WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield’s Laura Kelly loves playing against the Manchester High School girls basketball team. The sophomore guard backed up a 26-point haul in a 46-33 victory over the Indians Jan. 14 by hitting a game-high 19 points, along with nine rebounds, as the Eagles beat the Indians, 52-43, on the Silas Deane Middle School hardwood on Feb. 10. A prolific start saw Kelly record half of the Eagles’ opening stanza points to push Wethersfield ahead, 18-8, en route to the victory and a 10-8 record.
WHS rode a 9-0 burst that began with a Kelly three-pointer and ended with her jumper on a dish from Taylor Ramos to give the home team a 12-2 lead midway through the first period.
The Eagles continued to build their lead and went into halftime up, 33-19. An 8-0 WHS run closed out the third period and gave the Eagles a comfortable 44-27 advantage heading into the game’s final eight minutes of play. With 4:41 left in the game, things began to get uncomfortable as Manchester (4-12) unleashed 10 unanswered points keyed by sophomore forward Paige Montgomery that closed the gap to eight, 49-41, but the Indians could get no closer.
“I had a good start to the game, which always helps. I think we cooled down too much during halftime, though, but then we got back into the game,” said Kelly. “We just needed to start playing better defense and stop letting Manchester get the easy shots. We had to slow them down by playing good defense and keeping up our press. We worked well as a team, kept the lead and got the win.
“I like that we get to play with all different grades, skill sets and levels of experience so we get to play off of each other. Coach [Libby] uses the bench, which gets people varsity experience. It’s good to know we have some back up as we head to tournament time,” Kelly said.
“Laura attacked the basket aggressively and was knocking down her shots tonight. She was on fire to start. I thought Manchester would key in on her a little bit,” Wethersfield head coach Michelle Libby said.
“After the game I told the team that we seemed to fizzle during the half. When you start off hot, sometimes it’s hard to remain that hot. Manchester made a couple of good adjustments on us and the shots that we were knocking down in the first half just weren’t falling. But we always rely on our defense to kind of pull us through and that was what did it for us in the end,” added Libby.
“I also told the team that they made me a little bit nervous when our lead went from19 points down to eight. John Reiser’s a great coach and Manchester is a good program. I don’t think a lead is big enough against them. We earned the win in the fourth by keeping our calm. We’ve worked on not getting flustered and keeping our heads on straight. We showed that we could grind through and do what we needed to do at the end - knock down free throws, step to the ball and control the offensive side of it.
“Our senior captains, Kelly McDonald and Analissa Mandile, have done a tremendous amount off the floor for the team and they do a tremendous amount on the floor. Kelly is our point guard. The kids look to her for leadership and she provides it. Analissa drives our defense. She’s everywhere on the floor,” said Libby. McDonald contributed 11 points to the team’s second win in three days.
Libby also praised the efforts of Taylor Ramos and Christina Bobbitt, who round off the Wethersfield starting lineup.
“Taylor has the ability to attack. I wish she’d do it more often. I tell her that all of the time. I think she needs to realize how good she is and how good she can be,” Libby said of Ramos, who chipped in nine points and eight rebounds. “She attacks the basket well. She’s really becoming smart on the floor and showing a lot of leadership as a junior.
“Christina doesn’t know how to play less than 100 percent. She’s all effort and all hustle. She dives on the floor. She’s all over the boards. She’s everything a coach wants,” Libby said. “Christina is undersized but it doesn’t matter. She plays like she’s about 6’4”.”
Bobbitt added seven points against Manchester.
“A win’s a win. We’ve qualified for the state tournament and we’re trying to qualify for the CCC tournament. We’re working on improving our ceding for the tournament and tonight we got the end result we wanted. There are always things to improve upon and we’ll get back to work at being able to handle pressure better,” said Libby.