Waterford girls capture ECC Division II basketball championship
Plainfield — There were a few reasons Waterford's Julianna Bonilla earned Most Outstanding Player honors Wednesday night, not the least of which was her team-best 13 points and nine rebounds.
Bonilla, a 5-foot-9 forward, also assumed the point guard spot in the second half and ignited the Lancers from there, too, to help spell freshman point guard Amy Pinch, as fourth-seeded Waterford captured the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II girls' basketball tournament over No. 2 Lyman Memorial 48-26 at Plainfield High School.
“She does a lot for us,” Waterford first-year coach Brian Fleming said of Bonilla, a junior and a first team all-conference selection. “I think she's played every single position at this point. With losing Lily Stoddard (point guard, to a season-ending knee injury), we were looking for Julianna to run the one a little bit.”
Waterford (14-9) scored the first eight points of the third quarter to put the lead at 30-14 over Lyman (14-9), but the Bulldogs climbed back into the game thanks to a 3-pointer from Victoria Beckwith at the buzzer, which made it 33-23. Beckwith's extremely long-range shot came from near mid court.
But Waterford again launched an immediate attack in the fourth quarter, scoring the first 11 points, facilitated by two points from Bonilla, who found her way inside for a layup, and two well-timed assists from Bonilla to Marilyn Childs. Childs' second basket of the series pushed the Lancers' lead to 44-23.
Bekah Sanders finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for Waterford and Childs had 11 points. Both joined Bonilla on the all-tournament team along with Lyman's Beckwith (11 points) and Hailey Tompkins (10).
“We just had to use our bigs to our advantage,” Bonilla said, asked about the Lancers' first half, when they relied a little too much on outside shooting instead of using their size advantage.
Of the versatility she showed playing point guard, Bonilla said: "I've got to contribute to my team in every way.”
Waterford will next compete in the Class M state tournament. The Lancers are seeded 21st in that bracket and will travel to No. 12 Sheehan on Monday.
Fleming said earlier this week, following an ECC semifinal win over Plainfield, that despite being a part of the Division II tournament and not the Division I event, this was a good opportunity for his team to practice and prepare for the remainder of the postseason.
The top three Division II teams, Woodstock Academy, Stonington and Bacon Academy, played in the Division I tournament along with the five Division I teams, while Waterford, Montville and Killingly competed in the Division II tournament along with the league's seven Division III teams.
“I don't want to say 'settled,'” Fleming said of the Division II championship. “A tournament's a tournament. It matters.”
“Oh, yeah, it's definitely OK,” Bonilla with a smile, clutching the outstanding player trophy. “Basketball is basketball. We wake up every day and go to work.”
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