By KEN MORSE
Plainville head coach Jessica Neuweiler knew that there would be occasions when the Lady Blue Devils wouldn’t match up well under the boards. Last Tuesday was one of those occasions as Plainville was outrebounded 47-31 and came up short on the scoreboard in a 51-43 loss to Southington.
“You can’t teach height,” said Neuweiler. “Southington has some size and I think our girls realize now why I harp on them about boxing out. This was a perfect example of why we need to do that in order to be successful.”
The 5-2 Lady Blue Devils were riding the momentum of a four game winning streak but ran smack dab into a 4-3 Southington team that was also finding some success as of late.
The Lady Knights winners of three straight were led by 5-10 senior captain Janette Wadolowski with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Madison Hulten at 5’11” dropped eight points through the cylinder, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked five shots. At 6’1”, freshman Kelley Marshall added eight rebounds and four points.
“Plainville is a scrappy team,” said Southington head coach Mike Forgione. “They are quick and aggressive and if you come down with the ball they will take it away from you.”
It was that quickness and pesky aggressiveness that got Plainville back into the game after falling behind by a 7-0 margin early on. Isabel Lozefski averaging 10 points per game had her usual all around performance leading the way with 12 points, four assists and four steals.
Lozefski got Plainville on the board floating a three-point through the net with a little over four minutes to go in the opening quarter. Krystyna Miller tore down a pair of rebounds to try and give the Blue Devils a presence inside.
Southington built a 15-10 first quarter advantage but struggled with their offense in a four point second quarter. Much of that was from the unrelenting effort of Amiyah Peters (five points, six rebounds), the Blue Devils tough as nails defender.
Jaida Vasquez seven points, four rebounds, and four steals helped to get the team in transition and when Samantha Lozefski drained a pair at the line it was a tie game 17-17 with 2:34 left in the first half.
Leading scorer Caitlin Barker (10 points, six rebounds) at 23 points per game couldn’t get her offense going as she was straddled with three fouls early on. Kori Jones came off the bench to protect Barker from further foul trouble and delivered a huge game with seven points, three rebounds, and blocked shot.
“Amiyah is relentless on defense doing the things that don’t show up in the box score,” said Neuweiler. “Caitlin got into foul trouble but Kori came off the bench and made some big plays to keep us in the game.”
After Isabel Lozefski sank a pair at the line to put Plainville on top, Peters hit a three from the top of the key. As the half was coming to a close Jones rippled the net with a three that beat the buzzer giving the Blue Devils a 24-19 lead at the break.
“I think if we were able to hold them to one shot at the basket it would have been a much different game,” said Neuweiler. “We got into foul trouble on second and third chance opportunities.”
“I thought we did some things really well. But I also saw some things we definitely need to work on. We have been able to go to our bench and they have given us quality minutes.”
Meghan Guimond and Tessa Susco provided minutes off the bench with Plainville battling through foul trouble. In the third quarter, Southington began to knock down shots from the perimeter and retook the lead 36-31 with 1:46 to go in the quarter.
Jones muscled away a rebound to throw in a put back and Isabel Lozefski went coast-to-coast off a steal to bring the Blue Devils back trailing 36-35 heading into the final quarter.
Southington started with a fast break off a rebound. On a sheer hustle play, Jones gave chase going the length of the court to block the attempt at the other end. But with Barker struggling with foul trouble, the Blue Devils’ offense couldn’t match the Lady Knights intensity.
Southington went on a 10-0 run and that changed the complexion of the game. Plainville battled back and twice cut it to a five point deficit down the stretch. Jones hit a pull-up jumper in the lane and Barker knocked down a shot on an assist from Samantha Lozefski to make it a two possession game only to have Southington put it away at the foul line.
“The story is we had a great start to the season,” said Neuweiler. “But that’s not where the story ends. Now I want it to be how do we sustain it and how do we finish.”
“This is only one game. We can’t let one game define us. There are a lot of wins left in front of us. We need to continue to improve and show the character of this team to fight back. We can’t get complacent. We need to stay as focused as we were when the season first started.”
Plainville will be back in action this week when they host Bristol Central on Tuesday and finish out the week at home against Tolland on Friday.