Morgan Pulls Through With Patience, Poise, Donadio’s 20

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Pictured: Morgan All-State guard Catie Donadio tries to dribble past Cromwell’s Monica Dewey during Friday’s Shoreline Conference game in Clinton. Morgan won 53-44 behind Donadio’s 20-point effort.

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

CLINTON – One measure of the true heart and grit of any sports team is how it handles adversity. Specifically, how does it come back from a cruel, heartbreaking loss?

The Morgan girls basketball team, which lost an excruciating one-point game to defending Shoreline Conference champion East Hampton on Wednesday, put its fortitude on full display two nights later by pulling away late in the fourth quarter from a very good Cromwell team en route to a 53- 44 win.

Both teams are now 1-1 on the season.

“We calmed down a bit in the fourth quarter and played with a lot more poise, especially on offense,” said Morgan coach Caitlin Woods. “To that point, we had been way too anxious, way too quick to try and force the issue.

“When we stop trying to force things and play a more patient, more cohesive game, we look like that team you saw tonight in the fourth quarter. When we don’t, we’re a frenetic mess.”

Cromwell, which trailed by a point through three quarters, grabbed its last lead of the game when Likhita Chanda put back a teammate’s missed shot with 7:34 to play, giving the Panthers a 36-35 lead. But Morgan answered by scoring the next seven on a long 3-pointer by Caeley Ayer, a drive through the lane by Catie Donadio and a steal by Donadio on Cromwell’s ensuing possession and length-of-the-court drive and layup.

When the dust settled, Morgan was sitting on a 42-36 lead with just under six minutes to play.

After Ayer and Cromwell’s Jessica Grodzicki swapped 3-pointers and Donadio made a free throw, Cromwell’s Nevaeh Clark hit a layup to cut Morgan’s lead to five, at 46-41, with just under two minutes to go.

But Morgan clinched the win by outscoring the Panthers 7-3 down the stretch.

“I thought we played pretty well on defense. We’re definitely getting better on the defensive end of the floor,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said of her team’s tough, aggressive man-to-man. “We played well enough (on defense) to win the game, but we couldn’t finish (our shots) at all on offense. We kept missing open layups all night long and then they started hitting their open threes in the fourth quarter.

“We kept missing them and they started making them, and that was about it.”

Donadio, an All-State and First Team All Shoreline selection last winter as a junior, led the way for the Huskies with 20 points to go along with her typically steady and resourceful floor game. She scored Morgan’s first basket of the evening when she drove through the lane, missed her shot, fell to the floor during the ensuing scramble for the rebound, reached out and grabbed the bouncing ball and banked it through the hoop from in front of the basket while still on her knees.

“She’s a pretty good player,” her coach said in what is likely the biggest understatement of the new season.

Senior center Alex Kelly, a force underneath all night long, also had a big game for the Huskies with 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Three sophomores, including Grodzicki, who finished with 12 points, Clark, who added 11, and Marykate Sullivan, who scored seven, paced the Panthers’ attack.

Donadio had four points in the opening quarter to help stake the Huskies to a 7-6 lead. Sullivan’s five-point outburst early in the second quarter helped the Panthers take a 16-11 lead with six minutes to play in the half before Kelly scored six points to fuel a 10-0 Morgan spurt that put the Huskies in front 21-16 with 1:18 left in the quarter.

A three from the top of the key by Grodzicki and a drive through the lane by Sullivan enabled the Panthers to tie it up at 21 at the half.

The teams then battled through five lead changes in the third quarter before Morgan’s Ava Johnson, a freshman, buried a long 3-pointer off a pretty feed from Ayer in the final seconds of the frame to wipe out a 34-32 Cromwell lead and put Morgan ahead 35-34  heading into the final eight minutes.

“Sometimes we get a little too anxious on offense, we need to learn to relax and work better together as an organized, consistent unit,” Woods said

Regardless of the final outcome, the future looks bright for both teams. Morgan started three sophomores in Ayer, Sofie Passante and Katie Martin, and also saw a freshman, Johnson, get extensive playing time.

Cromwell played four sophomores extensively, their three top scorers and center Adela Cecunjanin.

Box Score

CROMWELL (1-1)
Jessica Grodzicki 4 1 12, Nevaeh Clark 5 0 11 Monica Dewey 2 1 6, Likhita Chanda 2 0 4, Adela Cecunjanin 0 4 4, Marykate Sullivan 3 0 7. Totals: 16 6 43.

MORGAN (1-1)
Catie Donadio 6 7 20, Caeley Ayer 2 0 6, Katie Martin 2 3 7, Sofie Passante 0 1 1, Alex Kelly 4 4 12, Ava Johnson 2 1 7. Totals: 16 16 53.

Score By Quarters
C   6 15 13 10—44
M  7 14 14 18—53

3-Pointers: C— Grodzicki 3, Clark 1, Dewey 1, Sullivan 1; M—Ayer 2, Johnson 2, Donadio 1.

More girls basketball results from Friday night:

East Hampton 44, Valley Regional 36

EAST HAMPTON (2-0)
Meryl Curtin 0 0-0 0, Delaney Russell 0 0-0 0, Jackie Russell 0 0-0 0, Angela Mercaldi 5 2-5 15, Madison Yorker 0 0-0 0, Mya Field 2 4-6 8, Hannah Barrientos 6 0-1 15, Danielle Adams 0 3-6 6, Liz McDonald 0 0-0 0 Totals: 16 9-18 44.

VALLEY REGIONAL (1-1)
Ava Cunningham 0 0-0 0, Addi Marchese 2 0-0 4, Alena Crosby 3 1-2 9, Bitzy Klomp 1 0-0 2, Lily Grow 1 2-2 4, Abby Bradbury 3 1-1 7, Olivia Cunningham 0 0-0 0, Liz Allen 1 2-2 10, Sharmel Rivera 0 0-0 0,  Hannah Jenkins 0 0-0 0 Totals: 13 6-7 36.

Score By Quarters
EH 12 9 14 9—44
VR 9 10 10 7—36

3-Pointers: EH—Mercaldi 1, Barrientos 1, Adams 1; VR—Crosby 2, Allen 2.

Hale-Ray 39, Westbrook 32

WESTBROOK (0-1)
Jami Sacco 6 4 17, Alexandra Zanzabri 0 0 0, Gianni Salisbury 2 2 6, Adriana Strainieri 2 2 8, Leticia Pires 0 1 1. Totals: 10 8 32.

HALE-RAY (39)
Winny Ciccarello 6 3-4 17, Brooke Praskievicz 0 6-6 6, Jennafaye Haentjens 1 0-0 2, Kayla Bartolotta 0 0-0 0, Gabby Aquilera 4 6-8 14, Lexi Desiata 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 14-18 39.

Score By Quarters
W 2 10 5 15–32
HR 14 7 8 10–39

3-Pointers: W–Strainieri 2, Sacco 1; HR–Ciccarello 2.
Of note: Hale-Ray won in Angelo Morello’s debut as coach, with Haentjens pulling in 18 rebounds and Praskievicz setting the tone on defense.

North Branford 59, Haddam-Killingworth 48

H-K (0-2)
Kaleigh Bodak 9 5-6 23, Carly Rettberg 2 5-6 10, Payton Yazmer 4 1-2 9, Julia Favalora 1 0-0 2, Tessa Wills 1 0-0 2, Ella McGlynn 1 0-0 2, Kelsey Lonergan 0 0-0 0, Jordan O’Linn 0 0-0 0, Audra Yazmer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 11 48.

NORTH BRANFORD (2-0)
Braeden Lebeau 6 7-8 19, Delaney Norman 3 0-0 7, Hanna Senerchia 3 0-0 7, Kaila Manner 1 0-0 2, Erica Piercey 2 1-2 5, Marissa Ricardo 3 1-1 10, Keana Crisculo 4 2-4 12, Elena Pearson 0 0-2 0, Natalia Lucibello 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 11 59. 

Score By Quarters
HK 7 10 14 17—48
NB 16 12 12 20—59

3-Pointers: HK—Rettberg 1; NB—Ricardo 3, Crisculo 2, Norman 1, Senerchia 1.

Of note: H-K’s Bodak had a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Rettberg also had 6 steals and 3 assists to go with her 10 points.

Old Lyme 56, Portland 13

OLD LYME (1-1)
Sam Gray 5 0-1 13, Ellie Zrenda 1 2-3 4, Emily Deroehn 4 4-8 12, Ali Kyle 1 0-0 2, Haley Cann 1 0-0 2, Megan Loflin 2 1-4 5, Emma McColluch 8 0 16. Totals 22 7-16 56.

PORTLAND (0-1)
Ava Hurley 1 0-0 3, Hannah Brunk 1 2-4 4, Carly Graves 1 1-4 3, Sam Lasky 1 0-0 2, Leah May 0 1-2 1. Totals 4 4-10 13.

3-Pointers: OL—Gray 3; P—Hurley 1.

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