Girls Hoops Set Sights on State Tourney

Kelsey Hernandez at the top of the key

By Antonio Squitieri (2/26/16)

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The New Britain girls basketball team kicked off their postseason campaign last Thursday with a 54-38 loss to #6 conference-ranked Weaver in the first round of the CCC Tournament. Despite the unfavorable outcome, the girls’ season overall has been anything but a reflection of the result.

The Hurricanes had an impressive regular season outing, finishing with 13 wins and 7 losses to clinch a spot in the state tournament and end their four-year playoff drought.

The program has had storied success in the past two decades by winning the tournament three times in their four championship game appearances. And although the road ahead will be a difficult one with a 17th seed in the tournament, this team has proved to be one of the best in recent history with a winning percentage that has not been matched since 2009.

Under the tutelage of seventh-year head coach Tasha Manzie, the team has been led by a core group of veteran players in Kelsey Hernandez, Deija Santana, Gabby Roy, and Jamyra Irizarry, who have all been capable of double-figure scoring on any given night.

It was a rough start for the Hurricanes as they dropped their first two games through their struggles on defense and playing with the lead. As the season progressed, so did their game play, and they have not looked back since.

On offense, the team has often been able to space the floor and find open shot opportunities, particularly from three-point land, en route to victory. Senior guard Kelsey Hernandez and sophomore Gabby Roy have had no problem hitting the bottom of the net as they hold multiple game-high point totals apiece this season.

Roy has especially set herself apart in scoring by amassing a number of impressive performances from long range including 25 points with seven from three against Platt on Jan. 7 and 18 with five 3-pointers at Plainville on Jan. 19.

As effective as they’ve been on offense, defense has not always come as easy. The team’s lack of physicality has been suspect on many occasions, however, junior forwards Deija Santana and Jamyra Irizarry have been quite the opposite as they’ve been a force to reckon with in the paint.

Santana has been a dependable leader for the Hurricanes as of late as she recorded several

double-doubles in the final stretch of regular season games. Her work on the boards and scoring inside has allowed her to step up for the team in the most critical of moments. Some of the junior’s most notable contests include a 14 point-16 rebound game against Bristol Eastern on Jan. 25 and 14 points with 13 rebounds versus Wethersfield on Feb. 2.

Playing a consistent four quarters of basketball and creating ample scoring opportunities through good ball movement will be key for this New Britain team as they look to make a run in the playoffs in the coming weeks.

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