MADISON — The shots were dropping and confidence was brimming as the young Southington girls basketball team made its bid for a first-round upset.
But by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the reversal was complete for 12th-seeded Daniel Hand.
Calm, effective execution deteriorated and a Southington squad dominated by underclassmen could only file it under lessons learned.
Hand used control of the backboards, a stingy second-half zone defense and a lethal fast break to end the season for No. 21 Southington, 57-37, in a CIAC Class LL tournament contest Monday night at the Tigers’ gym.
Southington (12-9) scored the game’s first 10 points and held that margin through the first quarter. Kaitlin Paterson had a hot hand with 10 of her 13 points over the first eight minutes. She also had an assist and two steals.
But Hand (18-6) stepped up its defense and the shots that were falling off the rim began finding the twine. By the time the final horn sounded, the Tigers clawed out a 30-point advantage over the final three quarters.
“In the second half we didn’t knock down shots,” Southington coach Mike Forgione said. “We were short a lot. We had decent looks in the third quarter, but couldn’t convert. When you play a good team like Hand, you’ve got to knock down shots and we didn’t do that.”
The glass belonged to Hand. Cassidy Wygonik and Geena Catalano, two 5-foot-11 juniors, combined for 22 rebounds, while 5-10 Southington sophomore Natalie Wadolowski (10 points, 10 rebounds) had more than 40 percent of her team’s retrievals.
“The girls know you’ve got to get a body on them,” Forgione said. “Once you look up it’s too late and Hand made us pay.”
Yet the Knights managed to carry a 24-20 lead into halftime.
“We did exactly what we needed to do in the first half,” Forgione said. “We even withstood their run in the second quarter, but the pressure got to us. We’re a young team and I hope we can learn from it.”
The game started getting away late in the third quarter and the Knights totally unwound in the fourth.
Although Nicole Fischer scored the lone Southington field goal over the first half of the third period, Hand led by just a point with 1:32 left. The Knights trailed 32-29 with a quarter to go.
Southington, which dressed only 10 varsity players and often sticks to a rotation of six, began to show signs of fatigue and Hand coach Tim Tredwell substituted liberally.
By the time Southington scored in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had run off 12 points and had the game well under control.
Ten Tigers got into the scoring column compared to just four for Southington. Sophie Joel led the way with 12. Catalano had 10, Wygonik nine and freshman Gabrielle Martin seven off the bench in an impressive stint.
Forgione can now look ahead to alleviating his depth problem with a talented group of incoming freshmen.
Seniors Sarah Mongillo and Emily Bonomi played in their final games for the Knights.