HIGGANUM >> Middletown girls basketball coach Rob Smernoff can’t remember the last time the Blue Dragons went undefeated in December. But his team’s fast start is certainly no surprise.
“Our goal really was to be undefeated on New Year’s,” Smernoff said. “Our next game is January 3 so we’re absolutely thrilled right now. But there’s a lot of basketball to be played.”
Senior center Brielle Wilborn poured in a game-high 22 points, including 12 points in the third quarter, and sophomore forward Dominique Highsmith netted 14 points to lift Middletown past undermanned Haddam-Killingworth, 69-27, in a non-conference matchup Wednesday night at the H-K Fieldhouse.
The Blue Dragons, which built a 37-15 halftime advantage, improved to 6-0.
“Middletown’s a great team,” Haddam-Killingworth coach Scott Medeiros said. “They have weapons all over the floor. They have big post players, they have guards that are lightning fast. They’re going to be a team to contend with this year.”
Middletown guards Amanda Fudge, Jenny Barbour and Azsha Ray set the tone early by spearheading an effective full-court trapping defense.
The Blue Dragons stretched their lead in the second quarter with some terrific ball movement on the fast break. Barbour’s nifty three-point play on a drive though the lane gave Middletown a 24-12 lead midway through the second quarter.
Barbour added another fast break lay up a short time later and Wilborn’s two low post hoops capped the Blue Dragons big first half.
“We like to play up tempo,” Smernoff said. “This year we have a team that most times all five kids on the court can score and we feel pretty comfortable with all five. That’s really helped us. We knew if we picked the tempo up it was going to work in our favor.”
Middletown opened the third quarter with an impressive 17-3 run. Highlights included a Highsmith 3-pointer and a nifty bounce pass from Fudge to Highsmith for another fast break hoop. After Wilborn converted a basket from the lane, the Blue Dragons lead ballooned to 54-18.
The Cougars (1-3) were without junior center Tara Murphy (injury). H-K also lost junior guard Daijah Rich (seven points) to an ankle injury late in the third quarter.
“I don’t like making excuses but injuries have been a factor,” Medeiros said.
H-K senior guard Alyx Stevenson made two 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, while senior forward Meg O’Brien chipped in six points.
“The kids are fighting through it,” Medeiros said. “This is a long stretch. We have another tough battle against Cromwell on Friday. Hopefully, after the new year we can regroup, get our injured kids back and get some momentum towards the latter part of the season.”
Middletown was coming off a 53-49 win over Bolton the night before. And Smernoff liked the way his club responded.
“I couldn’t be more happier how we bounced back,” Smernoff said. “We specifically scheduled back-to-back games to test their mental toughness and I thought they passed with flying colors. You can’t complain when you’re 6-0.”