MIDDLETOWN — Teams that have been through the battles know what to do at crunch time.
So it was with Rocky Hill’s highly-regarded Terriers Monday night at the LaBella-Sullivan Gym at Middletown High School. With Middletown leading 61-57 with a minute, 50 seconds to go, Rocky Hill took over and scored the final seven points of the game to win 64-61 in a Central Connecticut Conference girls inter-divisional game played in front of 275 fans.
More than that, it was Lizzy DiNardo who scored all seven points after scoring just one point all night.
“She’s one of the smartest players on the court and she showed up,” coach Allyson Toulouse said. “During our last timeout, I told her she would win the game for us.”
Her two free throws cut the lead to 61-59. Then came the game’s biggest play.
Rocky Hill missed a layup, but Middletown had the rebound skip off its fingers. Rocky Hill threw the ball out beyond the key and DiNardo drained a three-pointer to give her team the lead for keeps at 62-61 with 45 seconds to play.
After Middletown came up empty, DiNardo made two free throws with 25.8 seconds left.
Both teams missed free-throw chances in the closing seconds and while Middletown had a chance to tie as it got the ball with 9.6 seconds left, it never got off a good shot and Dominique Highsmith’s trey at the buzzer had no chance.
“We made a couple of turnovers at the end which hurt,” Middletown coach Rob Smernoff said. “Their pressure is good, but I thought we got a little frazzled at the end. Rocky Hill is a very good team as they have everybody back from last year.
“And we know DiNardo is not afraid of the big moment.”
Middletown, which led for most of the game, couldn’t stop Nikko Lukens who had 25 points.
“She’s been our Achilles heel for years,” Smernoff said. “No matter what we tried to do, she was able to do what she wanted.”
Middletown (0-1), which led 17-11 after one, 32-29 at the half and 47-45 after three, was unable to shake the Terriers (1-0). Every time the Dragons opened up a 4-to-6 point lead, Rocky Hill would knock it down.
The Terriers took a 55-52 lead midway through the fourth, but a trey by Mackenzie Dunn tied the game at 55-55 with 3:25 left. The Dragons built the lead to 59-55, but again Rocky Hill bounced back and this time MHS didn’t respond.
The Dragons placed three in double figures as Highsmith and Dunn each had 14 and Silvana Barcomb had 12.
“Although I’m disappointed with the result, I really liked our effort,” Smernoff said. “We knew this would be a very tough game and we were hurt a little bit when Highsmith had to sit with four fouls in the third. But we can take a lot of positives from this.”
Middletown plays Platt in Meriden Thursday.