NEW HAVEN >> The wait was more than worth it for Creed.
The Howling Wolves defeated Amistad 43-33 last Monday to earn their first win since 2014.
“I think it was great for the program,” first-year Creed coach Mike Maratea said. “They were overdue, it was a long losing streak. The girls are working super hard. We’ve been a lot more competitive (this season), we have 12 girls committed. In previous years, we’ve had only 7 or 8 girls — 6 girls at times.
“There were a lot of fans there, and I think everybody was excited. It was like a giant lift off their shoulders.”
Creed went 0-20 in both 2015 and 2016, and started this season at 0-8 before last week’s thrilling victory.
“It was very exciting to win,” Creed junior captain C’Asia Corbett said. “Rocking with this team, it’s been rough, like not having numbers and everything, but we came a long way. It’s been really hard but, as a team, we can’t quit on each other, we have to keep pushing. Not every game is going to be a win, but we just have to have that kind of mentality where you can’t give up on your teammates.”
The victory was the first varsity win for any member of the Howling Wolves’ roster. Creed does not have any seniors.
“It was great, to be honest,” Creed junior captain Destiny Blackwood said. “I was really excited. I was out of words, actually. Once the clock started winding down, I said ‘we’re winning, we’re winning’. I saw the clock go down and I was just out of words. I was speechless.”
Creed, formerly known as Hyde, is one of the state’s smallest schools. In addition, it must also overcome several logistical issues. The school is located in the old Gateway building in North Haven, but the Howling Wolves are forced to practice at the Truman School in New Haven.
“Not having a school, and every year wondering if we’re going to stay open or not, is something that’s definitely a challenge,” Maratea said. “Our school having only 250 kids in it is always a challenge, especially in girls basketball; we only have 60 or 70 girls in the entire school to choose from.”
With a roster filled with players who all live in different cities, finding adequate transportation to and from practice is another challenge.
“In all our sports, not having our own gym at our school is another challenge; we can’t use any of the facilities in North Haven,” Maratea said. “Having to travel and having to go to (other sites) to practice is tough. The girls live everywhere – we have girls from Ansonia, East Haven, New Haven. Trying to coordinate everything is definitely a disadvantage for us, as is the name change and name recognition going from Hyde to Creed. We ask the girls do they know what Creed is, and we have to tell them that it was formerly Hyde for them to understand what it is. Once we get our name out there, and what the program is about, I think it will be better down the road.”
Creed returned four starters this season: Corbett, Blackwood, junior captain Asjha Jones and junior Zaire Heath. Despite some of the obstacles, the players have developed quite a rapport with each other.
“We all hang out in school, so we all just click,” Jones said. “We have a good bond.”
Blackwood and Jones, who both reside in Ansonia, had experience playing in youth programs, but most of the rest of the roster is fairly new to the sport.
“A lot of these girls come from just playing on the playground, so it’s like starting from scratch, especially the young girls,” Maratea said. “We have to teach the basics: how to make a layup, how to shoot, how to pass, which is definitely tough when you’re trying to be competitive. We have to try and jell something together really, really quickly in a short amount of time.”
Maratea has noticed a significant improvement from the beginning of the season to now. The Howling Wolves lost in triple overtime to Portland on Dec. 22 and suffered a two-point setback to Haddam-Killingworth on Jan. 6.
“They’re starting to get more competitive,” Maratea said. “I think they’re fully committed.”
Said Blackwood: “I feel like the anchor is off our backs now. I think we will have a lot more confidence now going through more games and the rest of the season.”