CROMWELL >> Cromwell’s Fab Four – Mya Villard, Emma Belcourt, Araya Lesssard, and Alyssa Wright – have graduated. They were the winningest class in Panthers girls basketball history, capping it with a perfect season and the Class M championship trophy last March.
Cromwell’s newest edition will try and make its own mark this season. And what better way to start than a lopsided win over their Shoreline Conference rivals.
“These guys want to come along and prove to anyone that they practice and play just as hard,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said. “It’s now their time and they want to show what they can do.”
The Panthers rolled past Morgan, 71-24, in their season opener Tuesday night at the Salafia Gymnasium.
Yes, these might not be your father’s Huskies. Legendary coach Joe Grippo, who guided Morgan to over 600 wins and two state titles, retired at the end of last season. But Cromwell is still Cromwell and the Panthers signature defensive pressure rattled the young Huskies in the second half, limiting Morgan to just 10 points.
“It’s such a tough opener,” Morgan first-year coach Caitlin Woods said. “They’re defending state champs and such a competitive, high-achieving team. But I’ve got to give my kids a lot credit. They played incredibly hard. I just think fatigue got to us and we’re inexperienced right now. That’s something we have to work on.”
Woods assisted her father, Steve, at Old Saybrook for the past eight seasons. Caitlin’s brother, Kevin Woods, is the head coach at Valley Regional where he’s led the Warriors to two state championships.
“We’ve got work to do on offense and our passing,” Woods said. “I’m still encouraged. It’s day one.”
The Panthers (1-0) balanced attack had five players reach double figures. Seniors Nikki Bitinaitis and Geanna Williams each had 12 points, while Jenna Serrantino, Dana Coughlin, and Theresa Quinn netted 10 points apiece as the Panthers extended their winning streak to 29 games.
Senior Sydney Chomicz netted a game-high 19 points for Morgan (0-1).
“Sydney’s our rock right now,” Woods added. “She can do so many things and works real hard.”
Cromwell led 12-6 after one quarter and 27-14 at halftime.
“There were a lot of first game jitters,” said Maher, who also led Cromwell to a state crown in 2013. “We settled down in the second half and really started to play our style of game and that made a big difference.”
East Hampton 45, Hale-Ray 24 >> The Bellringers jumped out to a 16-3 first quarter lead and cruised to a season-opening win Tuesday night at East Hampton High School.
Senior forward Gyanna Russell poured in a game-high 23 points and Jenna DeMartino added 12 points for the Bellringers (1-0), who built a 26-7 halftime advantage.
Nicole Trapp scored 18 points, while Callie Burke chipped in six points for the Noises (0-1).