Girls Hoops on Rollercoaster Ride
Tasha Manzie’s heart is like an open book when she’s surrounded by her New Britain High School girls basketball family.
Manzie rarely sits down during the games. She shouts out words of encouragement and instruction with passion sharpening every syllable. She doesn’t consider her girls just a group of basketball players. She visibly soars with their successes and suffers with their brain cramps, off the court as well as on.
Manzie toils year round to put the Hurricanes in a position to win, but competing in the balanced CCC West is a night-in, night-out challenge and through last week, they were three wins short of tournament qualification with three regular-season games to play.
The rollercoaster lurched to a low point on Jan. 29 in a heart-rending 54-44 loss to Hall. Three nights later, New Britain looked every bit like a tournament team in cruising to a 58-42 win over Conard. Manzie knows the talent is there for a smoother ride, but last week’s inconsistency has played out over the entuire 2012-13 journey.
Against Hall, senior center Faith Ford and junior forward Nikira Hooks accounted for almost three-quarters of New Britain’s point total. Against Conard, Eliannie Sola and Angie Markowski combined for 19 to give Manzie the kind of scoring balance that doesn’t show up on the bad nights.
“If only two of your five people are scoring, it’s easy to defend,” Manzie said, after Hall’s defensive blanket smothered the Hurricanes over the final five minutes of the game. “If you only have two people scoring, they don’t have to play [team] defense. They can just focus on who they need to focus on and I think that’s what ends up happening.”
New Britain’s signature win thus far, perhaps the most satisfying of Manzie’s career, came on January 25. The Hurricanes erased a 17-point deficit midway through the second half and set down CCC West favorite Northwest Catholic, 66-65, on the road.
“I had four girls in double figures and one with nine points,” Manzie said about the Hurricanes’ perfect storm. “You have to have people in the game who are looking to score. When there are just two people on the floor scoring, it shows.”
Northwest, forecast as one of the top 10 teams in the state, had been struggling without its All-State candidate Alyssa Reaves, but Reaves was back in the lineup against the ’Canes. Northwest coach and New Britain resident Karl Herbert is among Manzie’s favorite people, but the win was quite satisfying. New Britain was 1-6 against the Indians since the West Hartford school joined the CCC for the 2009-10 season.
“Northwest played the game it always plays,” Manzie said. We battled back. We knew we could beat them. We discussed what their weaknesses were. The girls went out there and did it. It wasn’t a fluke. We were the better team on the floor that night and won.”
Senior Ginelle Martinez had a huge game against Northwest but took just three shots against Hall and did not score. Markowski, a junior, also contributed to the Northwest win. The key was their willingness to take and ability to make the 3-point shot.
“They practice [3-pointers] every day. I know they can make those shots but in the game …,” Manzie said. “I don’t know what the difference is. Ginelle, every time she touches the ball in practice, every girl says, “Money!” You know why? Because it goes in every single time.”
Perhaps most encouraging in the Hall game, besides the complete effort turned in by Hooks (20 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists), was the work of freshman reserve Jazanyia Irizarry. Irizarry came off the bench to score nine points, snag six rebounds and play with the same enthusiasm that Hooks displays every second she’s on the court.
“And she’s 5-foot-nothing!” Manzie said. “She brings a lot to the table for us. She’s good for our future and she gives me good minutes now. She makes freshman mistakes, but she’s a freshman.”
But as far as the present is concerned, if New Britain is unable to run the table and gain that tourney berth, Manzie will label the team’s baffling inconsistency as the reason. For instance, Hall’s game-winning run was built around a sudden change in rebounding. New Britain is bigger and stronger, but the Warriors’ hunger lifted them on the game-winning path.
“We stopped boxing out. We started becoming spectators with everybody waiting for someone else to do the next big thing,” Manzie said.
“We also stopped talking. There was no communication. It was just me screaming.
“We have to communicate. If you don’t communicate, it doesn’t matter what defense you run. That kind of bit us in the butt today but it’s all stuff that’s fixable and I’m still positive. I see these girls every day so I know what they’re capable of. I know if they do what I ask them to do, they’re going to be successful.”
Hall 54, New Britain 44
(Jan. 29, Chick Shea Gym, New Britain)
Hall (7-8): Christin Spring 1 0-1 2, Alannah Boyle 4 3-6 12, Allyson Swaby 4 2-2 11, Colleen Corrigan 2 1-2 5, Erin O’Brien 2 2-2 6, Tayler Fallon 4 5-5 13, Melanie Binkhorst 2 0-0 4, Haley Gershman 0 0-0 0, Dakota Lyman 0 1-4 1, Bianca Speranza 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 14-22 54.
New Britain (4-12): Faith Ford 2 8-12 12, Kelsey Hernandez 0 0-0 0, Nikira Hooks 8 4-5 20, Angie Markowski 0 0-0 0, Eliannie Sola 1 0-2 3, Jazanyia Irizarry 4 0-0 9, Katie Bray 0 0-0 0, Ginelle Martinez 0 0-1 0, Kelly Murphy 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 12-20 44.
Hall 9 11 15 19 – 54
NB 10 11 13 10 – 44
Three-point goals: H – Boyle, Swaby; NB – Sola, Irizarry.
New Britain 58, Conard 42
(Feb. 1, Chick Shea Gym, New Britain)
Conard (4-13): Elle Fontanazza 3 1-3 10, Destanee White 1 0-0 2, Becky Hoisl 4 0-0 9, Shelley Rodgers 5 0-0 14, Nicole Kradas 3 0-0 6, Dezyree White 0 0-1 1, Olivia Gagliotti 0 0-0 0, Jessica Lohneiss 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 2-5 42.
New Britain (5-12): Faith Ford 4 7-9 15, Kelsey Hernandez 1 0-0 2, Nikira Hooks 5 4-8 14, Angie Markowski 3 2-2 10, Eliannie Sola 3 3-7 9, Ileana Tollen 0 0-0 0, Ginelle Martinez 1 0-0 3, Jazanyia Irizarry 1 0-0 2, Katie Bray 1 0-0 3. Totals 19 16-26 58.
Conard 5 14 12 11 – 42
NB 17 15 11 15 – 58
Three-point goals: C – Fontanazza 3, Hoisl, Rodgers 4; NB – Markowski 2, Martinez, Bray.