Stasha Greenlach drives to the hoop through the Southington defense.
Newington Girls Lose in Exciting Finish
NEW BRITAIN - Phil Jackson, considered by many as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA), had an incredible knack for motivating his teams and getting the utmost out of his players.

       First-year Newington girls head basketball coach Rick Bangs has the same unwavering belief and commitment to an unselfish, team-oriented style of play that paid big dividends for Jackson when he coached the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Bangs has the Indians believing that the team is bigger and more important than its individual players.

       “We’ve got a new coach and a new philosophy for the team,” NHS senior Kayla Guest said after the Indians dropped a heartbreaking 43-41 CCC West decision to visiting Southington on December 13th in Richard E. Rogalski Gymnasium.

       A reverse lay up from Guest and a put back from forward Stephanie Kowalski, with 1:37 left to play, deadlocked the game at 41-41 before the Blue Knights ran the clock down and Sara Mongillo made her move to the basket with 00:02 left to push Southington to a 2-0 record while the loss evened Newington’s record at 1-1.

       The Indians not only wear their coach’s mantra " “We is greater than me” - on their warm up shirts, they have embraced and embodied it. “Coach’s philosophy is different than what we had in the past,” according to Guest. “This gives us the message that basketball is not a player’s showcase, it’s a team sport. There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ and that’s how we hope to play. Just because I was the leading scorer doesn’t mean that everyone else didn’t do her part. When it came to the rebounds, assists, steals and deflections, all of that came together.

       “We all practice hard every day. We’re a growing team and we’re still kind of trying to all mesh together as a team. So even though we lost, I still feel like we won as a team. We accomplished our goal of playing together and doing what we’ve been practicing. This is only the second game of the season and we’ll see Southington again down the road.”

       The Indians’ Stasha Greenalch drove the baseline for a lay-up with 6:41 left in the first quarter to cut the Southington lead to 5-2. Newington took its first lead, 11-10 on Julie Iskra’s fast break lay-up before Guest’s reverse lay-up and jumper from the top of the key pushed Newington out to a 15-10 advantage as the first quarter expired.

       NHS went into half time up 23-22, after Southington’s Natalie Wadolowski hit for two and Nicole Fischer drilled a trey to slice into the lead.

       Guest’s five-point spurt that featured a driving lay-up, a free throw and a basket in the paint on a feed from Ashleigh Beauford gave the Indians their biggest lead of the night, 28-22, with 5:36 left in the third chapter. SHS responded with an 8-0 run to ease ahead, 30-28.

       The game remained nip and tuck through the fourth quarter as the lead changed hands and each team clung to one-point advantages. Kowalski’s lay-up with 4:19 left to play gave Newington its last edge of the night before SHS canned a bucket followed by Fischer’s fourth three-pointer for the 41-37 lead. Fischer topped the Blue Knights with 18 points.

       Guest led all scorers with 23 points. “Kayla is a fighter,” Bangs noted. “She had a big game tonight. She got after it and made some big shots for us. We need her to play at that level if we’re going to be successful. When things weren’t working on the perimeter, she was giving us stuff on the inside.

       “My philosophy is to build winning habits through hard practice and doing things the right way,” said Bangs, who previously served as an assistant boys basketball coach at Farmington. “I couldn’t be prouder of how we played. Sometimes things don’t always go your way, but you can still accumulate winning habits when you lose a game like this. When you lose on the last play, it’s always tough, but we’ll get better from this.

       “We played with a lot of heart. We knew it was going to be a war and that Southington would be tough on defense. We hung in there and fought hard. We were right there at the end. We knew we needed one more defensive rebound and it just didn’t come to us. I told the girls after the game that this is going to make them a better team and make me a better coach.

       “I need to do a better job preparing us to play in late game situations. Our execution wasn’t really there late in the game tonight, and that cost us. That’s on me. I’ll take the weekend to go over some late game situation stuff and we’ll be ready next time this happens,” Bangs said.