RHAM Girls Rout Tolland to Stay Undefeated

TOLLAND-Just under a month ago, RHAM defeated CCC rival Tolland soundly in its second game of the season. Wednesday night at Tolland, the Sachems arguably improved on the performance, suffocating the Eagles offense while playing very efficient offensive basketball themselves in the 54-27 victory.

RHAM immediately came out in attack mode and took control of the game in the first quarter, scoring the opening 12 points and earning a lead of 18-2.

“We like to come out and show a lot of energy, and the girls did,” head coach Keith Moyer said. “They played hard and executed well on both ends, the press defense worked and we moved the ball pretty well.”

With the triumph, RHAM improves to 9-0 on the season and maintains its number one spot in its conference division and the Class L standings. Tolland falls to 6-4, losing its third consecutive game.

The Sachems were the more athletic and skilled team from the opening tip. The press defense pressured the shaky Eagles into difficult passes and shots, not allowing them to discover room to shoot or passing lanes. Tolland committed multiple turnovers which led to RHAM points, and made circumstances more difficult by missing occasional open shots.

Meanwhile, the RHAM offense was also outstanding. It consistently played at a fast tempo and players moved the ball to one another very well, resulting in successful open shots. The Sachems demonstrated the ability to score easily both from the perimeter and inside, with their speed and strength especially paying off in the second space.

“Entering the first quarter, we knew we had to come out ready and give it everything we want to win,” senior guard Gretchen Kron said.

“We play Tolland a lot and always know they’re going to come out to play, so we have to come out playing at 100 percent every time,” senior guard Lia Baroncini said.

In the second quarter, RHAM continued to play high-quality defense and make it difficult for Tolland to move the ball between the paint and perimeter. The Sachems bigs did a particularly strong job of interfering with Eagles shots around the basket and earning a large majority of rebounds. Ultimately, Tolland had only11 points at halftime, including no players with multiple field goals.

“We’ve prided ourselves on our defense since the first game. We used tonight to really focus on every aspect of it,” Baroncini said.

“We really use our defense to pick up the intensity our entire game. It’s one of the best components of our team,” Kron said.

While the Eagles defense played better in the second, RHAM was still able to score 14 points to take a 32-11 halftime lead. These came off the team’s ability to pass the ball efficiently and find open shooters on the perimeter as well as scoring space around the rim, where the team also drew multiple shooting fouls. As the second wore on, the Sachems clearly tired the Tolland defense and forced it to be overly aggressive, for better and worse.

Tolland played its best basketball in the third, outscoring RHAM 12-9. The Eagles did a more efficient job of passing the ball and moving without it to find open shots, and finally displayed a better touch from the field, including on consecutive three pointers to end the quarter. On defense, Tolland better pressured Sachems ball handlers and forced them into multiple sloppy passes and poor shots.

In the fourth quarter, any chance of Tolland making the losing score closer quickly evaporated. RHAM outside scored it 13-4 in the eight minutes. The Sachems returned to doing a better job of reversing the ball against the clearly tired Eagles defense, leading to open shots all around the quart. The offense did an especially strong job of scoring inside, where it obtained multiple second-chance points. On defense, RHAM controlled the ball and tightly guarded the cold THS shooters.

The Sachems had nine different players score, led by Kron’s 16. Senior guard Sophia Webster led the Eagles with 6.

Moyer discussed the balance and depth his offense has been displaying.

“The girls are very unselfish and will give up the ball to someone who is open,” Moyer said. “We don’t have high scorers, but instead a balanced scoring team. Also, when our defense forces misses or turnovers, we like to get out and share the ball on the break.”

Starting next week, RHAM’s schedule will become more difficult, with a game at heated rival Enfield, currently 8-1, next Friday, and a contest at one-loss Farmington a week later. Moyer and his players discussed what the team must do to maintain its success and even improve in the second half of the season.

“I think we need to fine-tune a lot of things. The girls are ultimately responsible for their level of play, and they push each other,” Moyer said.

“We know we have a target on our back, so we just need to show up to each game like everything is on the line and put it all out there”, Baroncini said.

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