ROOTSTOWN - The Maplewood Rockets defense was tenacious, intimidating and the key component to a 58-22 victory over the Southington Wildcats in a Divsion IV sectional final at Rootstown High School.
In the first quarter, the Rockets created 12 turnovers, which helped lead to a 19-3 first quarter run as they took a 19-5 lead at the end of the period. Maplewood's Amanda Henderlight scored seven points in the quarter and Miranda Sloan added six points.
In the first 3:30 into the second quarter, Maplewood put together a 9-2 run, an overall 28-7 spurt going back to the 5:30 mark in the first quarter. The Rockets led 34-10 at halftime and forced 19 total first half turnovers - 31 overall in the game. Maplewood head coach Mark Yoder liked what he saw from his girls on defense.
"I thought we played good, sound, fundamental defense," Yoder said. "Our positioning was really well on our man-to-man and in our match-up zone. That's what I liked the most about the game."
Turnovers, which plagued Southington in the loss, is something Wildcats head coach Melissa Wilthew said the team needs to work on going into next season.
"We've been struggling with turnovers all season," Wilthew said. "We played a lot better in the first quarter in this game than the last time we played Maplewood. Sometimes we're our own worst enemy with turnovers."
Shelby Cameron led Southington with eight points. Despite the loss, and overall tough season, Wilthew is looking ahead to next year.
"I put some younger girls on the floor and got them some experience," Wilthew said. "We just have to comeback and work harder for next year. We're going to come back stronger next year. We'll be competitive. It'll be fun."
Maplewood's Allison Bell led the team with 14 points and Sloan added 10. The Rockets' Brooke Dawson scored 12 and grabbed seven rebounds. Dawson liked the team's intensity and said it is essential in the game against Bristol on Thursday.
"We (Maplewood) were all really excited for tournaments, it was an adrenaline thing, we pushed the ball against Southington and it worked" Dawson said. "We have to press Bristol. We should be able to force turnovers again and push the ball, we're faster than them."
Coach Yoder said that when Maplewood faces Bristol in the Division IV district semifinals, he anticipates a great battle.
"This will be our third game against them (Bristol) this year," Yoder said. "Bristol played us really tough the last time we played them. It's going to be a hard fought battle. We're looking forward to that contest."
Maplewood and Bristol will play Thursday at Rootstown High School. Tipoff starts at 7:30 p.m.