AVON >> End of an era.
Avon had its hands full with one of the best high school girls basketball players in Connecticut history, but still came out on top.
The Falcons defeated star Sarah Veilleux and RHAM, 69-45 in the second round of the Class L state tournament at Avon High School Friday night.
“It’s kind of disappointing that we ended it this way,” said Veilleux, who finished her career with 2,079 points. “But they’re a fantastic team, we played hard, it was a very physical game.”
The Avon defense was relentless. From the opening tip, not a single Sachem could find space. Shannon Curry, Veilleux’s primary defender did not let the St. Joseph’s-bound guard out of her reach.
That said, Veilleux still scored a game high 26 points, eight off her average.
“We thought if we could hold her under 30 and not let any of the other girls go wild, we could win the game,” Avon coach Frank Waters said.
The Falcons wore down RHAM with their up-tempo attack and took advantage in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Avon outscored RHAM 22-9, led by Abby Laszewski who scored eight of her 13 in the final quarter.
Veilleux was swarmed every time she touched the ball and drew contact. She went eight of 12 from the free throw line, making all three in the fourth quarter.
Out of the halftime break, Avon scored six of the first eight points forcing RHAM coach Tim Guernsey to call a timeout. Veilleux hit a three to get back within single digits. But Anna Schrecengost and Michaela Marcus each hit one as the third quarter came to an end giving the Falcons an 11 point lead.
“We knew they would play a zone against us and we needed to execute a half court offense and make some outside shots, which I thought we did very well tonight,” Waters said.
The Avon defense was uncompromising. It seemed to clog any and all passing lanes, block shots and fight for every ball.
“Their defense was very good pressuring the ball,” Guernsey said. “Anytime they left defensively and let us penetrate, somebody came from behind.”
RHAM held the lead twice in this game, 2-0 and then for exactly two minutes and 10 seconds at the end of the first quarter. Veilleux went to the foul line with 2:16 left in the first and made both shots, then a minute later found Alyssa Hansen for two more giving the Sachems a 12-9 lead, but not for long.
“I just think our shots weren’t falling,” Veilleux said. ”We were getting bumped around more than we are used to.”
Twice in the game, Veilleux had space. Midway through the second quarter, she found a lane and was able to drive to the basket with ease.
Then again towards the end of the second she shook her defender and made a step-back jumper from the right side, but that was it.
Waters praised Curry, Alex Benedict and Lauren Miller for the job they did guarding the 2012-13 Gatorade Connecticut Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Four Falcons scored in double-figures, Anna Schrecengost led the way with 18, including the final four points of the first quarter, starting a 12-0 run that spanned to 5:24 in the second.
Michaela Marcus added 16, but it was her defense that got coach Waters attention.
“I thought Michaela Marcus played an unbelievable game,” Waters said. “[She] was so quick to come and steal the ball.”
Olivia Welter was consistent throughout, scoring in each quarter, finishing with 13.
Being the only Class L school in the NCCC, Waters wasn’t sure how his team would fare in the state tournament. But he learned something tonight.
“All year I thought we were a very talented team,” he said “I’m taking away from this, we can play with anybody.”
The Falcons will play the winner of No. 4 Ledyard vs. No. 13 Northwest Catholic, a game being played Saturday at 5 p.m.
As for Veilleux playing her final game as a RHAM Sachem.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s been a fantastic year. I love the senior class. this team is great. They have so much to look forward to next year,” Veilleux said. “I’m so excited for college, I’m so excited where I’m going, I made the right choice 100 percent, I’m disappointed, but I’m excited.”