Lady Panthers finish regular season undefeated

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Wed., Feb. 15, 2012
E.O.'s Morgan Olander battles Tolland's Jacqui Foreman (l) and Jenna Lovett for a rebound. Photos by Melanie Savage.
E.O.'s Morgan Olander battles Tolland's Jacqui Foreman (l) and Jenna Lovett for a rebound. Photos by Melanie Savage.

How important was it for the E.O. Smith girls to finish their basketball season undefeated? “Not that important,” said coach Kirk Murad, before the final game of the regular season on Feb. 13.  “Well,” he reconsidered, “they want to win every game.”

But Smith was facing a rematch against Tolland for their final game of the season. “This is a very, very good team,” said Murad. The first meeting was a hard-fought victory for Smith, and more of a struggle for the Panthers than the 62-51 final score might indicate.

“We’re just going to go out there and have fun,” said Tolland Coach Rocco Sansone.

There was top-notch defense from both sides from the get-go. So good, in fact, that there wasn’t a single point scored until nearly halfway through the first quarter. The Panthers started with Murphy Murad, Morgan Olander, Taylor Vonasek, Alexa Manaskie and Ashley Forand.

After the first basket was scored by Tolland, with 4:44 on the clock, Tolland quickly went up by seven points. It was Holly Worski, who came into the game with a ton of energy, who put E.O. Smith on the scoreboard, hitting a three-pointer which was quickly followed by a breakaway layup by Murad. Two good free throws by Forand tied the game up at 7-7. A layup by Vonasek put the Panthers ahead at the end of the first quarter.

E.O. Smith was ahead by a score of 19-20 going into halftime. Forand did most of the scoring for Smith during the second half, hitting a three-pointer, two twos, and seven out of eight free throws. The final score was 41-47, giving E.O. Smith their final win in an undefeated regular season.

“I couldn’t tell you who scored,” said Murad after the game. “But we know we want the ball in Ashley’s hands in the end, because she’ll make the right decision.”

Murad gave his opponents a lot of credit. “If we’re number one, Tolland is number two,” he said. “We’re playing good, solid defense, they’re playing good, solid offense. I can’t say how proud I am of my kids on the defensive end. Our shots weren't falling, but they never gave up on the defensive end. We gutted one out."

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