GIRLS BASKETBALL: On long afternoon of playing catchup, Sheehan falls short

GIRLS BASKETBALL: On long afternoon of playing catchup, Sheehan falls short

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WALLINGFORD — Monday afternoon’s hardwood marquee matinee was a contrast in styles between Sheehan’s size and Newington’s high-level guard play.

Ultimately, it was the guards of Newington who won out against the size of Sheehan.

Newington prevailed 53-47 in a non-conference showdown behind sophomore sharpshooter Karissa Zocco and 1,000-point scorer Ashanti Frazier.

Zocco was 5-for-8 from 3-point land and finished with a game-high 17 points. Frazier netted 15 for the Indians.

Newington (10-1) never trailed. The Indians led by as many as 14 points, though Sheehan closed to within two points in the third quarter and were as close as four in the fourth quarter.

The Titans just couldn’t get over the hump.

“We have really talented guards,” Newington coach Marc Tancredi said. “I told the girls at the beginning of the game that they were going big on us. But as I said to my staff, they need to play with our guards.

“It was going to come down to which strength prevailed. We have really good guards and I think our speed hurt them going up and down the floor.”

Sheehan had three scorers in double figures led by Caitlyn Hunt’s 15 points. Hayleigh Lagase poured in 13 points, includng four treys. Caitlyn Velez added 10 for Sheehan.

But it was an uphill battle all afternoon for Sheehan.

“We didn’t play well enough to win today,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “It was one of those days. They jumped on us early and sometimes (when) you play these games at funny start times the team that jumps out first wins.

“We didn’t play well. We missed shots we normally make.”

Newington led 19-7 after one quarter as Sheehan was cold from the field to start. The Titans missed their first five shots and were 2-for-10 in the opening quarter. Meanwhile, the Indians were 8-for-15 as their guards set the tone early. 

Marliese Zocco (6 points) opened the scoring with a trey, Alexie Armour (8 points) followed with a layup and Karissa Zocco canned a 3-ball and the visitors were up 8-0 all of 2½ minutes in.

Sheehan’s shooting woes continued into the second quarter. The Titans missed their first eight shots of the frame as Newington built a 27-13 edge. 

Sheehan used a 7-0 run in the final 1:43 of the first half to close the gap to 27-20 by the break. Lagase followed buckets by Hunt and Velez with a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

Sheehan shot 5-for-22 in the first half. However, its defense improved in the second quarter, holding Newington to 3-for-12 shooting.

The momentum carried over into the third quarter for Sheehan. The Titans hit four 3-pointers in the opening four minutes. Lagase hit three of them.

“Hayleigh is no different from a lot of kids. When the ball goes in, they have a little more hop in their step,” Busillo said. “She got it going in the third quarter. We weren’t playing great, but Hayleigh’s shooting really kept us in the game.”

A Lagase 3-pointer with 3:53 left in the third quarter brought Sheehan within 35-32. Hunt then split a pair from the line on Sheehan’s next possession to make it a 35-33 contest with 3:03 to go.

That is as close as the Titans got in the second half.

Frazier had a putback and a drive for Newington to close out the third quarter. The Indians led 39-33 after three quarters.

Sheehan made one more run early in the fourth quarter. Maddi Larkin drilled a trey and Hunt layed one in for two points with 5:56 to cut the deficit to 43-39, but Newington countered with a 7-0 run to expand the lead back to 50-39 with 2:55 left.

In the midst of that game-sealing run was Karissa Zocco’s final 3-pointer of the game.

“It’s difficult to come back against good teams with good guards,” Busillo said. “Their guards were terrific and (Karissa) Zocco is about as good as any shooter we have seen. She was really good.”

Sheehan is 8-3 as it rounds the halfway point of the season. West Haven and Lyman Hall are on the schedule this week. 

The Titans played Monday’s game without senior co-captain Caroline Dighello, who missed the game with illness.

“Obviously, she plays big minutes for us and is an important piece, but that’s not why we lost,” Busillo said. “We got outplayed. We don’t look for excuses. We aren’t going to rely on that for an excuse. It’s not why we lost the game.”