By BRIAN JENNINGS
As she nears the end of her first year with the Lady Devil basketball team, Plainville coach Jessica Hanchette experienced nothing like she thought she would experience after she lost most of her varsity roster to injuries throughout different points of the season.
“Along the way, you’ll see a few things here and there, like twisted ankles,” the coach said. “But you won’t see anything to the extent of what we’ve gone through this year.”
From season-ending injuries to injuries that have taken some of Hanchette’s starters out for weeks at a time, the Devils have seen it all.
“Everything that we’re doing, we’ve had to adjust, more so than just game plans,” said Hanchette. “We’ve had people playing out of position all year long. We have to re-teach the offense and defense almost every week because people were coming up from JV or playing different positions.”
It definitely was a learning experience for the first-year coach through keeping the team motivated after enduring so much adversity. But if there’s one word to describe her players, Hanchette said that it would be resilient.
“We never stopped working hard,” the coach said. “Every day in that gym, I told them that this was just more adversity thrown our way. Great teams overcome adversity. I’m really proud of how we reacted.”
If there’s anything that Hanchette can take away from her first year coaching at Plainville, it’s the ability to always be prepared.
“One of the things that I’m really proud of personally is being able to adjust in the face of adversity,” said Hanchette. “I’m able to put players in positions and the team in a position to compete to win on any given night. I wanted them to believe that we could win on any given night, no matter who was on our bench or the floor.”
Coming into this week with a 4-12 overall record, the Devils needed to win the rest of their four remaining games to clinch a playoff berth. But injuries pestered Hanchette and her girls as they did all season long. Junior Izzy Lozefski and sophomore Samantha Lozefski suffered injuries in a 74-41 loss at Middletown the week prior and would not be able to suit up for last week’s games.
The Devils were eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 41-22 loss to Rocky Hill on Monday, Feb. 6.
“Rocky Hill is a great opponent,” said Hanchette. “They’re very well-coached and have people who can score from multiple places on the floor. They have good versatility, size, and guards. You really have to come in expecting to play all five people on the floor.”
Offensively, senior Jessica Masco continued to carry the team, pacing the Devils with 13 points. Amiyah Peters backed Masco with five points, and Lauren Tanner contributed with four.
“Going into Rocky Hill with two starters out, we actually played very well,” the coach said. “I thought that we did good things. The biggest thing for us right now is that we’re just not generating enough points.”
Losing key contributors like junior Cheyenne Emmendorfer and sophomore Caitlin Barker earlier in the year has forced Hanchette to bring three freshmen up to play varsity.
“Players are really having to learn positions and learn to adjust, in this case to the varsity level, kind of unexpected with the injuries we’ve had this year,” said Hanchette. “It’s a big jump for freshmen, but I think that they’ve handled it very well. They’ve played minutes this season and did the best that they could do.”
Freshmen like Maggie Cronkhite had to step up. Cronkhite started her first game of the season in a 51-38 loss at Rockville on Tuesday and was the team’s second-leading scorer with six points.
“I told her on the bus ride up that she was going to be starting,” said Hanchette. “I was very happy with her contributing six points to the team as a freshman.”
Peters also contributed with six points, but Masco marshaled the offense with 17.
Although the Devils didn’t qualify for the Class M tournament, Hanchette said that the season was still a successful one. The silver lining through all of the injuries going into next year is that the Devils are young and are only losing three seniors to graduation.
“We are a lot better than our record,” said Hanchette. “I want that to be known, and I want my players to feel that. If you actually see us play, you would tell us that it’s a completely different feel to the program. When you look back at the year and what we achieved, there is so much more, in my mind, than the wins and losses.”
The Devils will look to wrap up their season this week when they host Berlin (8-11) on Monday, Feb. 13 and hit the road for Bristol Central (1-17) on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“We’re going to finish strong,” said Hanchette. “We’re going into Berlin wanting to play a very competitive game. I think we have a good shot of competing with them. It’s senior night, so we want to always try to end our last home game with a win.”
Emmendorfer is scheduled to return against Berlin on Monday night.
“It will be limited in the sense that she’s just coming back,” the coach said. “But it was important for her to work her way back, and she did. I’m really proud of her. She stepped in this week and really hasn’t missed. I’m glad to get her back, and that will definitely help the team.”
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