2019-20 H.S. girls' basketball preview capsules

ECC Division I

East Lyme

Coach: Sal Fiorillo (4th season)

Key returnees: Sr. G Sophie Dubreuil, Sr. C Nadia Tarhini, Sr. F Julia Fenn, Sr. F Amelia Anglin.

Outlook: The Vikings must replace the program's career scoring leader in guard Megan Bauman (1,352 points) from a team that went 15-10 and reached the Class L quarterfinals, but Fiorillo welcomes back a strong senior class led by Dubreuil, an ECC Division I all-star and member of The Day's All-Area team who averaged 13.4 points as a junior, and the 6-foot-4 Tarhini, one of the ECC's top post players. East Lyme will be challenged by another strong nonconference schedule and must develop some depth, but the Vikings will be competitive in a strong division.

New London

Coach: David Kohn (1st season)

Key returnees: Jr. G Jayden Burns, So. G/F Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick, Sr. G Desiree Johnson, Sr. F Wendy Gethers, Sr. G Olivia Yard.

Top newcomers: Sr. G Jade Langworthy, So. G/F Jamya Beddoe, So. G/F Olivia Goode, Fr. F Nalyse Dudley, Fr. G D'Nazia Uzzle.

Outlook: The Whalers' memorable 2018-19 season ended with a last-second loss to Norwalk in the Class LL championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena. It marked the end of the careers of three members of The Day's All-Area team — Tai Pagan (Player of the Year), Xaryia Melendez and Spencer Roman — and the end of the coaching career of Holly Misto, who stepped away after leading New London to a 25-3 overall record along with ECC Division I regular-season and post-season titles. Kohn must replace the Whalers' entire starting frontcourt, but he does return one of the state's most dynamic duos in Bland-Fitzpatrick and Burns, who will present a multitude of problems for opponents this winter. "The loss of three of the top forwards in the state creates a big challenge," Kohn said, "but also a great opportunity for new players to step up and fill the void."

Norwich Free Academy

Coach: Courtney Gomez (1st season)

Key returnees: Jr. PG Jenissa Varela, Jr. G Sarah Ericson, Sr. G Riley Ellington, Sr. G Bella Graziano. Sr. F Caitlin Dooley, Sr. F Shante Talley, Sr. F Makayla Poirier-Vaughters.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Anajah Ingram, Fr. G Jada Mills.

Outlook: The Wildcats went 10-10 during the final year under legendary coach Bill Scarlata, who will watch one of his ex-players take over the program. Gomez, an all-state point guard who later played at Division I Hartford, takes over a team that has plenty of experience. Varela was an ECC Division I all-star and Ericson was an honorable mention pick. "The veteran classes are setting the tone early in practice," said Gomez, who expects NFA to be competitive in Division I and at the state level, too. The Wildcats have a challenging nonconference schedule that includes Mercy, Ridgefield, Newtown, Glastonbury, Capitol Prep, RHAM and East Hartford.

 

ECC Division II

Fitch

Coach: D.J. Berger (3rd season)

Key returnees: Sr. G Nyseanah Ismael, Jr. C Charlotte Carney, Jr. G Francesca Foster, So. G Rita Sefransky, Jr. F Alyssa Virtue, So. G Katelyn Cervini, So. F Trinidey Moone-Clark, So. G Faith Smallwood.

Top newcomers: Fr. G Grace Jenkins, So. G Aaliyah Brantley, Fr. F Sophia Clang, Fr. G Aaliyah Clark.

Outlook: The Falcons finished 8-12 a year ago, qualifying for both the ECC and Class L tournaments in Berger's second season. The Falcons are still young with only one senior, but all five starters return (Ishmael and Carney were Division II honorable mention picks) and Berger said Fitch will have a much deeper roster this winter. Berger expects his program to "take it to the next level" this winter and compete for a division title.

Ledyard

Coach: Michael Morgan (2nd season)

Key returnees: Sr. F Tajeah Winston, Jr. F Natalie Poulton, So. G Samantha Money, So. G Brooke Beckwith.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Ayanna Wiltshire, So. G/F Natalyah Williams, So. G/F Clare Inyang, So. F. Nicole Walker, Fr. G Monet Augmon, Fr. G Aliyah Dantzler, Fr. G/F Kieara Kirvan.

Outlook: The Colonels went 6-14 in Morgan's first season but did win an ECC tournament game before losing to eventual champion New London in the Division I quarterfinals. Morgan welcomes back starters Winston (the lone senior), Poulton and Money, and he is excited to integrate a talented group of freshmen and sophomores into the rotation. "Our goal is to be competitive in every ballgame and fight through adversity," Morgan said.

Stonington

Coach: Paulla Solar (19th season)

Key returnees: Sr. F Katie McNeil, Sr. G Zoe Ribeiro, Jr. F Sophia Bell, Jr. G Maggie Daley, Jr. G Tori LoPresto, So. F Olivia Fustini, So. G Sandy McGugan.

Top newcomers: Jr. F Maysa Gray, Jr. Teagan O'Brien, So. G Anne Drago, So. G Sophia Fernholz.

Outlook: No team was hit with graduation losses like the Bears, who must replace three ECC Division II all-stars in Aliza Bell, Miranda Arruda and Kate Johnson from a team that went 16-4 and shared the Division II title with Bacon Academy. Ribeiro is Stonington's captain and team leader while Sophia Bell and LoPresto were regular contributors last winter. "They will have to go through their lumps," Solar said. "I think we are going to get there, but the beginning of the season could be tough."

Waterford

Coach: Daniel Still (1st season)

Key returnees: So. F Milena Walker, Jr. C Lily Kramer, Jr. G Amy Pinch, Jr. F Gaby Kramer, Sr. C Marilyn Childs.

Outlook: Still takes over a program that went 8-12 last winter and must replace forward Julianna Bonilla, an ECC Division II all-star. Childs is the lone senior, but the Lancers do return a solid group despite being relatively young. Still's style is simple — play pressure defense and look to push the tempo. If successful, expect Waterford to compete for a Division II title and qualify for the state tournament.

 

ECC Division III

Montville

Coach: Becky Alfonso (3rd season)

Key returnees: So. C Maya Hillman, Sr. G Emma Hillman.

Top newcomers: Jr. G Jillian Murallo, Sr. F Alexis Michon, Sr. G Alexis DeLucia, So. G Grace Sanford, Jr. F Maggie Wainwright.

Outlook: The Indians, 12-8 a year ago, move up to Division III this season after sharing the Division IV title with Putnam and advancing to the ECC Div. II tournament final where they lost to Windham. Alfonso must replace three starters, but returns Maya Hillman, a Division IV all-star as a freshman, and Emma Hillman, who brings leadership to the backcourt. Montville has some new faces, but many have enjoyed success in other sports. "I really believe we will have another successful year," Alfonso said. "We are working hard in the preseason and we really are really beginning to jell as a team."

 

ECC Division IV

St. Bernard

Coach: Mike Nystrom (36th season)

Key returnees: Sr. C Amber Caldwell, Sr. G Carly Potts, Sr. G Taryn Bellinger, Jr. G Lindsey Clement, Jr. G/F Olivia Massad, So. G Sophia Boras.

Top newcomers: So. G Arianna Guinassi, So. F Gracyn Barnhill, So. G Erin Londregan, Fr. G Emily Hernandez.

Outlook: The Saints finished 7-13 a year ago, just missing out on a state tournament bid, but they did reach the Division IV quarterfinals. Nystrom welcomes back a veteran class that should be a factor in the Division IV race. "We have lots of experience, decent quickness and athleticism and good competition for playing time," Nystrom said. But St. Bernard lacks size, so rebounding and defending against bigger teams is a concern.

Wheeler

Coach: Dan McClure (1st season)

Key returnees: Sr. F/C Samantha Caster, Jr. C Molly Butremovic, Jr. G Annie Dussault, So. G/F Addy Hauptmann, So. G/F Leah Pion.

Top newcomers: Fr. F Marissa Perkins, Jr. G Grace Armstrong.

Outlook: There will be learning curve for the Lions with a new coaching staff in place, but Wheeler does return plenty of experience and McClure expects his newcomers to play a role as the Lions, after going 6-14 a year ago, attempt to qualify for the Class S state tournament. Said McClure: "They have demonstrated an incredible eagerness and ability to adapt and learn which will hopefully set the stage for success."

 

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: Jeffrey Duda (9th season)

Key returnees: Jr. F Samarie Delgado, So. G Noalani Jackson.

Top newcomer: Fr. G Sophie Byrne.

Outlook: The Eagles are coming off a 2-18 season, but Duda returns a pair of veterans in Delgado and Jackson and he expects the program to improve and be more competitive in the Connecticut Technical Conference.

Norwich Tech

Coach: Dhana Tulloch-Reid (2nd season)

Key returnees: Sr. G Geovonna Taitague, Sr. G Ashley Williams, Sr. F Kiara Jerard, So. F Ashlyn Bill, Jr. F Lucie Jules.

Top newcomers: Fr. G/F Kaylee Gray, Fr. G/F Quinn Ludlow, Fr. G/F Ava Collins.

Outlook: Tulloch-Reid is excited about her second season in Norwich. The Warriors went 7-13 a year ago, but numbers are up, Norwich Tech returns the bulk of its lineup and a talented freshman class will push the upper classmen and provide much-needed depth. The Warriors, who compete in the Connecticut Technical Conference, were just a win shy of qualifying for the state tournament and Tulloch-Reid thinks her team can achieve that goal this winter.

Old Lyme

Coach: Don Bugbee (21st season)

Key returnees: Sr. C Taylor Thompson, Jr. G Emily DeRoehn, Jr. F Fiona Frederiks, Jr. G Sam Gray, Jr. G Grace Lathrop, Jr. F Emma McCulloch, Jr. G Alison Ward, Jr. G Ellie Zrenda.

Top newcomers: So. G Lauren Creagan, So. G Victoria Gage, So. G Ali Kyle, So. F Megan Loflin, So. F Marina Sala Lloret, So. F McLean Signora, So. F Maddie Thompson, So. G Melanie Warren, Fr. C Hayley Cann, Fr. G Alexis Fenton, F. G Sophia Marinelli, Fr. C Lea Wilson.

Outlook: The Wildcats went 15-5 during the regular season a year ago, reached the Class S quarterfinals before losing to eventual finalist Canton and graduated only two players. They have plenty of size in Taylor Thompson (6-foot), DeRoehn (5-10) and McCulloch (5-9), although McCulloch broke her wrist in the preseason and is out definitely. But Bugbee does have plenty of depth and says, "At this point all players are competing for their spots. I'm looking forward to coaching this group of young, energetic players."

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