When Morgan senior guard Catie Donadio scored her 1,000th career point Tuesday night, there was a familiar face there giving her the first celebratory hug.
Donadio was embraced by her cousin, sophomore guard Caeley Ayer who has been by her side most of her life.
“It’s very special. We share more of a sibling bond than a cousin bond because we are so close,” Donadio said. “We can be hard on each other but also share really special moments together. Last night I got my 1,000th point and she was the one I hugged on the court. It’s a very special connection. I didn’t think we were going to get a season and I didn’t know if it was going to happen. To be able to get it and get it with my team and Caeley was special.”
Donadio, who will play at Connecticut College next year, was 38 points away from 1,000 when last season ended with Morgan losing to Stonington in the second round of the CIAC Class M state tournament.
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Her cousin was as happy for Donadio getting to play her senior year and score 1,000 as anyone.
“I wanted her to finish her last year here. It would have been heartbreaking if she didn’t get to play her senior season,” Ayer said. “I’m happy she got to play, score 1,000 points and hopefully help us win the Shoreline. I’m also just happy to get to play with her again.”
While Donadio was scoring her 1,000th point, Ayer put up a career-high 16 points in the win over North Branford.
The cousins played basketball together in Clinton Parks and Recreation leagues as well as in middle school growing up.
“It is different from playing with other people,” Ayer said. “She is usually much harder on me than others but I find it really enjoyable because she pushes me and makes me better.”
Morgan coach Caitlin Woods, now in her fifth season as coach, said Donadio is a natural leader and that shows through the most in her relationship on the court with Ayer.
“They are more like sisters. They are like a dynamic duo and a great pair of kids to work with,” Woods said. “They have a lot of skill and talent but they are also great kids. They push each other big time. Catie stays on top of Caeley. It’s not about getting Caeley to work hard because she already does that, it’s just to make sure she’s always focused, always knows what to do and is doing the right thing.”
The cousins also both played on Morgan’s soccer team in the fall.
Growing up the cousins played pickup games along with Ayer’s older brother (a senior at Morgan) and Donadio’s younger brother (a freshman at Morgan).
“The pickup games in the driveway would get pretty heated,” Donadio said. “Three of us, my brother and the two of us, are really competitive sports-wise. We always want to beat each other. That made us the good athletes we are today.”
During lockdown Ayer would go to Donadio’s driveway hoop and they would train in their masks, doing what they could to stay sharp.
With COVID-19 and lockdowns and threats of no senior season, Donadio was not sure she would ever get a moment like Tuesday night.
“I was excited and grateful for any season at all,” Donadio said. “So many precautions have to be taken but they are worth it because we get to play.”
Caitlin Woods said Donadio rarely talks about anything other than team accomplishments but she could see on her captain’s face how much getting to 1,000 meant.
“She’s the first kid to not celebrate herself. She would rather see us win a championship than reach personal goals,” Woods said. “But you could tell she was excited when it happened. It was great, her parents got to see it from above, they couldn’t be in the gym. That was pretty special and meaningful. It was such a great moment.”
Donadio joined the team as a freshman in Wood’s second season. To say she has helped build the program would be an understatement.
In her four years, Morgan has become a perennial contender in the Shoreline Conference.
In last year’s Shoreline tournament, Morgan ended Cromwell’s streak of four-straight championships by beating them in the semifinals behind 20 points from Donadio who scored the winning basket in the final seconds.
Morgan would fall in the final to East Hampton.
“We wanted to build a program and we were not thinking about building around her but she was a huge pillar and huge reason why we have been successful,” Woods said. “She makes everyone around her better. We have talented kids but she helps boost that talent in every other player.”
Last season, Donadio was named CHSCA Class M All-State, GameTimeCT All-State Third Team and All-Shoreline Conference First Team. Donadio led Morgan in points per game with 15.8, assists with 4.8 and steals with 4.9. while also averaging 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
She was named as one of GameTimeCT’s 25 players to watch in the 2021 season.
“She is the heart and soul of this program,” Woods said. “Obviously she has the talent and capability but she walked out there right away and started as a freshmen point guard. That is really a huge challenge to even start as a freshmen but to be a point guard and leading the show was a big challenge and she embraced that. She has continued to get better every day since then.”