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Sophomore Jamie Sacco and the Westbrook girls’ basketball team defeated Old Saybrook by a 40-36 final in a home game on Jan. 30. Sacco scored 14 points in the victory and currently leads the Knights in scoring this season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Sadie Susie scored 18 points to lead Westbrook to a 40-36 home win versus Old Saybrook last week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Lexi Koplas and Westbrook girls’ hoops split last week’s games by taking a 60-38 loss against Valley Regional and a earning 40-36 victory versus Old Saybrook. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Westbrook girls’ basketball team is beginning to pick up momentum, as well as some wins, during the second half of its season. The Knights got out to a tough start by winning just one of their first nine games, but have since won three of six to improve to 4-11 on the campaign. Last week, Westbrook split a pair of Shoreline Conference contests by losing to Valley Regional and defeating Old Saybrook. First-year Head Coach Frank Lyon is working with his young squad to make some major strides for this season and seasons to come.
On Jan. 30, Westbrook had a big game against Shoreline rival Old Saybrook and earned a 40-36 victory over the Rams. It was another important win as the Knights feature an array of underclass athletes with only three seniors and one junior on the roster. Head Coach Frank Lyon has seen plenty of growth from Westbrook’s players, and that has contributed to the team’s recent success.
“We are a young group. I think we’ll have more success with more experience on the court. They’ve been playing well together, and that has been huge,” said Lyon..” For a lot of these players basketball is their second or third sport. Their basketball IQ has grown so much this year. They are figuring it out on the court and responding.”
Old Saybrook’s only lead of the game was after the Rams scored the first basket to make it 2-0. Then Westbrook went on a 9-2 run go ahead for good. After the first quarter, Westbrook had a 15-6 lead, and by halftime that advantage only shrank slightly at 20-12. Old Saybrook fought back in the third quarter to eat into the Knights’ lead at 33-28. In the fourth quarter, the Rams trimmed it to three with five seconds left, but the Knights secured the win with a successful free throw.
Westbrook was in command the entire game thanks to an outstanding first-quarter effort. Coach Lyon enjoyed watching his athletes put it all together on the court for eight minutes. Unfortunately, the offense went cold for a large portion of the second quarter, but sophomore Sadie Susi eventually got the crowd cheering and the Knights going in the right direction with a big offensive play.
“We probably played one of our better quarters of the year in the first. We were up 15-6 after one,” Lyon said. “Then, we went ice cold in the second. We had seven minutes where we didn’t score a point. We were stuck on 15 with a 1:30 left in the half. Sadie Susi broke the cold streak with a four-point play and that got the fans into it. It was our Pink Night so it was a strong turnout with all the proceeds going to breast cancer awareness.”
Susi had a huge game leading Westbrook’s scoring attack with 18 points. The sophomore has really started to hit her stride recently, and that corresponded with some big performances.
“Sadie’s last two games have been a big breakthrough for her,” Lyon said. “She had a season high of 11 against Valley Tuesday. Then she surpassed that season high with 18 against Old Saybrook.”
Another big contributor against the Rams was the Knights’ leading scorer this season, sophomore Jamie Sacco, who had 14 points. The two sophomore guards combined for 32 of Westbrook’s 40 points.
“Jamie Sacco is definitely our main threat offensively. She’s averaging 18 points a game. She caught the league by storm, but now other teams are preparing for her. So she has to do a better job of moving off the basketball and moving off screens. The last couple of games, teams have really put the focus on her and that’s opening up the floor for other players, and they’re taking advantage.”
The Knights got the rest of their points from senior captain Callie Newberg (4) and sophomore Alexandra Zanzarlari (4).
Westbrook enjoys the leadership of two senior captains in Newberg and Lexi Koplas this year. Both players are committed to keeping the team together and have plenty of experience as three-sport athletes.
“Callie and Lexi are both tri-athletes, and they have been great on and off the court this year,” Lyon said. “We have a young group of girls and they are both very good at keeping them motivated and leading the team by example.”
Earlier in the week, Westbrook lost a 60-38 road contest against Valley Regional on Jan. 28. The Knights played solid in the first half, but were unable to maintain the intensity through the rest of the game. Valley posted a 15-8 lead after the first quarter, but Westbrook nearly even the score by halftime with the Warriors leading 25-24. Valley pulled away in the third with a 21-8 frame and the Knights were unable to close the gap en route to the 50-38 defeat.
Even though the result of the game wasn’t in Westbrook’s favor, Coach Lyon saw the positives during the first half.
“Our second quarter against Valley had been the best we played the year, until that first quarter against Old Saybrook,” said Lyon. “We’re six or seven players deep on some nights, and we just ran out of gas in the second half. The first half we played inspired basketball. We’re playing for each other and that’s great to see.”
Coach Lyon knows that his team has plenty of work to do, but he wants the Knights to keep pushing. All season, Lyon has seen the team have success in stretched, and it’s just a matter of being more consistent. With the postseason still a possibility for Westbrook, Coach Lyon knows his team will be running all the way through the finish line.
“The winning mentality is getting there. It’s about having fun and winning games while you’re doing it,” said Lyon. “We have four wins with five games left. The girls knowing that they can compete with some of the teams in the Shoreline has definitely helped in them in their development.”
From the Sidelines
The Westbrook girls’ basketball team’s roster includes senior captains Lexi Koplas and Callie Newberg; senior Maria Dias; junior Emma Parkhurst; sophomores Gabriella Koplas, Jami Sacco, Gianni Salisbury, Sadie Susi, Alexandra Zanzalari; and freshmen Olivia Bernard, Micheka Cieri, Ava Kaluski, Tatina Ortega, Angelina Rojas, Gabriella Spash, and Adriana Stranieri.
Frank Lyon is in his first season as head coach of the Westbrook girls’ basketball team. Lyon’s assistant coach is his longtime friend and former East Haven teammate Jeff Petrillo.
For the remainder of the season, the Knights will play home games against Old Lyme and Portland (Senior Night). Westbrook is also playing road contests versus Hale-Ray, Norwich Tech, and East Hampton.
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