WETHERSFIELD 62, ANNAWAN 43
ANNAWAN — Through the first half of the prep girls’ basketball season, Brittney Litton has been the proverbial scoring machine for the Wethersfield Lady Geese.
But when early foul trouble and a tight first-quarter defensive effort by Annawan forced the senior guard to the bench without a shot taken, there were others to pick up the slack for the Geese in Monday night’s battle of Lincoln Trail Conference rivals.
The junior duo of Lexi Nichols and Brooke Cheesman combined to score 13 of Wethersfield’s 15 first-period points, fueling an 11-0 run to close the quarter. The Bravettes continued to hang close for nearly three quarters, but the Geese opened up a 12-point lead entering the fourth and pulled away to a 62-43 victory.
“Brooke and I were in the gym shooting earlier, and I think that helped in this game,” said Nichols, who scored 14 of her 20 points in the first half and added five rebounds and three steals. “We played a real good game as a team. This win gives us a higher seed for the LTC tourney, plus we haven’t beaten Annawan in some time, so this feels good.”
Monday’s win was not only a good bounce-back game for Wethersfield (12-8, 2-2 LTC) after a conference loss at Stark County to open the 2019 portion of its schedule, it marked the first time the Geese bested the Bravettes (10-7, 1-3) in nearly three years, when the teams ended up sharing the conference title.
“We’ve had four home games out of 20 so far, so we’re starting to get used to playing in tough environments,” said Wethersfield coach Todd Hansen. “Stark County was tough, and this is among the toughest places to play in. Hopefully this road-warrior mentality gets us ready for the postseason.”
After Annawan reeled off six straight points to grab an early 9-4 lead, Wethersfield dug in and rattled off seven straight to go up 11-9 as Cheesman scored all five of her points in the first quarter. With Nichols adding eight points in the opening eight minutes, the Geese were up 15-9 after one.
“Brooke was huge,” said Hansen. “She nailed the shots to get us back in the game, especially with Brittney having to sit down for a little bit.”
Down by six early in the second quarter, the Bravettes rallied. With Emily Miller scoring six of her nine points in the second stanza, the hosts drew even at 25-all on an Emily Jagers 3-pointer with 1:45 left before halftime. A Miller bucket with just over a minute left forged a 27-27 tie, but buckets by Nichols and Litton in that final minute gave the Geese a 31-27 halftime edge.
With Litton delivering 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals and Tess Anderson adding 10 boards, Wethersfield continued to turn up the heat in the second half, gradually building a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter. Annawan got back within seven at 40-33, but a pair of Gabi Robinson buckets re-ignited Wethersfield as it took a 49-37 lead into the final period.
“I thought we played with the most energy we’ve had all year, which was good to see,” said Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz. “The message to the girls tonight was that we were a little late with it. If we’d played with that kind of energy all year, we’d be in a better place, chemistry-wise.”
Any hopes of an Annawan comeback were dashed by the combination of a 9-0 Wethersfield start to the fourth quarter and the Bravettes missing their first six shots of the period. Kaley Peterson led the hosts with 12 points, with Miller and Keagan Rico each scoring nine and Ella Manuel adding six rebounds and three steals.
“Wethersfield played well; they played to their strengths,” said Burkiewicz. “Litton and Nichols are two of the best players in the LTC, and they’re difficult to guard. I thought Reese (Randall) did a great job on Litton playing man-to-man (early in the game), but we couldn’t keep up that pace.”