Sweet 16: Panthers’ 1st-Half Run Breaks Valley Regional

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Pictured: Valley Regional’s Abby Bradbury gets around Cromwell’s Adela Cecunjanin and lays in two of her 11 points Monday’s Shoreline game in Cromwell.

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

CROMWELL – Every now and then in the game of basketball, as in the game of life, you wind up digging yourself a hole that you can’t easily climb out of, despite your best effort.

That’s what happened to the Valley Regional girls basketball team Monday night in its game against Cromwell. Cromwell, a good young team, hit the Warriors, another good young team, with a 16-0 run over the last minute and a half of the first quarter and the first four minutes of the second quarter. Valley never fully recovered as the Panthers pulled away to a 49- 33 Shoreline Conference win.

“We gave up way too many transitional baskets, and that just killed us,” Valley coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt said. “Once that happened, our energy just tanked and we stopped doing all those little things that we have to do in order to be successful.

“We stopped playing with the fire and enthusiasm we started the game with and Cromwell had all the momentum.”

The win improves Cromwell’s record to 3-2 while Valley slips to 2-3.

Jessica Grodzicki finished with a game-high 12 points for Cromwell while a trio of Panthers — Likhita Chanda, Marykate Sullivan and Adela Cecunjanin, finished with nine points apiece. Cecunjanin completed a monster night underneath the basket with 18 rebounds, while Grodzicki added eight boards and Sullivan had seven rebounds and four assists.

Abby Bradbury paced the Warriors with 11 points and eight rebounds while Lily Grow added seven points and 11 rebounds. Addi Marchese had four assists for the Warriors.

Back-to-back buckets by Bradbury and Grow staked Valley to an 11-7 lead with 1:51 to play in the opening quarter before the Panthers started what proved to be their decisive run.

Sullivan got things rolling by burying a three-pointer from deep in the corner. Chanda, one of only two upperclassmen on the Panthers’ roster, then took over in the waning seconds of the quarter, banking home a spinning drive through the lane and adding a layup off Sullivan’s steal and feed, to give Cromwell a 14-11 edge after one quarter of play.

Chanda continued her hot play as the second quarter began, stealing a pass in the quarter’s opening seconds and driving the length of the floor before hitting a layup to stretch the lead to 16-11.

After a pair of layups by Grodzicki, Chanda capped the run by burying a three from the top of the key to extend Cromwell’s lead to 23-11 with just under four minutes to play in the half.

“Things began a little shaky for me. I missed my first couple of shots and had to calm down a bit before getting things turned around,” Chanda said. “In the end I think our defense was the key to the success we had. We got a couple of steals, which turned into a couple of fast breaks, and we never looked back.”

Noting that her team has only two seniors and no juniors on its roster, Chanda said that she and fellow senior Monica Dewey have tried to assume expanded leadership roles at times this season.

“In tough games like tonight, they (her younger teammates) look up to us and we need to be able to lead by example,” she said.

To its credit, Valley never stopped battling, even after Cromwell’s 16-0 run left them in a 12-point hole. A drive by Bradbury and a pair of Marchese free throws in the final minute of the half cut the deficit to eight, 27-19, at halftime.

An 11-7 run over the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter sliced Cromwell’s lead to four at 34-30, but that was as close as the Warriors were to get. A putback from underneath by Cecunjanin, a short jumper by Grodzicki and a Dewey free throw enabled the Panthers to score the last five points of the third quarter to increase their lead to nine, at 39-30, entering the final eight minutes.

The Panthers then iced the game by scoring 10 of the first 12 points of the fourth quarter.

“I think we’re getting better, we seem to keep improving as the season goes on,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said. “We’re starting to jell.”

When asked what triggered the key first-half run, she pointed to one of the constant and consistent keys to the ongoing success of the Cromwell program.

“We started rebounding,” she said, “and that enabled us to run the floor, find some openings and get some good looks. And once we got some open looks, we hit the shot.

“We were a little tentative, a little off at first, but I thought we settled into the game nicely.”

The Panthers will host Coginchaug on Thursday in another intriguing encounter in this 12-game season, while Valley has a week to prepare for a home game against Portland on Monday.

VALLEY REGIONAL (2-3
)Elizabeth Allen 0 2 2, Abby Bradbury 5 1 11, Elizabeth Cap 1 0 2, Alena Crosby 1 0 3, Elizabeth Klomp 0 0 0, Lily Grow 3 1 7, Ava Cunningham 1 0 2, Addison Marchese 2 2 6, Olivia Cunningham 0 0 0. Totals: 13 6 33.

CROMWELL (3-2)
Jessica Grodzicki 6 0 12, Nevaeh Clark 2 0 6, Likhita Chanda 4 0 9, Monica Dewey 1 1 4, Adela Cecunjanin 4 0 9, Marykate Sullivan 4 0 9. Totals: 21 1 49.

Score By Quarters
VR 11 8 11 3–33
C   14 13 12 10–49

3-Pointers: VR—Crosby 1; C—Clark 2, Chanda 1, Dewey 1, Cecunjanin 1, Sullivan 1.

In other girls basketball games around the area Monday:

Middletown 59, Maloney 25

MIDDLETOWN (3-0)
Jada Bryant 1-1-3; Jenaya Salafia 0-0-0; Aysia Henderson 1-1-3; Tyah Pettaway 4-1-9; Kya Mayo 3-3-15; Kaila Torres 2-0-4; Shadae Bushay 6-0-12; Shalyn Smith 6-0-13. Totals: 26 3 59.

MALONEY (0-4)
Amal Bahili 2-0-6; Haley Lespier 0-1-1; Gracie Massicote 3-0-7; Abby Lespier 2-0-4; Mckenzie McCormick 1-0-3; Nadia Berrios Lugo 1-0-2; Maddy Plumberg 1-0-2. Totals: 10 1 25.

Score By Quarters
Mi 15 26 12 6–59
Ma 7 10 4 4–25

Mercy 53, North Haven 39

MERCY (5-0)
Avery Kohs 2 2-2 7, Sophie Hedge 1 12-14 14, Ava Giansiracusa 4 3-3 12, Lilly Hedge 4 4-6 14, Jasmine Mendez 0 0-2 0, Lauren Kohs 0 2-2 2, Melina Ford 2 0-0 4. Totals 13 23-29 53.

NORTH HAVEN (3-2)
Carly Fresher 1 0-0 3, Emily Konopka 3 0-0 6, Sarah Puzone 2 6-11 10, Olivia Stefanik 2 0-0 4, Emma Liedke 2 3-4 7, Julia Ball 3 0-0 7, Livi Johnson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 9-15 39.

Score By Quarters
M 11 14 11 17–53
NH 11 9 7 12–39

3-Pointers: M–L. Hedge 2, A. Kohs 1, Giansiracusa 1; NH–Fresher 1, Ball 1.

Morgan 48, Haddam-Killingworth 21

MORGAN (4-1)
Catie Donadio 4 10-10 18, Caeley Ayer 3 1-2 9, Katie Martin 2 1-3 5, Sofie Passante 2 2-2 6, Alex Kelly 1 1-2 3, Ava Johnson 3 0-0 7, AJ Luke 0 0-0 0, Maeve Madura 0 0-1 0, Ava Zirtis 0 0-0 0, Victoria O’Neill 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 15 48.

H-K (0-5)
Kaleigh Bodak 2 3-4 7, Carly Rettberg 0 0-2 0, Payton Yazmer 0 0-0 0, Julia Favalora 2 0-2 4, Tessa Wills 1 0-0 2, Ella McGlynn 0 2-4 2, Kelsey Lonergan 2 0-0 4, Jordan O’Linn 0 0-0 0, Audra Yazmer 0 0-2 2. Totals 7 7 21.

Score By Quarters
M 9 13 21 5–48
HK 4 4 7 6–21

3-Pointers: Morgan–Ayer 2, Johnson 1.
Of note: Donadio had 5 steals, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Kelly had 15 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Coginchaug 55, Westbrook 27

WESTBROOK (0-4)
Jami Sacco 11 0-0 24, Adriana Stranieri 0 2-2 2, Olivia Palumbo 0 1-2 1, Leticia Pires 0 0-2 0, Alexandria Zanzalari 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 3-6 27.

COGINCHAUG (3-0)
Allison Sambor 2 1-2 6, Hannah Nielsen 2 0-0 4, Chloe Shafir 2 0-0 5, Katie Farr 3 2-2 8, Jessica Berens 8 0-0 16, Amalia DeMartino 3 0-2 6, Maura Zettergren 2 0-0 4, Carly Benbow 1 0-0 2, Mia Poturnicki 2 0-0 4. Totals: 25 3-6 55.

Score By Quarters
W 2 11 4 10–27
C 18 15 12 10–55

3-Pointers: W– Sacco 2; C–Sambor 1, Shafir 1.

East Hampton 40, North Branford 33

NORTH BRANFORD (1-4)
Hanna Senerchia 0 0 0, Elena Pearson 1 0 2, Erica Piercey 2 0 5, Braeden LeBeau 7 2 16, Keana Criscuolo 1 0 2, Delaney Norman 2 0 5, Lindsey Onofrio 0 0 0, Marissa Richardo 1 0 3. Totals: 14 2 33.

EAST HAMPTON (5-0)
Amber Murphy 0 0 0, Meryl Curtin 1 4 6, Delaney Russell 0 0 0, Jackie Russell 0 0 0, Madison Yorker 0 0 0, Mya Field 1 7 9, Hannah Barrientos 8 1 17, Danielle Adams 3 2 8. Totals: 13 14 40.

Score By Quarters
NB 7 7 7 12–33
EH 9 10 9 12–40

3-Pointers: NB–Norman 1, Richardo 1, Piercey 1.

Old Lyme 50, Old Saybrook 21

OLD SAYBROOK (2-1)
Taylor Stone 3 2-3 9, Lily Cody 0 0-0 0, Beldina Feratovic 2 1-2 5, Priscilla Gumkowski 1 0-0 2, Cassie Johnson 1 0-0 2, Mackenna Cook 0 0-2 0, Ella Hagleston 0 1-2 1, Abby Colella 1 0-0 2. Totals: 8 4-5 21.

OLD LYME (4-1)
Grace Lathrop 1 0-0 2 Ella Curtiss 1 0-0 2 Sam Gray 6 3-6 17 Emily Deroehn 8 6-6 22 Ali Kyle 0 0-2 0 Megan Loftin 2 1-2 5 Emma McCulloch 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 10-16 50.

Score By Quarters
OS 3 6 8 4–21
OL 12 8 14 16–50

3-Pointers: OL–Gray 2; OS–Stone 1.

Hale-Ray 44, Portland 39

PORTLAND (0-3)
Jamie Lansky 1 0-2 2, Hannah Brunk 12 0-7 25, Sam Lansky 4 0-0 8, Carly Graves 1 2-8 4, Lindsey King 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 2-17 39.

HALE-RAY (2-2)
Winnie Ciccarello 4 4-7 16, Brooke Praskievicz 5 2-3 12, Kayla Bartolotta 2 1-2 5, Gabby Aquilera 2 6-12 10, Jenna Haentjens 0 1-2 1, Lexi DeSiata 0 0 0. Totals: 13 14-26 44.

3-Pointers: HR–Ciccarello 4; P–Brunk 1.

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