NAUGATUCK — The Rockets swept the Panthers in a best-of-three series to claim the Lil Pal girls basketball title at City Hill Middle School. The champions needed a late run to secure the title last Friday much like they did in Game 1.
The Rockets turned it on in the fourth period last Thursday to win Game 1, 23-13. Molly Kennedy did most of the damage, scoring 12 points for the Rockets.
The Panthers showed some grit in Friday’s Game 2, holding a 15-14 lead heading into the final period. The Rockets came out in the final stanza and ripped off an 8-0 run to take over the game.
The champs went on to outscore the Panthers 22-8 in the fourth quarter to win the title, 36-23.
“Give the Panthers credit,” winning coach Mike Klimaszewski said. “They played with the heart of champions. They were the toughest team we faced all season. But we finally got our defense going in that last period. We were able to start winning the rebound battle and that gave us the extra looks to get our shots to start falling. I’m so proud of the girls’ effort in that last period.”
Panthers coach Rick Pelliccia had his girls ready to battle as Julia Pelliccia led the way with eight points. Gabriella Carrelo threw down four points with Cameron Diaz, Alissa McNeil, Alexis Woods, Skylar Thompson and Hailey Deitlebaum scoring baskets for the Panthers and Evelyn Diaz leading the rebounding effort.
The Panthers’ B-squad of Emily Kropo, Emily Wingard and Jamie Trumbley helped the team maintain its lead going into the final period.
Kennedy (eight points) took one coast-to-coast on a steal to put the Rockets ahead for good to start the fourth period. Allison Klimaszewski (10 points) nailed two free throws and Kelly Murphy (four points) threw in a put-back.
The game-changer really took place when Kennedy hit both ends of a one-and-one on successive trips down the floor to open up a commanding 26-15 lead with 4:41 to go.
Points from Haileigh Sigetti, Olivia Saad and Lindsay Sigetti helped to tie the game three times but it was the first extended lead for the Rockets. Christina Caruso and Emma Healy knocked down shots in the last period and just in case the Panthers had a notion of getting back in the game Carissa Hensley took care of that with a pair of put-backs.
Strong efforts from Monica Untiet, Faith Korponay and Hailey Croft allowed the Rockets to stay close until the fourth period rally.