Manchester girls' basketball aims for return to state tournament

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Dec. 12, 2013
John Reiser is 239-66 overall entering his 13th season as head coach of the varsity girls' basketball team. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
John Reiser is 239-66 overall entering his 13th season as head coach of the varsity girls' basketball team. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

Coach John Reiser and the Manchester High School girls' varsity basketball team found themselves in an unfamiliar place at the end of last season – out of the state tournament. Reiser, entering his 13th season at MHS, had made the tournament every year with the Indians. 

With 25-plus years of coaching on his resumé, Reiser said it's been more than 20 years since one of his teams didn't make it to the state tournament. With a 6-14 record last season, the team did not qualify. But despite last year's record, the program has plenty of tradition to build upon.

“We've done well here,” said Reiser. “We average 20 wins a year for 12 years, even with that six wins [last year], so we've been pretty successful and fortunate," he said, adding that last year was a tough thing to go through.

There is one returning starter, senior forward/center Makenna Carella, from last year's team. Carella is the captain for this year's team, which will rely heavily on contributions from underclassmen. 

During a recent scrimmage on Thursday, Dec. 5, at home against Hall, Reiser started Carella and four sophomores. Despite their youth, Reiser said this group of sophomores has varsity experience from last year including point guard Natalie Pacheco who started a number of games last season. “We won the last two games with her as our point guard,” said Reiser.

In addition to Carella and Pacheco, Reiser said his other main five players are sophomore forward Paige Montgomery, sophomore guard Sierra Glasgow and sophomore forward Kyla Purnell. Freshmen guard Chyanne Walker, forward Katelyn Vazquez and sophomore transfer guard Kyra Starks will also see significant playing time. 

“Hopefully as we get going we'll be 10 deep,” said Reiser. “Right now I'm hoping to get that eight going, and we will.”

Reiser said the team will continue to play aggressive defense and utilize a full-court press. “That's our style and I think that generates things offensively,” said Reiser. The one down-side of this approach is that it requires a lot of energy which is taxing on a team with a tight rotation. “We'll probably have to pick our spots and save ourselves a little bit until we develop depth and we can extend it for a long period of time,” said Reiser.

Reiser said the goal for this season is to earn at least eight wins, which would qualify them for a return to the state tournament. “I think if we finish about .500, that's a pretty solid year for us being so young and with our schedule so difficult.”

The team opens the season on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Southington and their home opener is slated for Friday, Dec. 13, at home against Glastonbury. 

Both Southington and Glastonbury met in the CCC final last year. “That's a tough start for us, but hopefully we make adjustments and we have enough time to correct some of those things,” said Reiser, who enters the season with a 239-66 record at MHS. 

Reiser has an overall record of 407-189 over 25 seasons as a head coach.

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