Pictured: H-K’s Scott Medeiros coaches up the Cougars in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win at Portland.
By Paul Augeri
PORTLAND – Prediction: Haddam-Killingworth is going to win more than three games.
H-K lost its final eight last season to finish 3-17, but there was a strong sense of hope running through the postgame huddle Wednesday night after the Cougars defeated Portland 50-39 to kick off their 2019-20 campaign.
Senior captain Anna Biondi, now a four-year starter, led four Cougars in double figures with 13 points. Fellow senior captain Belle Carini, also a four-year starter, finished with 11.
“I thought we played well,” Biondi said. “We’re pretty young and even the young players stepped up tonight.”
She was referring primarily to sophomore Carly Rettberg and freshman Kaleigh Bodak, who chipped in 11 points on a night when both H-K and Portland struggled to make shots.
“I feel really confident about this team,” Biondi said. “Over the summer we played against the freshmen, so the chemistry is there. I have a really good feeling about things.”
So does her coach.
“The senior captains, they have been through the ugly games in the past, and we’ve lost close ones, too,” H-K’s Scott Medeiros said. “All the hard work, hopefully it’s going to pay it all forward this year and we’ll win some.
“These kids have great attitudes in practice. We had a great bench tonight, kids coming off the bench and doing their jobs. They come here ready to play and they come here excited to play. I am very optimistic about this season.”
Carini scored H-K’s final points of the first half on two free throws with 21.5 seconds left, giving the Cougars a 23-21 lead, their first since 9-8 late in the first quarter.
Rettberg hit a 3-point shot from the corner, capping an 11-4 run to start the third quarter, as H-K built a lead it would hold onto the rest of the way.
The Cougars led by 10 after three and allowed Portland to get under a double-digit deficit once, at 42-34 with 4:20 remaining. Bodak’s second-chance basket a half-minute later restored the lead to 10.
Morgan Lasky led Portland with eight points and Carly Graves scored seven. The Highlanders struggled to make shots and ran into trouble against H-K’s extended zone press, which forced a lot turnovers and gave the Cougars a number of fast-break opportunities.
“If I had to guess, I’d say 50 percent of their offense came from the fast break, and we just didn’t recover in time,” said Lauren Beeler, who walked the sideline in a game at the David L. Bengston Gymnasium for the first time as coach.
“We have young kids in major roles and they kind of buckled under the pressure,” Beeler said Beeler, who started two seniors (Olivia Doering and Lasky), a junior (Graves) and two sophomores (Ava Hurley and Kendra Schoeps). “We panicked a little.”
The Highlanders did not help themselves at the free-throw line, where they made only half of 30 attempts. They also are trying to get acclimated without sophomore post player Hannah Brunk, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Monday’s season opener against Hale-Ray.
“She is a huge post presence,” Beeler said, “someone teams couldn’t move out of there, which created opportunities for our guards. But we have a great group and I think they just need time to know each other and know where they’re going to go on the court before they get there.”
Anna Biondi 5 2 13, Belle Carini 4 3 11, Tessa Wills 0 0 0, Leah Sosnowski 1 0 2, Kaleigh Bodak 3 5 11, A. Yazmer 0 0 0, P. Yazmer 1 0 2, Carly Rettberg 3 3 11. Totals: 17 13-19 50.
Olivia Doering 0 1 1, Morgan Lasky 1 6 8, Carly Graves 1 4 7, Kendra Schoeps 2 0 4, Ava Hurley 1 4 6, Maddie Brunk 1 0 2, Alyssa Young 2 0 5, Sammy Lasky 3 0 6. Totals: 11 15-30 39.
Score By Quarters
3-Pointers: H-K—Rettberg 2, Biondi 1. P—Graves 1, Young 1.
Records: H-K 1-0, Portland 1-1.
- H-K at Westbrook, Friday, 7 pm
- Portland at Morgan, Friday, 7 p.m.