Not every player is going to light up the stat sheet like Amity’s Elise Graham. However, without the Molly Dragon’s, the Spartans wouldn’t be a playoff team. Cassidy Wygonik is one of Hand’s team leaders, but without Lauren Brandau, the Tigers just wouldn’t be the Tigers.
The area is loaded with mid-major Division I and Division II talent. There are also players who do everything it takes to help their team win, and despite not getting the publicity just yet, their coaches notice their contributions. Below is the 2015 New Haven County Under the Radar Team.
These players can by put in five different categories…
- Coming of Age (becoming a star)
- Overshadowed (teammates get more attention)
- There’s No I in Team (team-play overrides individual outbursts)
- Where did You Go? (missed time, does not play AAU or team has not performed well as of late)
- She just does one thing, right? (seen as just a specialist)
North Haven senior guard
Overshadowed: North Haven coach Ray Degnan said it is hard to ignore Arnaoutis on the court. From scoring, to passing, to getting rebounds and playing aggressive defense, the guard is everywhere. Despite her impact, she can be hard to find in the box score. The coach said Arnaoutis, who is also a team captain, may not score a lot, but she always grabs the attention of spectators.
“Everyone always knows how many points Jill has and how many rebounds Nina (Poloukhine) grabbed,” he said. “But the next question is always, ‘Who was the other kid that was everywhere on the floor?’ It was Haley.”
Lauralton Hall junior guard
Coming of age: It wasn’t easy finding playing time for the Crusaders as a guard the past few seasons. From Michelle DeSantis to Carly Fabbri (Quinnipiac), coach Amanda Forcucci’s been well-equipped in the back court. The coach may have another good guard as Barzee, who the coach said has good 3-point range, continues to improve.
“She’s coming into her own the past 4 games,” she said. “(She’s) averaging 10 points per game.”
Hand senior forward
There’s No I in Team: Hand is loaded with talent, and the Tigers work so well as a group it is hard for any one player to really stand out. Brandau has been tough on both ends of the floor and been willing to get her teammates involved at all times.
“She’s a 5-foot-10 Swiss army knife and one of the most intense competitors I’ve ever coached,” said coach Tim Tredwell.
She is posting 6.6 rebounds per game.
East Haven senior guard
There’s No I in Team: Her points per game average is only 7.4, but she’s taken seven charges this season and, according to coach Anthony Russell, she may not score a lot, but neither does the player she’s guarding.
“She always draws the most difficult defensive assignment,” he said. “She is one of the most intelligent and diligent student-athletes that I’ve ever coached. She never takes a drill off in practice or a play off in a game.”
East Haven senior guard
Overshadowed: If only there was a way to track full-court presses broken. The senior has been adept at getting through defenses and setting up her teammates.
“She makes it very difficult for teams to press us,” Russell said. “Whether they are in a zone or man press she’s been having great success breaking pressure. Her size and speed makes her very elusive in the back court. She’s like a one-man press breaker.”
Law junior guard
Coming of Age: The guard could be one of the best players in the area next season. As one of the more athletic defenders, she has added some offense to her game and is posting 12.5 points per game.
“She has always been athletic but not a basketball player,” said Law coach Dan Young. “Jess has worked incredibly hard to develop her skills and make huge improvements in her junior year.”
Amity junior guard
Where did you go/Overshadowed?: Despite losing 11 seniors from last season’s team, Amity is still alive in the Southern Connecticut Conference. Although GameTimeCT.com/Register Top 25 junior guard Elise Graham is a large part of the reason why, the Spartans have another guard that has helped them stay strong in the SCC. Coach Michelle Shoop has been impressed with her ball-handling skills. Dragon should be even better next season, after falling off the radar last year dealing with a back injury.
Sheehan senior guard
Overshadowed: The guard is second on the team in rebounds, leads the team in steals and forced jump balls and is second in assists. However, she plays with 1,000 career point scorer Joelle MarkAnthony and slasher Lexi Ocasio.
Lauralton Hall sophomore forward
Coming of age: Most sophomore’s wouldn’t want the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player, but Gildea seems to be okay with it, according to Forcucci.
“She guards the best player on the other team whether she’s a guard or forward, doesn’t matter, she’ll guard them,” the coach said. “She held Fitzpatrick to 2 points in the first half of our Mercy game.”
The forward is only posting six points a contest as she learns the high school game. She is averaging nine rebounds a game and grabbed 20 against Hillhouse.
North Haven senior guard
She just does one thing, right?: Jill Johnson is the focal point of defenses nightly. She went off on the tough defense of Hand last season, landing herself on YouTube for her efforts. However, Johnson is more than just a jump shooter, according to Degnan.
“No one gives Jill credit for her tenacity,” he said. “Stats aside, I think the first thing coaches notice about Jill is her motor. She never stops. She never relents.”
Which would explain how she’s able to post 16.2 per game, despite being targeted by defenses each game.
Wilbur Cross junior guard
Where Did You Go?: Times have been hard for the Governors, carrying a 14-66 record over the last four seasons. However, Kearson is a bright spot.
“She helps our team win because she brings consistency and great defense,” said coach Alicia Crichton. “She’s gets to the basket quick and can cause turnovers with her pressure on the ball.”
Sacred Heart Academy junior forward
Overshadowed: Lauren Davis could be one of the area’s best long distance shooters. However, Keish actually leads the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game and is hauling in 7.3 rebounds, too.
“She always plays tough inside on both ends of the court, and currently is shooting 48 percent from the floor,” said coach Bruce Rich.
Hand sophomore guard
Coming of Age/There’s No I in Team: Her jersey number on the CIAC roster didn’t match the jersey number she actually wears in the game, something usually reserved for bench warmers. Martin is far from a bench warmer. The young guard routinely shuts down opposing teams point guards averaging 4.5 steals per game and on the offensive end dishes out five assists per contest.
Hand junior guard
Coming of Age/There’s No I in Team: Quickly becoming one of the SCC’s better long range shooters, Materin nailed 29 triples through 14 games. Replacing sharp shooter Lily Taylor isn’t easy, but Materin has filled in nicely, even if her nine points per game may not show it.
Wilbur Cross junior guard
Where Did You Go?: Another energy player that could help turn the Governors into a solid team again.
“She can easily get to the basket and hustle very hard on defense,” Crichton said.
Cheshire senior guard
Overshadowed: Last year it was Missy Bailey, this year it’s Sara Como and Jill Howard. The Rams are well-equipped with talented players and O’Donnell’s energy and intensity tends to go overlooked.
“A lot of the focus goes to Sara Como and Jill Howard,” said coach Sarah Mik. “If the newspaper listed every stat column, people would see O’Donnell at the top of each for every game.”
Lyman Hall senior center
Where did you go?: Although she only missed two games this season, Lyman Hall’s 5-10 record may have diverted some eyes from the Trojans. After losing the three-headed monster of Krista Petersen and Nicole and Taylor Mierzejewski, who all made UTR last season, Petit needed to step up.
“She is a leader to our younger kids,” said coach Tom Lipka.
She’s proven to be a leader, averaging 14 points with 13 rebounds per game.
Law junior forward
There’s No I in Team: Consistent averages are hard to come by for Saley. Not due to a lack of skill, but because she’s willing to do whatever it takes to help her team win, according to Young. Despite that fact, she still posts 16 points and seven rebounds per contest.
East Haven freshman forward
Coming of Age: Statistically, she should not be under anyone’s radar. She is posting 13.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. However, only a freshman, she has not made waves just yet.
“She is in the process of developing a perimeter game which will make her a more balanced player,” Russell said. “It isn’t too often that a freshman plays at such a high level.”
Guilford junior guard
Coming of age: Confidence has been the key for Shank, according to coach Bob Welsh. He said this season a more confident Shank has put last season behind her and posted nine points and seven rebounds a game.
“Meredith also excels on defense and often gets assigned to guard a bigger player,” he said. “Her athleticism and court smarts allows her to shut down opponents”
Lyman Hall sophomore guard
Coming of age: In her first season seeing a considerable amount of game time, the sophomore has been solid posting 11.8 points per game. Lipka said in addition to her scoring, she has also been a team-player, going from point guard to shooting guard.
Seymour senior guard
Where Did You Go?: Seymour has not been a hotbed of girls basketball talent recently. However, Tacinelli is a town bright spot on the court, posting five assists a game playing mostly with underclassmen.
“Cristina has two sophomore counter parts averaging 15 and nine points a game and has her team back in the state tournament for the first time since her freshmen year,” said Seymour coach Brian Cleveland.
Seymour sophomore center
Where Did You Go?/Coming of Age: She’s routinely made Court Vision’s Top Five, but as a sophomore, Thurmond is still honing her skills.
“She is a sophomore who was forced to play with the maturity of a senior and talent of a college prospect for her team to be successful,” Cleveland said.
She’s averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds per game.