MILFORD – Losing its first five games of the year, the East Haven girls basketball team was well aware it was a team in transition. That transition seems to be going smoothly now.
Winners of six of their last eight games, including Thursday evening’s 45-33 defeat of Jonathan Law, the Yellowjackets have quickly gotten themselves in the postseason conversation. The Southern Connecticut Conference victory in Milford was East Haven’s fifth in its last six games and helped the Yellowjackets improve to 6-7, two wins shy of a postseason bid.
“In the beginning of the year, we lost to Guilford by twenty points,” East Haven coach Anthony Russell said. “We were not doing the fundamentals. We were not doing the little things.
“We are progressing and getting better and better. We were 1-6 in December and now we are 5-1 in January. The girls are playing with more confidence and they are executing.”
East Haven’s offense was spread out as seven different players were in the scoring column and only one was in double digits as senior Jenna Gaudioso finished with 10 points. Junior Jessica Benevento added 9 points and Jillian Korwek had 7.
“The girls really work hard,” Russell said. “I do not have one kid in practice who does not work hard. They listen and that is why they are getting better.
“We have three or four kids who can handle the ball. In girls basketball, having guards like that is worth its weight in gold.”
East Haven set the tone of the game in the first half, leading Law in points and rebounds. The Yellowjackets controlled the boards by a 25-11 margin and forced Law to shoot just 27% (6-of-22) shooting from the field in the first 16 minutes.
After Erin Saley and Jessica Centore put Law on top 4-0, East Haven responded with nine straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers by junior Briana Wiel.
Law’s Laura Dulin cut the deficit to 9-6, but East Haven went on a 9-5 run, started by a bucket by Benevento and ending with a Gaudioso bucket for an 18-11 advantage. Gaudioso closed the scoring in the half, sending the Yellowjackets to the break with a 22-15 lead.
“I thought defensively we did a nice job,” Law coach Dan Young said. “They had 30 turnovers. You can not ask for more than that. We just could not get going on offense. We had no rhythm.”
After the two teams combined to turn the ball over 26 times in the first half, they combined for just 16 points in the third quarter. East Haven had the better of the play and used a basket by Gaudioso to take a 26-17 lead.
Dulin got Law within 26-20 with a basket and free throw, but East Haven took the momentum back with buckets by Korwek and Gaudioso in the final 58 seconds for a 32-21 advantage.
“It is a learning process,” Young said after his two fell to 6-7. “We are a young team. We are still trying to find our identity.”
Law has proven to be a team of streaks as it has lost three games, won three and now lost another three in its last nine games.
“We are definitely concerned about it,” Young said.
The fourth quarter was spent mainly at the free throw line as Law tried to cut into the deficit. East Haven hit only two field goals in the quarter, but was 8 for 12 from the free throw line in the final 1 minute, 50 seconds of the game.
Dulin led Law with 16 points, while Saley finished with 10 as only four players were in the scoring column for the home team.
EAST HAVEN 45, LAW 33
East Haven 9 13 10 13 – 45
Law 6 9 6 12 – 33
EAST HAVEN (45)
Tori Carlson 0 3-4 3, Jessica Benevento 3 3-6 9, Miranda Gladwin 0 5-6 5, Jillian Korwek 3 0-0 7, Jenna Gaudioso 5 0-1 10, Briana Wiel 2 0-0 6, Dana Ross 1 1-1 3, Kayla Campano 0 2-2 2. Totals: 14 14-20 45
Laura Dulin 6 4-5 16, Erin Saley 3 3-7 10, Jessica Centore 2 1-2 5, Kira Topalian 1 0-0 2, Kailee Frank 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 8-14 33
3-point goals: East Haven 3 (Korwek 1, Wiel 2); Law 1 (Saley 1); Fouled out: Law (Dulin); Records: East Haven 6-7; Law 6-7.