Bunnell's Mariana Trovarelli led the Bulldogs to their 10th win of the season, 47-24, over Stratford on Monday. (File photo by John Nash)

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Trovarelli (15 points) leads Bunnell past Stratford

STRATFORD—While first-year Bunnell girls basketball coach ​Francisco Salazar did not target a specific win total as a ​goal for his team, he is thrilled with the progress the ​Bulldogs have made under his guidance. ​​

Mariana Trovarelli scored 15 points as Bunnell continued its ​turnaround season Monday with a 47-24 victory over cross-town ​rival Stratford at the Needham Gym.​

​Trovarelli also made three of six 3-pointers for the ​Bulldogs, who improved to 10-8, moving one step closer to their​ first winning season since 2009-10 after going 4-16 a year ​ago.​

​Bunnell also kept alive its hopes of making the South-West​ Conference playoffs, although it began the day two games behind​ Brookfield and New Milford for the final spot.​

​The Bulldogs host New Milford on Friday before concluding the​ regular season next Tuesday at Barlow.​​

“I’m ecstatic,” said Salazar, who took the job only three days​ before the start of the season. “I’m so grateful Bunnell hired​ me. I’m so pleased with the girls. ​

​”They believe in what I coach. You couldn’t anything from a ​team but that, to respond. A team reflects the coach, and I’m ​intense and they play just the way I am. My passion is there​ and they’re playing with passion. I’m happy as a clam right ​now.” ​

​Amanda Zdru, Adriana DeBernardo and Andrea Serreti each ​added eight points for the Bulldogs, who never trailed after​ Stratford (3-14) scored the first basket of the game.​

​According to Salazar, the Bulldogs have had a tendency this​ season to start slowly if they don’t practice the day before a​ game and he felt that again was the case Monday.​

Stratford’s zone did keep the Bulldogs mostly of the perimeter​ in the first quarter, but a trio of treys—one each by ​ Trovarelli, Serreti, DeBernardo—staked Bunnell to a 13-3​ after the opening eight minutes.​

​The Bulldogs never looked back, extending the margin to 26-11​ at the half.​

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs got their transition game​ going and attacked the basket, building a 23-5 lead on ​consecutive fast-break layups by Zdru with 4:05 left in the half.

Bunnell swept the season series against Stratford, defeating ​the Red Devils 56-26 at home on Jan. 3.​​

Stratford was not at full strength for either game, missing​ Abby Anka,  who was away, in their earlier meeting. On​ Monday, the Red Devils were without Samantha Perley, one of​ the team’s top ballhandlers who was sidelined with the flu.​

​Anka paced Stratford with nine points on Monday.​

​”Did we miss Sammy tonight, absolutely, just like we missed​ Abby the first time we played them,” Stratford coach Kelsey​ Gilmore said. ​”Whether we had Sammy or not tonight, we got off to a slow ​start tonight and unfortunately we just could never quite ​recover. ​​

“We started moving the ball around much better in the second ​half, but at that point, it was just a little too late.” ​​

A three-pointer by Alyssa Diaz with 11 seconds left in the​ period got the Red Devils into double figures and accounted​ for the halftime score. ​​

The Bulldogs limited Stratford to just four points in the third​ quarter, extending their margin to 35-15, then opened their​ biggest lead at 45-19 midway through the final period.​

“Our game is defense, doubling, stealing and making layups and​ getting the threes once we get hot,” Salazar said. “I thought​ we started a little sluggish but they responded with their​ defense.”​​

Stratford, which started three sophomores Monday, is back in​ action on Thursday at Platt Tech before closing the season ​with a pair of home games against Brookfield on Friday and​ Masuk next Tuesday.​​

“That’s the whole process,” Gilmore said. “That’s what we​ keep telling the girls, if you keep believing in the process,​ if you keep working hard, hopefully in two or three years ​we’ll be on the other end of these games.”​​

Monday marked the final time the Bulldogs and Red Devils played​ at Needhan Gym as Stratford with have a new gym ready for next​ season

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