WINSTED — The Torrington and Gilbert girls basketball teams scrimmaged at The Gilbert School Thursday afternoon in a chance to look at the two area teams as well as the coaches’ view of their leagues — the NVL and Berkshire League.
With four of last years’ Gilbert starters returning as seniors, the Yellowjackets could be one of the BL contenders this year, though Coach Gerry Hicks calls defending league champion Northwestern and Lewis Mills the favorites “with the rest of us chasing them.”
Torrington is on the other end of the scale in the NVL with Coach Mike Fritch’s assessment that his Red Raiders will be on the bottom with “maybe one other team” and “the usual teams on top,” including defending champion Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and St. Paul Catholic.
Through eight 10-minute quarters, mixing varsity and JV players Thursday, each team showed glimpses of the near and not-so-near future.
Gilbert had the edge through most of the quarters, but the lack of last year’s key player — graduated BL scoring leader Liz Wexler (15.1 ppg) — showed up on offense in the lack of standout shooters.
“We have to play better defense to overcome the loss of 15 points,” Hicks said.
Quickness and defense stood out against the Raiders, partially on its own merit and partially in an exposure of Torrington’s youth.
The Red Raiders have just three seniors and two juniors, along with four sophomores and two freshmen on their 11-girl squad, representing good news and bad news.
“It’s the first year we haven’t had a JV team, following the first year we haven’t made the state tournament (5-15 last year),” said Fritch, in his 26th year as coach.
The good news is the increased athleticism the underclassmen bring over last year. The bad news is the time it will take to mature at the varsity level.
“After the first half of the season, we’ll be alright,” Fritch said. “I think we’ll win more games than we did last year.”
Both teams lack height; rebounding might be their biggest challenge.
Hicks, whose team made it to the Class S quarterfinals last year (14-10), hopes quickness and hard play will come to the rescue for his Yellowjackets — and, sure enough, it worked against Torrington.
“We want to overcome lack of height with desire,” Hicks said. “We think we can rebound.”
The true tests begin next week on the road with the start of the regular season.
The Yellowjackets will try out their rebounding desire against “a couple of six-footers” at Thomaston. Torrington goes to Kennedy to begin its experience lessons for the underclassmen.
Besides Hicks’ picks for the BL’s top two finishers, the league holds other challenges, including Wamogo, which brings some size back from its own Class S quarterfinal run last year; Housatonic, “the real question mark,” losing important talent to graduation, but bringing in new athleticism; and Shepaug, “maybe a year away,” with strong talent.
Torrington faces its own all-star gauntlet, with the top three along with the possible addition of Seymour.