehan’s Megan Wresien opened eyes with stellar play across all 94 feet of the court, it was clear this year’s cast of freshmen was ready for prime time.
The show only got better.
Grace Mik emerged as Lyman Hall’s top scorer and one of its leading rebounders and defenders.
Jenna Wresien, twin sister of Megan Wresien, went from sixth player to arguably Sheehan’s postseason MVP.
All four of those freshmen have a spot on the All-RJ Team.
So does Southington’s Lily Cooper. She’s only a sophomore.
So does Sheehan’s Liv Cassesse. She’s still only a junior.
In fact, the lone senior on this year’s All-Record-Journal Girls Basketball Team is Antwanette Tann, the double-double machine from Platt who led the area in scoring and rebounding.
But this was a season that belonged to the very young. Lyman Hall hit the court not only with Mik at 2-guard, but fellow freshman Ellie Madancy at point.
By season’s end, Burke was on the floor at Maloney with fellow freshmen Kaylani Zackery, Brianna Cusimano and the 6-foot-1 Amaya McNeil.
On the other side of Meriden, Sadie Vernon had a breakout season for Wilcox Tech, averaging 12.3 points a game, and fellow freshman Elliana Lopez was pretty sharp at point guard before suffering a season-ending injury.
And, at Sheehan, the Wresien twins were actually just the vanguard of a Class of 2026 that has the potential to take Hope Hill to new heights. Suzy Hotaling, in particular, was another frosh in Burgundy & Gold who introduced herself in the winter of 2022-23.
Pleased to meet you all. We hope to be covering you for three more seasons to come. (Let’s face it, the challenge for their coaches won’t just be further honing their talent, but keeping them playing at home.)
For now, they comprise the core of our All-RJ Team.Sheehan
Here’s the best illustration of just how good the underclass talent was this year. The area’s best team, Sheehan, had no seniors on its roster. Not a one.
And yet the Titans went 15-5 in the regular season, reached the quarterfinals of both the SCC conference and Class MM state tournaments and finished 17-7.
The star of this star team was Megan Wresien. Capable at handling the ball and pulling it down off the glass, adept at driving to the basket or shooting from downtown, the 5-foot-7 combo player did a whole lot of everything for MTS.
She led the team in scoring at 14.1 points a game. She had a total of 310 points despite missing two SCC Tournament games after sustaining a concussion in the regular-season finale.
Sheehan has had only a few scorers eclipse the 300-point mark since head coach Mike Busillo took over in 2007, never mind a rookie.
“She’s about as polished of a freshman that we’ve had,” Busillo said. “She’s not only skilled, but her basketball ball IQ is off the charts, which helps her both offensively and defensively.”
Wresien shot 52 percent from inside the arc and 36 percent from beyond it. She hit for a season-high 30 points against West Haven.
By year’s end, Wresien had a spot on the All-SCC First Team. For us, she was peerless. Megan Wresien is the 2023 Record-Journal Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Now, that’s not to say her twin sister doesn’t win the occasional game of one-on-one.
When it comes to sheer and ceaseless hustle, it’s hard to top Sheehan’s Jenna Wresien, a player who does nothing by half-measures. Busillo jokes she works up a full sweat in warmups.
By the time she’d come off the bench, Jenna Wresien was a pure accelerant at both ends of the court and pretty much every square inch in between.
“She has no fear,” Busillo said. “She is successful because she’s not afraid to fail. She has the heart of a lion. She’s five feet-nothing, but pound for pound she’s talking junk to the other team’s best player. She’s tough and I love it.”
For the record, Jenna Wresien is 5-foot-3. She shot 43 percent on 2-point field goals and 32 percent on 3-pointers.
Her final scoring average was 9.0 points a game, though her output grew as the season went on. When Megan was sidelined by her concussion, Jenna took charge in the SCC Tournament and scored 18 points against East Haven and 13 against Mercy.
She stayed active in the Class MM tournament, putting up 18 points against Rocky Hill and 9 against eventual champ New London in the quarterfinals.
“Her confidence grew,” Busillo noted. “She understood better where she fit in. She forced her way on the floor. She does so many good things for us.”
Running the show at the point for the Titans, and earning All-RJ recognition for a second straight year, was Liv Cassesse.
The junior averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. She twice hit for 21 points — vs. Hamden in the regular season and vs. East Haven in the SCC tourney.
A spot on the All-SCC Second Team was awaiting.
“She did what we expected her to do this year as the primary ball-handler and a scorer for us,” Busillo said. “She did her job to get us organized, because we had such a younger team and we were running a lot of different sets.”
Given that relative youth, Cassesse’s leadership was a major X-factor.
“There were times where I saw her put her arm around one of our freshmen and give them encouragement,” Busillo said. “That was an important piece of what she brought as well.”
And the Titans have her for another year. They’ve got the whole kit and kaboodle for another year.
“Megan, Jenna and Liv all have a great work ethic and practice hard and work on their skills,” Busillo said. “That’s why they are successful: They work hard.”Lyman Hall
On the other side of Wallingford, Lyman Hall had its own dynamic freshman duo in backcourt mates Grace Mik and Ellie Madancy, who melded nicely with the senior front court of Callie Casulla, Callie Chordas and Shea Barron and returned to the postseason at 10-10.
Mik is the All-RJ representative here. She led the Trojans in scoring (10.9 ppg.) and was second in rebounding (5.5) and also pocketed 40 steals.
Mik’s 21-point game against Maloney over Christmas break was her single-game high. She had a double-double against Jonathan Law (13 points, 11 rebounds).
“She was our go-to scorer,” said coach Christie Madancy. “At times, she was our only scorer on a team that struggled to score. She carried us on the offensively and many times she would guard the opposing team’s best player.”
It was a heavy work load at both ends of the court, yet playing 30-32 minutes a game wasn’t unusual for Mik.
“She barely came off the floor and many times I couldn’t give her a sub,” Madancy said. “We weren’t a deep team; she did everything for us. As a freshman, it was a lot to ask of her, but she consistently handled it.”Southington
While the Lady Knights, at 8-12, didn’t have the sort of season they hoped for, they did get another All-CCC West and All-RJ campaign from Lily Cooper.
Last year’s breakout freshman, Cooper followed up with a sophomore season in which she averaged a team-high 13.4 points a game.
She had a season-high 28 vs. Trumbull in the Class LL state tourney, almost willing SHS to a comeback before the curtain came down at 53-49.
Cooper also hit for 20 or more points against Windsor, Stamford and Newington. She has 608 career points through two seasons, though scoring is truly just one facet of her game.
“Lily Cooper does everything a coach could want a player to do on a basketball team,” said Southington coach Howie Hewitt. “She handles the ball magnificantly. She shoots the ball really well and is a good passer. She’s s competitive teammate and a coach on the floor.
“For her to do all of that as a sophomore is impressive; players don’t usually reach the goals she is going to reach until they are juniors are seniors,” Hewitt added. “On top of all of that, she’s humble.”Platt
The Antwanette Tann Era at Platt is over, and it’s a profound loss for the Panthers.
Coming off an All-CCC South and All-RJ season as a junior, Tann duplicated the feat in her senior by averaging 19.4 points with an area-high 388 points in 20 games.
The 5-foot-10 forward also pulled down better than 14 rebounds a game. She had double-doubles in all but five contests.
Tann’s season high for scoring were the 38 points she put up against Wilcox Tech in late December. She also had 31 against Bristol Eastern in January and 32 against Avon in February.
In March, she was selected to play in the CHSCA Senior All-Star game.
“She’s a huge loss for the team because she did a lot,” said Platt coach Tina Gonyea. “She had 388 points and the next player had 75, so it was a big discrepancy.”Maloney
Right from the start of the season, Skyler Burke established herself as a 1-2 punch with senior forward Jaylice Rosario, the returning Record-Journal Player of the Year.
Through the first 11 games of the season, the freshman guard was in double figures on eight occasions.
Then, when Rosario transferred to Hillhouse in midseason, the scoring burden doubled on those young shoulders. Burke still managed to carry it, scoring 359 points to average 17.1 a game.
Over the last Maloney’s last 11 games, Burke averaged 21 points, a prolific run that included 40 against Platt in the regular-season finale. It was the area’s single-game high.
“She was a welcome addition this year,” remarked Maloney coach John Vieira. “I never had to worry about her and she checks all of the boxes. She’s always one of the first in the gym. She put the team on her back in the second half of the season and played like one of the best players in the conference. She’s the total package.”
Burke was indeed one of the best in the Central Connecticut Conference. She was named All-CCC South.
Along with 17.1 points, Burke averaged 3.4 rebounds, two steals and a block per game. She was among the youngest Spartans, yet the undisputed team leader.
“It’s a credit to her,” Vieira said. “It’s not easy to step in as a freshman and take it on the chin and roll with it. I’m proud of the work she put in. She’s a student of the game, coachable. The sky’s the limit for her.”