RHAM Basketball Shuts Down Tolland

By Danny Atkinson

HEBRON- What a difference a few weeks can make.

Back on December 22, the RHAM girls basketball suffered a heartbreaking three-point loss, overtime loss  at rival Tolland in overtime. The Sachems have improved and developed more chemistry as a team since then however, and that growth was clear Friday night at home. RHAM immediately took control on both ends and went on to win 51-15 in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

With the win, the Sachems (9-4) grabbed sole control of second place in the CCC North White division with a record of 5-2.

“We didn’t let up at any point during the game,” RHAM head coach Keith Moyer said. “The same tenacity and execution was there from start to finish.”

Both offenses started off slow in the first quarter largely thanks to strong defensive play, with Tolland (7-7) ahead 4-3 midway through. In the final three minutes, the RHAM attack began to gel. It began with consecutive quick layups on fast breaks, followed by a pretty hook shot by junior center Anna Barry with 47 seconds remaining.  Junior guard Gretchen Kron scored the team’s final basket of the quarter off a pinpoint pass.

While the Sachems offense was beginning to get on track, Tolland ‘s struggles from the field only continued to heighten throughout the first and onto the second. The Eagles had difficulty finding open shots against smart and aggressive defenders and were off when they did, missing multiple shots badly.  Tolland did not score in the second portion of the opening quarter, and its luck almost never changed on the night.

In the second, RHAM continued to make every possession a tremendous challenge for the Tolland offense. Its lone points came with 4:47 left on a three pointer by junior guard Sophia Webster. The Sachems constant pressure defenses limited the Eagles players’ movements and made it difficult to handle and pass the ball. They obtained few open shots, and many were rushed and off-balance, leading to multiple air balls or shots rolling off the rim. Ultimately, Tolland committed eight turnovers because of the pressure and the defender’s quick hands, miscues which would help fuel RHAM’s offensive attack.

On offense, the Sachems were inconsistent throughout the quarter. Kron kicked things off with a bang by drilling a three in the opening minute, but on the following few possessions the Eagles did a good job of forcing RHAM into tough shots inside. Barry put the team nine points ahead on two free throws with just over three minutes remaining. Teammates Samantha Bodey (junior guard) and Sydney Masna (senior forward) immediately followed with consecutive steals and graceful layups, putting the Sachems ahead 20-7 with 2:49 to go. Neither squad scored for the remainder of the half.

“After losing to Tolland the first time, we knew we wanted to pressure them more and worked on different defenses in preparation,” Moyer said. “Tonight, we were very tenacious and didn’t allow Tolland easy shots and were able to force them into some big mistakes that led to baskets.”

“Our defense was very active,” said Barry, who led the team with a career-high 18 points. “We knew the team would have to play good help defense to slow down Tolland, and everyone did so consistently. The turnovers we forced also allowed us to push the ball on offense like we wanted.”

“RHAM is a bigger team than us.  I feel like their post players did a great job of creating space,” Tolland head coach Vincent Cianfarini said. “We have had difficulty shooting this year.   It is constant focus in practice and will continue to be.”

RHAM’s offense began playing consistently well in the third quarter, allowing the team to put the game out of reach of the overmatched Eagles.  The attack was led by the inside duo of Barry and Masna. Barry scored two consecutive baskets to give the Sachems a 26-7 lead 1:51 in, the first on a put back and second at the rim on a pass by Masna from the top of the key. The senior was next with back-to-back fast break layups, the second set up by a steal. Bodey concluded the run by hitting a three from the left corner at 4:22 for a 33-7 lead. Junior forward Megan Enman ended Tolland’s long offensive drought by hitting a layup and jumper in the quarter’s final minutes, but Masna and junior guard Jordan Synodi matched her.

Throughout the third, RHAM pushed the tempo on offense and obtained open shots and easy baskets as a result. It also controlled the paint and significantly outrebounded Tolland, leading to second chance points and making it difficult for Eagles players to take good shots at the basket. The Sachems continued to play strong defense during the quarter, and Tolland’s extreme shooting struggles denied players the ability to space the floor efficiently.

“On offense, the girls played together and shared the ball well,” Moyer said. “We especially performed well inside and on the boards, and Anna was outstanding. Everyone contributed.”

“We moved the ball very well,” Barry said. “We wanted to push the ball consistently, and everyone made an emphasis of getting down the floor and to the basket. This allowed us to get fast breaks and score off the forced turnovers.”

The fourth quarter followed the same pattern as the first three, with RHAM obtaining easy scores at the basket and off rebounds and Tolland’s offense unable to get going against the stalwart Sachems. Barry scored the first eight points on put backs and fast breaks. Shea and Enman scored for Tolland.

In addition to Barry’s 18 points, Masna had a strong game with 10. The Eagles ended the night with 21 turnovers.

RHAM has seven games remaining and Tolland five. The Sachems have two challenging at South Windsor and one-loss Enfield next week, while the Eagles will battle a struggling Rockville team and then host Enfield on Feb. 6th.

“To continue to build momentum and end the regular season strong, we just need to keep playing good team defense and allow everyone to contribute on offense,” Barry said.

“This team works hard, and every team goes through patches of inconsistent play,” Cianfarini said. ”  We will put this loss behind us quickly and continue to work on shooting, playing tough defense, and building confidence for the stretch run of the season. Our tough schedule will only help us in the state tournament. We will be ready!”

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