By KEN MORSE
The Lady Blue Devils are headed back to the state tournament for the second year in a row, led by a pair of senior co-captains. The senior duo of Caitlin Barker and Sam Lozefski helped change the landscape of girls basketball in Plainville.
This was not a one-and-done turnaround. Barker and Lozefski led the Blue Devils back to the state tournament, improving the regular season record to 12-8 this winter. Along the way, Barker became the 10th player to break the 1,000 point career mark, scoring 437 points (21.8 per game) as a senior.
“Four years ago, when we came here, every time teams saw Plainville on their schedule they marked it off as a win,” said Barker. “We turned that around. We don’t want to be that team anymore. To be part of that change is really special to us.”
Barker said that their role has shifted as the program grew. “When I first came here it was all about scoring points,” she said. “Over the last four years I’ve learned how to be a leader and help the rest of the team. Now I have more of a focus on my complete game, rebounding, assists and defense as well as scoring.”
Lozefski was also a team-leader, scoring in double figures in 10 of 20 games. Lozefski scored 187 points (9.3 average) as a senior, while leading the team in assists. Over the last seven games the senior co-captain scored a career high of 18 points and averaged 12.5 per game down the stretch.
“When coach Jess first came here we were 3-17,” said Lozefski. “To be part of what has taken place here is an amazing feeling. Sure there were games that we could have won but to improve the way we have and to leave this winning tradition to the younger girls, its great to be a part of that.”
On Saturday Feb 9 the Blue Devils celebrated senior night at the Ivan Wood gymnasium in their final regular season game a 62-52 win over West Haven.
The Plainville fans got to bid farewell to senior co-captains Barker and Lozefski along with senior team managers Haylie Garrison and Faith Healey.
That senior leadership was never more present than at the outset of the game against West Haven. Barker (22 points) knocked down the first six points of the game and Lozefski (11 points, 4 assists) went on a tear throwing in nine points during a decisive second quarter run.
“When I first came here I asked the girls to just believe in what we were trying to build,” said Plainville head coach Jessica Neuweiler. “Over the last three years Caitlin and Sam have been a huge part of what we’ve been able to accomplish. It just speaks to their work ethic and all that they put into the game. This program has grown and is like night and day compared to when we first started. They are responsible for leaving a solid foundation for this program to build on.”
The Blue Devils took over the game in the second quarter out scoring West Haven 25-11 turning a close 14-11 first quarter game into a comfortable 39-22 halftime advantage.
Lillian Wazorko (7 points) knocked down a three-pointer followed by threes from Barker and Lozefski to open up a 27-13 lead. Krystyna Miller (5 points, 5 rebounds) got loose down on the baseline for a bucket and Jaida Vasquez (15 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists) drove the lane for two.
Lozefski took over the action dropping the final six points in the quarter. Once Plainville began to run the floor in the transition game West Haven had trouble keeping up.
The Westies tried to close the gap but the Blue Devils had too many weapons to contend with. Kori Jones made her presence felt under the glass taking down rebounds and when Tessa Susco dropped in a pair of free throws it was a 55-36 cushion heading into the final quarter.
Barker and Lozefski came out of the game to a rousing ovation from the Plainville fans as Olivia Wazorko, Kaitlyn Gagnon and Sydney Ouellette came on to finish out the 62-52 win.
Plainville will begin their quest to make a run in the Class M state tournament that begins on Tuesday, Feb. 26 against an opponent to be determined.