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Senior captain Sophia Araneo is averaging a double-double for the Branford girls’ basketball team this season. After high school, Sophia is headed to Rhode Island to play basketball for Roger Williams University. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Araneo )
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Sophia Araneo is proving a premier player for the Branford girls’ basketball team this season. A senior captain forward, Sophia is averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks for the Hornets, who stand on the verge of securing a berth in the Class L State Tournament.
Sophia started playing basketball through Branford’s rec program when she was in 5th grade, then took her game to the AAU level in 8th grade. After getting out to a bit of a late start, Sophia felt that she was behind the curve. As a result, she worked extra hard to get where she is today.
“I work really hard in practice—as if it’s a game. You don’t always have a good game, so if I don’t have as many points or rebounds as I wanted, I can say I hustled, was the first one back one defense, or got X-amount of blocks or steals,” says Sophia. “If I do that, I feel I’ve done my job just as effectively as if I scored 20 points.”
Head Coach Rob Manghnani believes that Sophia is one of the best forwards in the state. In his first year at the helm of the Hornets, Manghnani says that Sophia is spurring Branford to success this season.
“Sophia is a dynamic player. She is extremely hardworking and very demanding of herself. She is highly motivated and has been a tremendous asset for me in my first year in this program,” Manghnani says. “Sophia gives 120-percent effort on and off the court and is someone everyone looks up to. On her off days, she helps out first-year players on our team with their shooting. Sophia carries the team on her back, and we go as she goes. She is every coach’s dream: a hardworking, relentless, talented player who always wants to be better.”
Sophia is one of two captains for the Hornets and their only senior this year. As a leader, Sophia aims to not only get the most out of herself, but also her teammates.
“I’m big on demanding stuff out of my players. I’m demanding, not demeaning. I’m not one that yells to yell. I have structured criticism, but I’m positive, so it doesn’t bring my team down,” Sophia says. “It definitely starts in practice, because you practice how you’re going to play in a game. If I see one of my teammates is struggling, I’m happy to help them on the side.”
When it’s time to tip off, Sophia prides herself on playing with energy. Sophia brings a great level of intensity to the floor and always wants to see her fellow Hornets follow suit.
“I try to keep the energy high. So, if I’m not having a great game, I still try to keep my intensity up, so they can look to me to match it,” says Sophia. “I like having that attitude and intensity.”
Sophia earned All-SCC Second Team honors for Branford last season. Sophia is reaching for even bigger goals this year and, based on her play, she’s putting herself in a good position to attain them.
“I want to strive for [All-SCC] First Team and even All-State,” she says. “That would be great just for myself to prove I can be just as good as the people that have gotten it in past years.”
After she graduates from high school, Sophia is going to continue her basketball career in college. Next year, Sophia will join the women’s basketball team at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.
“I was getting recruited by schools from Massachusetts and New York. I visited a lot of schools and enjoyed all of them, but I didn’t get that feel that I can see myself playing here. But I stepped on that campus and enjoyed the overall atmosphere of it,” Sophia says. “When I got to talking to the coach and my future teammates, they seemed really awesome. I kept in touch, went to some games, toured the place, and really fell in love with it.”
While Sophia still has some goals to achieve with the Hornets, she’s pumped up for the opportunity to play basketball at the next level.
“I’m kind of excited for a new chapter in my life and to get out of my comfort zone,” says Sophia. “It’s a new state—I’ve never lived outside of Connecticut before—and overall a new chapter to prove I belong here and can hang with college level players.”
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