Let’s go dancing ! It’s a crowded floor as the music is set for the return of the state tournament


It’s been three years since Connecticut crowned state high school basketball champions. The long wait for a return to normalcy is over as the CIAC Women’s Basketball State Tournament kicks off on Monday.

Six of the region’s seven teams qualified, with only Lyman Hall missing the dance.

Maloney has the top seed of the six: No. 7 in Class L. Southington is seeded No. 8 in Class LL, while Sheehan also starts the tournament at home as seeded No. 11. of the MM class. Platt, Cheshire and Wilcox Tech are all opening on the road.

Here is the complete first round schedule for the local teams. All games start at 6:30 p.m. Monday:

■ Class LL: No. 25 Westhill to No. 8 Southington; ■ Class LL: No. 22 Cheshire to No. 11 Danbury; ■ Class L: No. 17 Platt to No. 16 Bristol Central; ■ MM Class: No. 22 Killingly to No. 11 Sheehan.

And on Tuesday, always at 6:30 p.m.:

■ Class L: No. 26 East Lyme to No. 7 Maloney; ■ Class M: No. 27 Wilcox Tech to No. 6 Seymour.

The Spartans, who had their best season in decades and sit 15-6, could potentially play two games at home. With a win over East Lyme (7-13), Maloney would host the survivor of No.10 Farmington (13-7) and No.23 Masuk (8-12).

Beating East Lyme, however, won’t be easy.

“We had the toughest couple we could have had,” Maloney’s trainer John Vieira said. “East Lyme is a very strong 26 seed. Izzy (Pazzaglia) is one hell of a player. We’ll have to keep an eye on her. She’s had some big games this year.

“We are going to have our hands full. Sowing does not matter in March. We’ll have the girls ready and energized… We’ll try out different looks.

Maloney finished the regular season with a grueling nine games in 12 days. The Spartans came out of a three-game slide with a 69-23 win over Harding in the final, then gave Southington a tough battle in the first round of the CCC tournament before falling 40-32.

Vieira said the season has been fun and rewarding, especially for seniors Gracey Massicotte and Amal Bahili. Both guards are averaging eight points per game.

“They went through all of that,” Vieira said. “They’ve had nine combined wins in their first three seasons and you start to wonder if you’re doing the right thing. It took a long time to come and the girls worked hard.

The missing piece was the addition of All-State player Jaylice Rosario, a transfer from Wilbur Cross.

“We were one player away,” Vieira said. “We had the parts and the role players, and you get this player that changes the way you do things offensively and sometimes defensively. Everything fell into place when she arrived.

With the addition of Rosario, Maloney went from averaging 25 points per game to over 50.

Rosario is averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists per game. She was recently named All-CCC South.

“She’s been an impact player in so many ways and she’s such an effective scorer,” Vieira said.

Nadia Berrios Lugo is adding six rebounds per game and guard Evelyn Beltran is scoring six points per game.

“It was a great journey, but we still have a few pages left in the next chapter,” Vieira said. “We hope to continue. We don’t want it to be a one year thing. This group did what it was supposed to do. Jaylice’s arrival allowed us to do the things we wanted to do.

In Southington, the No. 8 Blue Knights (18-4) head into Monday night’s game with No. 25 Westhill (8-12) after a strong run in the CCC Tournament. Southington beat Maloney and Conard before falling to top-seeded Newington in the semi-finals.

Like Maloney, Southington has the potential to host two home games. If they beat the Vikings on Monday night, the Lady Knights would host No.9 Newtown (16-4) or No.24 Manchester (8-12).

Southington is led by the region’s top rookie, Lily Cooper. The rookie leads the Lady Knights with 13.6 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game.

A pair of juniors are next in the scoring pecking order for Southington in Alison Mikosz (6.0 ppg) and Gabby Dangelo (5.6).

In the position, Southington’s top rebounders are junior Hailey Zembrzuski (5.5 rpg.), second Bethany Borges (5.2) and rookie Hannah Blanchard (5.2).

“The kids really put a lot of time and energy into everything they did,” Southington coach Howie Hewitt said. “It’s a dedicated group and they rose to every challenge.

“In CCC (against Newington), we had a bad three-minute stretch where we went two-under-10 against the best team in the state, and we were disappointed with that loss,” Hewitt added. “But we’re confident heading into the States.”

Despite being young and relatively inexperienced, the Blue Knights have shown remarkable composure in big games this season.

“They played with a lot of composure and great competitiveness,” Hewitt said. “We are no longer surprised because these girls have been playing like this all year. The upper classes also played. Our freshman class arrived as a prepared group and we all benefited.

Elsewhere in the LL class, No.22 Cheshire (10-11) will travel to Hat City to face No.11 Danbury (14-7). Both teams are coming off first-round defeats in their respective conference tournaments – Cheshire at Guilford in the CSC, Danbury at Stamford in the FCIAC.

Cheshire is paced by All-SCC First Team selection Grace Lurz. The senior guard is averaging 15.75 points per game.

Angelica Ariola, in her second season with the Rams, will coach her first state tournament game as head coach. She will face a veteran in Danbury’s Jackie Dinardo.

“We’re going there on Monday and we hope to give them a game,” Ariola said. “They have quite a few potential threats to prepare for and we want to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Regardless of Monday’s result, Ariola said, this winter has been a big step forward for the Cheshire program.

“We lost games we should have lost and we won games we should have won,” Ariola said. “We are in LL, the most difficult division, and we are delighted.”

Sophomore Ella Kulas is Cheshire’s next leading scorer with seven points per game. Junior Amelia Perlini scores six points a night. Junior Taylor Fitzgerald is the top rebounder, grabbing five boards per game.

“I believe in upheaval,” Ariola said. “Anything can happen on any given night. That’s what I love about the state tournament.

Sheehan is back in the state tournament for the 14th straight season under head coach Mike Busillo. After graduating three college-bound players in 2021, the Titans went 13-9 with a new-look team.

On Monday, they will host No. 22 Killingly (10-10), an ECC side they beat 49-41 at Wallingford on December 27. The winner will advance to face No. 6 RHAM (14-6) in Hebron on Thursday.

“It’s an exciting time of year,” Busillo said. “They’re thrilled that we’ve been able to continue our legacy. We understand that winning in the states is like winning two in the regular season. We can’t wait to be there.”

Senior center Darla Jagrosse (12 points per game, 6.5 rounds per game) is an All-SCC first-team player. Sophomore point guard Olivia Cassesse (11 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) was All-SCC Second Team.

Sheehan has changed his defense in recent games and Busillo is happy with how his team has responded.

“We’re getting to the point where we have a pretty good defensive identity,” Busillo said. “I feel silly to say this after 22 games, but I like our defensive awareness and tenacity.”

Busillo said turnovers have been the Titans’ biggest weakness this year, but it’s an Achilles’ heel they’ve improved over the season.

Senior Madison DiPasquale is second on the team in rebounding with 5.5 boards per game.

Senior Molly Smolenski is Sheehan’s biggest 3-point threat. She has over 50 trees over the season and draws attention to the perimeter.

Inside, the Titans will search for Jagrosse. Coming in behind All-State post players Olivia Robles and Caitlyn Hunt, Busillo noted, Jagrosse waited for her chance to start and she made the most of it.

“We’re really happy for her,” Busillo said. “It’s not always easy for someone to understand. We’re trained now to have it all now and immediately. In Darla’s case, it wasn’t a case of ability; it was ours.” We had top players ahead of her. She had to be patient, but she took advantage of her opportunity this year.”

Busillo said he expects a tough game on Monday. Killingly had a five-point second-half lead over Sheehan in the December meeting.

“We are playing with a team that is familiar to us and I could see us winning a few games, but if we don’t play well we could wipe away some tears on Monday night,” he said.

No. 17 Platt will also see a familiar face in his Class L first-round match on Monday: CCC South rival Bristol Central, the No. 16 seed.

Both teams are 10-10. They shared their regular season encounters. Platt won 47-34 at Bristol on January 11. Central returned the favor 44-34 to Meriden on Feb. 1.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Platt’s coach Tina Gonyea said. and come out ready to play.

Gonyea said she was okay with the game being played on the road. She says her team plays better away.

“The girls are really excited to play in the state tournament, especially the seniors,” Gonyea said.

Junior forward Antwanette Tann, with 10 double-doubles this season, leads Platt with 13.6 points and 10 rebounds per game. Both are the best on the team. Tann also has two blocks and two interceptions per contest.

Tann’s partner on the court, senior Khrystina Campbell, scored 9.1 points and 10 rebounds per game. She is Platt’s second-highest scorer. Campbell has had five double-doubles this winter and also has two interceptions per game.

Vianna Alcantara is adding 6.4 points per game and shooting 79% from the line.

“A win on Monday would be a big morale boost,” Gonyea said. “That would be huge for us.”

The Platt-BC winner will have little time to celebrate. Top-seeded Newington (22-2) waits in the second round.

On Tuesday, No. 27 Wilcox Tech travels to No. 6 Seymour for a Wildcats Class M first-round game.

WT enters the game at 7-13. Tatiana Robles, the lone senior on the roster, leads Meriden in scoring with 14.3 points per game. Aliah Biro, a six-foot sophomore, was good for 11.2.

Seymour (19-4) lost to Holy Cross in the NVL tournament final on Thursday night. Seymour senior Mackenzie Sirowich is one of the best players in the state. She is averaging 29.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.


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