Mar. 4—WATERFORD — A few quick highlights from Norwich Free Academy, the state's new number one girls' basketball team, from Wednesday's 54-23 rout of Waterford:
NFA senior Jenissa Varela had six steals. She grabbed her last one 23 seconds into the second half.
Classmate Anajah Ingram missed a long jumper facing the basket but charged inside the paint and grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback.
Senior Sarah Ericson, a 5-foot-5 guard, had a team-high nine rebounds.
"We're just kind of flowing at the right time," Wildcats head coach Courtney Gomez said. "They just get after it every day . ... They want to get better and they have that hunger to continue to get better."
Wednesday was NFA's first full day as the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register state poll, comprised of 13 media members and four coaches. The Wildcats moved up a spot to number one on Tuesday after Notre Dame of Fairfield lost to Masuk on Feb. 25, 36-33.
Notre Dame's entire varsity team had been suspended prior to the game. Head coach Maria Conlon told GameTimeCT, "A few players were in breach of a school rule/protocol and the administration enforced this breach by benching our varsity team for the game versus Masuk." Conlon and the school administration declined to elaborate further.
How much the new ranking means to NFA (6-0) is like most every topic in life — it depends on who you ask.
"It definitely does (mean something)," Varela said. "I think that we definitely work hard for it. ... We are very excited for it, but we also just want to take it one game at a time because we just don't want to get too ahead of ourselves."
Senior Sarah Ericson said, "Honestly, none of us are really worried about it, especially this year. We're just really focused on having fun and playing together. It's cool, but it's not really on our minds."
Ericson had 13 points and five steals, Ingram scored a game-high 19 and Varela scored 12.
Junior Milena Walker had seven points and 11 rebounds for the Lancers (3-2).
NFA scored the game's first 11 points and led by as much as 48-12 with over six minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats defense flustered Waterford. They had 17 steals. The Lancers had 24 turnovers, 15 in the first half.
Senior Lily Kramer (6-foot), Walker (5-11) and the Lancers had more size than NFA had faced this abbreviated winter season, so it switched to a zone defense.
"Everyone knows our bench isn't very deep," Gomez said. "Foul trouble is an issue, so we're trying to keep people out of it. I've always been a big man-to-man defensive coach. You've got to change with the times and what works."
Waterford head coach Daniel Still said, "They took Mily out today. They played the box-and-1 on her and we didn't move. You have to create movement to create different (offensive) situations. We didn't react to it very well."
Varela said, "We know (our) team has a lot of growing up to do. We're just taking it step-by-step."