New Britain City Journal

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The Sports Journal

NBHS Girls Hoopsters Look for Improvement

The New Britain High girls basketball team came up empty after the first two games, but coach Tasha Manzie and her girls are confident that the season will produce a winner.

A gaggle of quick guards along with a vastly improved center and some depth should afford the Hurricanes a shot at the CCC West penthouse.

In senior guards Kayla Jones, Wilma Smith and Jessica Chudy, Manzie can throw end-to-end pressure against teams that would prefer to run half court sets against passive zones.

“We know that we have the best chance of winning in an up-tempo game,” Manzie said. “We like to run. Forcing us to set up half court is not what we want to do. We want to get out in transition.”

Manzie is looking for defense to create offense with the departure of last year’s leading scorers. Jones is at the top of the list.

“She’s our sparkplug defensively,” Manzie said. “She’s everywhere. She’s a big part of our defense but she can definitely score. We’re trying to get her to make good decisions and if she does, she might end up being our leading scorer. She gets to the basket and has a good outside shot.”

On a squad where varsity inexperience may prove troublesome early in the season, Wilma Smith knows the drill. Smith looks to beat defenders off the dribble and slash to the bucket. Her decision-making at that point will be tantamount to the Hurricanes’ half court success.

“She gave me about eight points every game last year and this year she’ll be more of an offensive threat since we lost most of our scorers,” Manzie said. “She’s a slasher, quick and a great defender. She’ll spot up and shoot but when they come up and guard her, she’ll go to the hole.”

Smith didn’t attend New Britain as a freshman and did not play as a sophomore.

Chudy comes out of the same mold.

“She’s like Kayla on defense,” Manzie said. “She’s scrappy and forces turnovers. She’s not much of an offensive threat but she can make an open three. I love how tenacious she is on defense.”

Manzie is enthused by the progress shown by 6-foot-1 junior center Faith Ford. Ford turned in a strong game in the opening night loss to East Catholic.

“She kept us in the game,” Manzie said. “She was a dominant force on the boards. She had about nine blocked shots and about 20 rebounds.”

Ford played tentatively her first two seasons but Manzie has noted a difference in her this year.

“Faith played with confidence,” she said. “That’s why she was blocking shots and she grabbed every ball that was near her.”

One of the keys to New Britain’s continued development rests with sophomore forward Nikira Hooks.

“She is going to be one of the better players to come out of New Britain,” Manzie said. “She came in this year after a good off-season and was ready to work. She scored 11 points in her first varsity game. She attacked the basket. She has the best attitude of any player out there. She’s the entire package.

“I’m excited. Only two girls from E.O. Smith and New Britain have excited me over my years of coaching. I love all my girls and I love coaching but to get excited is totally different. I see big things from this girl.”

Manzie’s bench should provide plenty of help. Amanda Garcia is a strong senior forward. Dani Markowski has been with the program for four years. Eliannie Sola, the first guard off the bench, gives New Britain depth in the backcourt.

“Amanda is a solid player,” Manzie said. “She’s going to rebound, score, and work hard from the time she steps on the floor until the end of the game. She’ll challenge to take somebody’s starting spot.

“Sola is a very smart point guard. She has a nice three-point shot and is developing into a very good player.”

Coach: Tasha Manzie (3rd year, 21-21)

Conference: CCC West

Last year: 11-10; 8-6 CCC West (4th place); Lost to Lauralton Hall in Class LL 1st round

Key Losses: Jaydelise Yambo, Denise Yambo, Nyjah Porcher, Patricia Miranda, Heather O’Bright

2011-12 Roster: Kayla Jones (5’2 sr. G), Wilma Smith (5’3 sr. G), Jessica Chudy (5’4 sr. G), Faith Ford (6’1 jr. C), Nikira Hooks (5’9, so. F), Amanda Garcia (5’10 sr. F), Eliannie Sola (5’2 jr. G), Dani Markowski (5’7 sr. G), Angie Markowski (5’4 so. G), Ginelle Martinez (5’3 jr. G)

Of Note: Porcher is playing at the Community College of Rhode Island where she averaged 12.3 points per game with 23 steals in her first 7 games.