STRATFORD—New Bunnell High girls basketball coach Francisco Salazar had a talk with senior point guard Amanda Zdru in the days leading up to Friday’s intra-town showdown against Stratford.
“I talked to her all week about how I’ve been scouting a lot of teams and certain teams that are really good have that one leader who takes over the game,” Salazar related. “We told her it was time for her to step it up.”
Against the arch-rival Red Devils, Zdru did just that, pouring in a career-high 27 points while outscoring Stratford single-handedly in Bunnell’s 56-26 win inside the Bulldogs’ soon-to-be-named gymnasium.
“She was very impressive last night,” Salazar said. “She’s my team leader, one of my captains. She’s taken it to hear and she’s doing her job.”
Zdru scored her points in a variety of ways, from three-point shots and foul shots to racing out for a series of fast-break layups that did the Red Devils in.
“I just let the adrenaline kick in and I let the game come to me,” Zdru said. “It feels really good to get this win because it’s my last time playing them on my home court.”
Midway through the second quarter, Bunnell only led 21-16 as Stratford—playing without its best player and lone senior Abby Anka—was hanging tough.
Foul trouble against Stratford and a change in Bunnell’s defensive philosophy kick-started a 10-0 half-closing run for the Bulldogs—with Zdru sinking six of Bunnell’s 10 points.
“We were figuring out their 2-3 (zone),” Stratford coach Kelsey Gilmore said. “I thought we started to figure it out and he changed up his defense and, at that point, we were in foul trouble and I had to sit a couple of players. Between the subs and that defense switch, that was it. But we were in it.”
Bunnell then opened the second half on a 16-3 run to blow the game open.
All told, Bunnell’s defense held Stratford to just 10 points over the final 20 minutes of the game.
“I’m always telling them to step it up,” Salazar said. “I saw Stratford was really winded and we changed it up to man for a while and they started turning the ball over. We went from man and switched it back to some different zones and the girls followed through with it.”
While Zdru’s 27 led the way, Mariana Trovarelli added 11 points, Yovanna Cruz had six and Toni Greene tallied five.
For Stratford, which slipped to 1-3, Juliette Macisco had eight points while Sydney Ritchie added seven more.
The Red Devils were playing without Anka, whose family booked an out-of-the-country holiday vacation before the CIAC released this year’s basketball schedule.
“We came into it saying next girl up,” Gilmore said.”Yes, Abby brings a lot to us and we missed having her today, but we’re more than just one player. We’re just a young team.”
Bunnell improved to 5-1 on the season, surpassing last year’s win total of four in the process.
“That’s really good,” Zdru said. “We were just talking about it in the locker room. We’re going for states and it’s a great start after last year, with those four wins. We’ve already beat that total.”
Salazar wasn’t having any of it, though.
He’s focused strictly on Brookfield, where the Bulldogs travel on Tuesday to take on the 3-2 Bobcats.
“As I’ve said before, we take one game a time,” Salazar said. “I scout these teams and we look at it one game. Ask me at the end of the season about (the win total).”
The win was Bunnell’s seventh straight over Stratford, dating back to Jan. 16, 2016, when the Red Devils bested the Bulldogs 43-25.
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