STRATFORD—This time around, the Bunnell girls basketball team wasn’t going to let a big second-half lead slip away.
The Bulldogs used a torrid-shooting first half to build a 38-point halftime lead against arch-rival Stratford, and then tried to cruise through a second half en route to its fourth win of the season.
The visiting Red Devils, however, stormed back to get within 14 mid-way through the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs went back to its starters to post a 59-39 win inside the Bunnell Gym on Tuesday night.
It was the Bulldogs’ second win over the Red Devils this season, a year in which the Bunnell group hasn’t quite reached its full potential.
“I have to get away from that,” Bunnell coach Cheri Eleazer said. “Everybody says, ‘You beat Stratford,’ and that’s great, but we want more. We have to get away from just beating Stratford. That’s my goal.”
Bunnell raced out to an 11-0 lead before Stratford even got on the board.
By the end of the first quarter, it was 20-6, Bulldogs.
The hosts then held Stratford to just one basket in the second quarter while throwing up 26 more points to take a 46-8 lead at the break.
“We brought out our best in that first half,” said Bunnell junior guard Amanda Zdru, who scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the first half. “We were able to finish, and I think we’re playing our best basketball in a while.”
Jasmine St. Clair added 13 points to the winning effort, 11 of which came in the first half.
“The shots just fell,” Eleazer said. “And (the Red Devils) weren’t able to buy a basket. That’s basketball.”
All the Bulldogs played a key role in the first half, including Kristin Zack, who had all six of her points, and Adrianna DeBernado, who netted all five of hers.
Brianna Ramos, Maura Kelly and Aly Wright all scored in the first half, too.
The Bulldogs were only called for one foul in the first half, as well.
Stratford, which was led by Abby Anka’s 15 points, was playing its third game in five days, with just one practice, and appeared fatigued from the get-go.
“We had a short practice on Saturday and that was it,” Stratford coach Laura Discenza said. “We have such small numbers of kids to begin with, plus we’re young. It’s a hard ticket with kids this young.”
The Red Devils were also without a starter Keryna Upchurch (hand injury) and lost another, Lyna Upchurch, when she banged her head off the floor in the second quarter.
“It was tough in the first half, but you have to have the mentality to be able to push through things like that,” Anka said. “We did that in the second half.”
In fact, in the second half, Stratford stormed back, but the hole was just too big.
They scored the first eight points of the second half and chipped away until the Bunnell lead was down to 51-37 with 3:54 to play.
The Red Devils also had a possession where it could have cut the lead to 12, as well.
After that, Eleazer brought back in four of her starters to make sure the game didn’t slip away as it had against Immaculate, when a 17-point lead turned into a four-point loss last week.
“Especially because of what happened in our last game,” Eleazer said. “They were just sucking in the energy of the Stratford bench and getting too amped up, instead of relaxing. I had to put a few pieces of the puzzle back in ther to get it to subside a little bit.”
Discenza had left her team in the locker room for a heart-to-heart before the start of the third quarter.
“We just didn’t wake up,” the first-year coach said.
Anka and her teammates, however, pledged to make the second half a different story.
“We knew we had to sort things out really quickly and we had to bring the intensity,” Anka said. “They ended the half thinking they had it in the bag and we had to come out stronger. We beat their intensity in the second half, I think.”
Julia Torreso added eight points for Stratford, which dropped to 6-12 with two games remaining.
BUNNELL 59, STRATFORD 39
Kairyn Jiminez 0 0-0 0, Sami Perley 0 0-0 0, Julia Torreso 4 0-2 8, Abby Anka 7 0-0 15, Sydney Ritchie 2 0-0 4, Julie Carbone 1 0-0 2, Juliette Macisco 3 0-2 6, Serena Mbachiantim 2 0-0 4, Lyna Upchurch 0 0-0 0, Alli Diaz 0 0-0 0, Totals 19 0-4 39
Amanda Zdru 9 4-7 22, Jasmine St. Clair 5 2-2 13, Maura Kelly 2 0-0 4, Kristin Zack 3 0-0 6, Brianna Ramos 1 0-0 2, Aly Wright 2 0-0 4, Adrianna DeBernardo 2 1 2 5, Yvemalya Germain 0 0-0 0, Toni Greene 0 0-0 0, Mariana Trovarelli 1 0-0 3, Totals 25 7-11 59
STRATFORD 6 2 18 13–39
BUNNELL 20 26 5 8—59
3-pointers: S—Anka; B–Trovarelli, St. Clair; Team Records: Stratford 6-12, Bunnell 4-14.