STRATFORD—The heartache of last year’s controversial loss in the Class M girls basketball semifinals still stings at Stratford resident Aniyah Pettway.
But the senior point guard from Kolbe Cathedral is totally focused on her final campaign on the hardwood and last Thursday night she returned to her hometown and helped lead the Cougars to a 61-32 win over Bunnell.
Pettway and teammate Brianna Meekins scored 19 points each to lead Kolbe to its seventh win in 10 games.
Bunnell fell to 7-4 with its third loss in four games.
“It’s pretty amazing to be out here,” said Pettway, who would have attended Bunnell if she hadn’t chosen to take the private school route after eighth grade. “I’m out here playing against my childhood best friend, Amanda Zdru. It’s fun to go head-to-head against them.”
Last season ended when a controversial foul—and even more controversial technical foul—cost the Cougars a shot at playing for the state championship in a 51-47 loss to eventual state champ Cromwell.
All Pettway is focused on, though, is this season.
“It’s very important to go out there and play hard,” she said. “I want to make sure my girls and my team are always going hard and we want to make it back to states.”
Against Bunnell, Kolbe dominated a seemingly tentative and not very aggressive Bulldogs team, grabbing a 13-7 lead after the first quarter and increasing to 26-9 at halftime.
While it appeared the Bulldogs might have been a bit intimidated by the “Kolbe” screen-printed on their opponents chest, at least one Bunnell player disagreed.
“I think effort was a huge factor,” said forward Adriana DeBernardo, who netted a team-high 12 points. We just didn’t show what we can do. They killed us on the boards and it was just effort. If we’re losing, I think we lose confidence.”
Bunnell coach Francisco Salazar said his team needs to be confident in itself every time it takes the floor, regardless of who the opponent might be.
“Personally, as a coach, I believe in my team,” he said. “I just told them, you can’t turn it on and off. You have to come out with the mentality that you believe in each other and we’re capable of competing against these teams.”
After the loss, Salazar said he still believes in his Bulldogs.
“I’m proud of them and I believe in them,” he said. “I don’t care if we’re playing the No. 1 team in the state or the New York Knicks, I just want us to go out there and compete as hard as we can.
“We’re in a slump right now, but we’re a young team,” Salazar added. “We’re still learning from each other and our experience is showing a bit.”
Zdru added nine points for Bunnell, who host that No. 1 team in the state in Notre Dame-Fairfield on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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