MADISON – So far, 2018 has been very good to the Hand girls’ basketball team.
The Tigers are undefeated so far in the new year, with their 79-58 Southern Connecticut Conference victory over Hillhouse Friday night their eighth straight victory and their seventh of 2018. Hand hasn’t lost since being beaten by Notre Dame-Fairfield on Dec. 27.
Despite the final margin, it wasn’t that easy for Hand, ranked 14th in the latest GameTimeCT.com/New Haven Register state poll. The Academics gave the host Tigers all they could handle in the opening half before Hand exploded in the third quarter on a 21-5 run to break the game wide open.
It was a combination of Hand playing much better on the defensive side of the ball and Hillhouse both getting cold from the field and committing turnovers. The Tigers went from holding a slim 31-30 halftime edge to a 52-37 lead after three quarters.
“We had to ramp up the defensive intensity,” Hand coach Tim Tredwell said. “When we have 31 points at the half, we’re usually in good shape. We were smart on offense, but we were too relaxed on defense.”
“You could feel the energy of the gym pick up in the second half,” said Hand senior Gabby Egidio, who scored 19 points. “They are really talented and have a lot of athletic players. In the first half, we stood up a little on defense and they drove by us.”
Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart said it was the same story for the Academics as they’ve seen all season. And it’s why they are 5-7.
“It’s mental breakdowns,” Hawley-Stewart said. “We came in here thinking they are really good and we are able to compete, but we let our guard down. We made some mistakes, but we need to fix them. We have to get back to the drawing board and get the kids to execute.”
Hillhouse, which was led by Tyree Allen (14 points) and Tanayja London (13 points), was able to get as close as 12 points twice in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers exploded for 27 points in the final eight minutes to get their 10th win.
Emma Sullivan led Hand with 20 points, including a pair of key three-pointers.
“Emma will do that to you,” Tredwell said. “She’s small and doesn’t look like much, but she finds her spots and the next thing you know, she’s killing you. She’s not that flashy, but you leave her open at your own peril.”
Sara Wohlgemuth added 13 points, while the bench work of Anna Beccia (7 points) and Summer Adams (5 points) was pointed out by Tredwell as a key aspect in the win.
“Tonight was about our bench,” Tredwell said. “We’ve been waiting all season for those kids to step up. That was massive for us tonight.”
Hand raced out to a quick 9-2 lead with just over three minutes gone in the game, but Hillhouse went on a 16-3 spurt over the final 4:40 of the quarter spurred by Tanayja London and Ranasha Frazier to take its biggest lead of the night, 18-12.
Gabby Egidio canned a pair of free throws to close the Tigers to 18-17 just 46 seconds into the second quarter. The lead went back and forth throughout the remainder of the quarter. A pair of free throws by Anna Beccia with 31 seconds left in the half gave Hand a 31-30 lead at intermission.
Hand improved to 10-2 with the victory.
“We’ve shown flashes of being pretty good,” Tredwell said. “We’ve been looking around as to who would be the leaders and who would step up. All the answers are in our locker room. It’s just a matter of everyone realizing we’re pretty good.”
HAND 79, HILLHOUSE 58
Hillhouse 18 12 7 21 – 58
Hand 12 19 21 27 – 79
Tyree Allen 5 4-4 14, Kiana Brown 2 0-0 5, Kyzhae Toney 4 0-0 10, Ranasha Frazier 6 0-0 12, Tanayja London 6 1-6 13. Shaniya Butler 1 1-2 4. Totals 24 6-12 58.
Sara Wohlgemuth 3 5-7 13, Emma Sullivan 7 0-0 20, Gabby Egidio 6 7-10 19, Hannah Martin 1 4-4 6, Halle Freund 4 1-1 9, Summer Adams 2 0-0 5, Anna Beccia 2 3-3 7. Totals: 27 20-25 79.
3-point field goals: Hillhouse (Brown, Toney 2, Butler). Hand (Wohlgemuth 2, Sullivan 2, Adams).