Published December 06. 2012 4:00AM
Stonington - And so the guy who was dismissed during the offseason, then rehired, Fitch High School girls' basketball coach Dave Huber, was back on the sideline Wednesday night.
Red and black Fitch polo shirt. Gray slacks. Glasses. Hair a little ruffled. His distinctive voice booming throughout the Stonington High gymnasium.
"There's no reason to play 100 mph when we can play just as well at 75," Huber told his team during one timeout.
Upon a 3-pointer leaving the hands of sophomore guard Jaliyla Griffin with 47.8 seconds remaining in the first half: "Noooooo." Then changing his mind as it sailed through the net: "Yes!!!"
The Falcons are 1-0, too, beating Stonington 56-47 on opening day for girls' basketball in Connecticut, getting 14 points from Lexis Foster and 13 from Brittany Murphy.
"Are you kidding me?" Huber said, asked if he was happy to be back for his 16th opening day. "There's no place I'd rather be.
"And to have this game be against a great coach (Stonington's Paulla Solar) and a great program, I couldn't have scripted it better. This is a quality win."
Huber, who was told the program needed a "different voice," was asked not to return following last season, in which Fitch went 11-11 overall, 3-7 in a highly competitive Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division.
The Falcons made appearances in the ECC and Class L state tournaments.
The school went as far as to hire new coaches prior to the end of the school year. After his initial shock at the news, however, Huber, a 1984 Fitch graduate, made an inquiry as to why he was dismissed. He was subsequently rehired to a coaching job he has referred to as "my apex ... my UConn."
His task this season: to replace his two leading scorers from a year ago and integrate a number of underclassmen into the lineup.
On Wednesday, for instance, freshman Mackenzie Aldridge started the second quarter, helping Fitch outscore Stonington 20-1 in that eight-minute span to lead 28-13 at halftime.
That quarter, in which Stonington's Margot Calmar and freshman starter Tatyana LaFrance Boyce were forced to sit with three fouls apiece, proved to be the Bears' undoing.
At full force to start the second half, Stonington pulled within 36-29 on a pair of free throws by Falecia Cabral but the second quarter gave Fitch enough of a cushion to make mistakes of its own and still maintain close to a double-digit lead throughout.
The Bears got it to six with 33.8 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Mackensie Crowley, but Fitch's Erica Russell pretty much sealed things by hitting one of two free throws at the 30.3-second mark.
Cabral had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Stonington and Amanda Roy 11 points. LaFrance Boyce, who hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the game for the Bears' first points of the season, had six points, a team-best three assists and two steals in her debut.
"We dug ourselves into a 20-1 quarter," Stonington's Solar said. "I was proud of the way the kids came back. They didn't quit. But it's quite a deficit. And there was no need to be in such a situation."
Foster was injured with 3:25 left in the third quarter when she fell and hit her face on the floor, giving her a fat lip, but she came back in before the quarter's end and immediately scored to give Fitch a 44-32 lead.
"I've been working on a lot of post moves and staying strong down low," said Foster, who battled Stonington's post tandem of Cabral and Margot Calmar (5 rebounds). "(Stonington) has very good players.
"We have a lot to still work on, but I thought we still played a good game today."