Cromwell Finishes In Stretch, Hands Coginchaug First Loss

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Pictured: Cromwell players celebrate after time runs out in Thursday’s Shoreline Conference home win over Coginchaug.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

CROMWELL – Amid 41 combined turnovers and enough missed shots to make Steph Curry weep, there were flashes of really good basketball between Coginchaug and Cromwell on Thursday night.

The Blue Devils erased a five-point halftime deficit with a 10-0 run that gave them a 26-23 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

But this young, feisty, defensive-minded Cromwell team wasn’t going to be counted out. After two lead changes in the first three minutes of the fourth, the Panthers went ahead for good on a jump shot from the left wing by Monica Dewey with 3:24 remaining.

Twelve seconds after Cromwell forced another Coginchaug turnover, Mary Kate Sullivan buried a 3-point shot in the area of Dewey’s jumper, giving the Panthers a cushion that they held onto in an eventual 38-32 Shoreline Conference girls basketball victory at Jake Salafia Gymnasium.

The win was the third in a row for Cromwell (4-2). The loss was Coginchaug’s first after a 4-0 start.

Panthers coach Kelly Maher called the two-possession sequence midway the fourth turning point of the game.

“We miss those and it could have been a totally different outcome,” said Maher. “And to get the stops on the defensive end, that provided us momentum there too.”

Cromwell’s scoring attack is spread around this season and that held true to form Thursday, with Adela Cecunjanin leading the way with 10 points, Nevaeh Clark contributing nine, Sullivan seven off the bench and Jessica Grodzicki six.

Dewey, a senior captain and “facilitator” for the offense, came through in another big spot. It was her only field goal of the game in five attempts.

“I think we’re playing much better as a team” as the season has gone along, she said. “I think we’re getting together more and sharing the ball, and we’re definitely a better conditioned team now. We‘re getting to the fourth quarter and we’re not tired. We’re ready to play defense.”

Coginchaug 6-foot-4 senior Jessica Berens, who averaged 16.2 points and 16 rebounds per game coming in, managed just 10 points and 9 boards. Maura Zettergren also scored 10 on 5 of 6 shooting.

Berens made two free throws that cut the Cromwell lead to 32-30 with 2:23 left, but Cecunjanin restored the Panthers’ four-point lead when she got around Berens for a layup.

After Chloe Shafir’s 17-foot jumper cut it to two with 1:29 left, Cecunjanin came up with another huge bucket, laying it in with her left hand off of a Sullivan feed to make it 36-32 with 28.4 seconds left.

Out of a Coginchaug timeout, the Blue Devils turned it over with 13.3 seconds to go. Cromwell broke their pressure and Clark was fouled on a breakaway and granted two free throws, making both with 5.6 seconds left.

Coginchaug coach Chris Watson lamented his team’s penchant for giving away possessions – 25 times by his count over the course of the game.

“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” he said. “And we’re still in the game. You can’t beat good basketball teams turning the ball over 25 times. You just can’t. It was probably my biggest concern coming into the game because we really hadn’t been tested that way yet. But that’s the game right there.”

Another point of contention for the coach: Of Cromwell’s 23 rebounds, 10 came on the offensive glass.

“Which is just not something we really ever do,” Watson said. “My teams have never been teams that have given up second chances like that.

“Cromwell played great defense, don’t get me wrong. And that’s probably Cromwell’s best offense, when they can turn people over and score. In my book, that’s the narrative. If we can clean that up, I think we’re hard to beat if we don’t turn the ball over. But if you can’t hold on to the ball, you’ve got no shot.”

Meanwhile, Cromwell’s game plan against Berens, a First Team All-Shoreline performer last season, was the same as other opponents’ – deny entry passes in the post, surround her when she did get the ball, and stop as many second-chance opportunities as possible.

“We know that she is a great player who gets her points, so we wanted to make things difficult for her,” Maher said. “I don’t think we made it easy for her tonight. She has the capability of scoring at ease, and to hold her to 10 points is a real credit to our defense.”

Meanwhile, Sullivan has been a key piece to Cromwell’s offense, leading the team in scoring at nearly 10 points per game despite coming off the bench. She relishes her role.

“Everyone on our team can play basketball,” said the sophomore, who also had six rebounds. “I’m coming in and bringing energy to the team. After four minutes (designated time for a mask break) everyone is getting tired, and being able to come in and ramping it back up is something that the team needs.

“When the fourth quarter started, we looked over and saw (Coginchaug’s) energy, and we said we didn’t come this far to just stop playing.”

While Cromwell visits winless Westbrook on Monday, Coginchaug has another major test when it hosts 6-0 East Hampton, the defending Shoreline champs. Cromwell and Coginchaug will see each other again on the final day of the regular season (March 18).

COGINCHAUG (4-1)
Katie Farr 1 0-0 2, Allyson Woodward 1 0-0 2, Jessica Berens 4 2-2 10, Amalia DeMartino 2 0-0 4, Maura Zettergren 5 0-3 10, Chloe Shafir 2 0-1 4. Totals: 15 2-6 32.

CROMWELL (4-2)
Jessica Grodzicki 3 0-0 6, Nevaeh Clark 3 3-4 9, Monica Dewey 1 0-0 2, Likhita Chanda 0 4-4 4, Adela Cecunjanin 4 1-2 10, Mary Kate Sullivan 3 0-0 7. Totals: 13 8-10 38.

Score By Quarters
Co 8 8 10 6–32
Cr 9 12 2 15–38

3-Pointers: Cr–Sullivan 1, Cecunjanin 1.

In other Shoreline Conference games Thursday:

East Hampton 74, Hale-Ray 20

HALE-RAY (2-3)
Kayla Bartolotta 0 0 0, Winnie Ciccarello 2 0 5, Lexi DeSiata 0 0 0, Brooke Praskievicz 5 5 15, Gabby Aquilera 0 0 0, Jenna Haentjens 0 0 0. Totals: 7 5 20.

EAST HAMPTON (6-0)
Meryl Curtin 2 0 4, Angela Mercaldi 4 0 11, Mya Field 4 0 8, Hannah Barrientos 8 2 18, Danielle Adams 5 0 10, Amber Murphy 0 1 1, Delaney Russell 1 0 2, Jackie Russell 3 0 7, Jordan Murphy 1 0 2, Hailey Pyrek 1 0 3, Madison Yorker 4 0 8. Totals: 33 3 74.

Score By Quarters
HR 4 5 4 7–20
EH 18 22 19 15–74

3-Pointers: HR–Ciccarello 1; EH–Mercaldi 3, J. Russell 1, Pyrek 1.

Morgan 60, Old Saybrook 28

OLD SAYBROOK (2-3)
Taylor Stone 1 4-5 6, Lily Cody 2 0-4 4, Priscilla Gumkowski 2 1-2 7, Beldina Feratovic 1 0-0 2, Cassie Johnson 2 0-0 4, MacKenna Cooke 1 0-0 2, Ella Hagelston 0 1-2 1, Chelsea Heinke 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 6-13 28.

MORGAN (5-1)
Catie Donadio 10 1-1 22, Caeley Ayer 5 0-0 14, Katie Martin 2 1-1 5, Sofie Passante 1 0-0 2, Alex Kelly 5 0-1 10, Ava Johnson 1 0-0 3, Victoria O’Neill 2 0-0 4, Maeve Madura 0 0-2 0, Ava Zirlis 0 0-0 0, AJ Luke 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 2-5 60

Score By Quarters
OS 10 6 9 3–28
M 11 19 13 17–60

3-Pointers: OS–Gumkowski 2; M–Ayer 4, Donadio 1, Johnson 1.

Old Lyme 51, Haddam-Killingworth 25

HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH (0-6)
Kaleigh Bodak 1 2-4 4, Carly Rettberg 0 0-2 0, Payton Yazmer 2 1-4 5, Julia Favalora 3 0-0 6, Tessa Wills 1 0-0 2, Ella McGlynn 3 0-2 6, Kelsey Lonergan 0 0-0 0, Jordan O’Linn 0 0-0 0, Audra Yazmer 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 3 25.

OLD LYME (5-1)
Grace Lathrop 3 1-1 7, Sam Gray 3 0-0 8, Ellie Zrenda 1 0-0 2, Emily DeRoehn 2 11-15 15, Ali Kyle 3 0-1 6, Alexis Fenton 0 0-0 0, Megan Loflin 0 1-2 1, Emma McCulloch 5 1-2 12, Alexis Fenton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 13 51.

Score By Quarters
HK 8 9 7 1–25
OL 13 13 15 10–51

3-Pointers: OL–Gray 2, McCulloch 1.
Of note: Emily DeRoehn had 6 rebounds and Emma McCulloch grabbed 12 for Old Lyme in its fifth straight win.