Friday, March 2, 2018

Eagles stun Mustangs, fly into first state quarterfinal

Wolcott freshman Adriana Ferrucci had 15 points and several big plays
in a stunning 52-49 comeback win over Immaculate. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Wolcott girls basketball team slammed the door on conventional wisdom on Thursday night, and their reward is the program's first-ever trip to a state quarterfinal.
The No. 23 Eagles -- that low a seed normally doesn't host a state game -- trailed the No. 26 Immaculate Mustangs 49-44 with 3:34 remaining in their Class M second round game inside the John H. Morris Gymnasium.
Wolcott was in trouble, but the three freshmen, one sophomore and one senior on the floor didn't play like it. The effort they displayed looked more like something a cast of seasoned seniors would put together. That effort led to an 8-0 game-closing run and a stunning 52-49 victory.
"And they all stepped up," head coach Marty DiTuccio said of his team. "I can't believe how they stepped up."
It was freshman Adriana Ferrucci who scored back-to-back baskets to get the Eagles to 49-48 with 1:17 on the clock. It was freshman Alison LeClerc who alertly grabbed a loose rebound and got the ball back in the reliable hands of senior Raven Cody (game-high 20 points). It was freshman Emiah Soto who drove baseline and gave Wolcott a 51-49 lead.
"She's incredible," DiTuccio said of Soto. "She's got no fear, and she handles the ball like a senior."
And it was Ferrucci who dove on a loose ball and allowed the Eagles to get a timeout with 12.6 seconds to go.
Cody sank another free throw after that timeout, and when a final Immaculate shot went long, Wolcott had the victory.
"That was just unbelievable, an unbelievable game," DiTuccio said.
The freshmen helped make sure the seniors who played in the game -- Raven Cody, Sam Hickey and Alayna Greene -- have another one to look forward to.
Wolcott fell behind 10-1 in the first quarter, but started to get back into the game behind Cody and sophomore Kailyn Lawlor. The pair combined for all 13 of the Eagle first quarter points (Cody 8, Lawlor 5). Cody nearly sent the partisan crowd into a frenzy when her shot from about 65 feet rimmed out at the first quarter buzzer.
In the second quarter, Ferrucci asserted herself with eight points. Cody had six points, and LeClerc also got involved in the scoring with five, including a big three-point play that put Wolcott ahead 34-29 at halftime. Lawlor contributed four points in the quarter.
Foul trouble became a factor in the third quarter with Lawlor fouling out, and Immaculate rallied. An 8-1 Mustang run, capped by a three-point play from Marcella Daily, put the visitors ahead 37-35 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Immaculate went ahead by four before Cody hit two foul shots and sophomore Kalani Rodriguez buried a shot from the wing to tie the game at 42. The Mustangs hit a free throw and led 43-42 after three quarters.
Ferrucci made two foul shots for a 44-43 Wolcott lead with 6:21 to play in the fourth quarter, but Immaculate quickly took over. Back-to-back fast break baskets by Mackenzie O'Rourke and a drive from Caroline Wax had the Mustangs ahead 49-44 with 4:47 to play.
The Eagles appeared to be in trouble, and DiTuccio sensed it. Lawlor encouraged all on the floor to give everything they had, and a team effort made sure Wolcott came up with the rally it needed for victory.
"These kids played their hearts out, they all made plays on the floor," DiTuccio said.
When you're down and your season is on the line, that's all a coach can ask for.
Wolcott will face No. 2 East Haven next Monday at 7 p.m. in East Haven. Regardless of what happens in that game, the Eagles have made history, and they did so in a way that will be remembered for a long time.

PHOTOS: Click here to see my images from the game.

STORY: And here's what I wrote for The Hoop Zone.

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