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Senior captain Sam Leiby and the Guilford girls’ basketball team qualified for the SCC and Class L State tournaments by earning a 59-37 victory versus West Haven last week. Leiby had 12 points for the Indians in the win. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Elle Petra and the Indians solidified their spot in the playoffs by winning six of their last 10 games during the regular season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Faith O’Donnell and the Guilford girls’ basketball team finished off regular-season play by notching victories versus Foran and West Haven to go with a loss against Morgan last week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Some teams that lose eight of their first 10 games in a season might start thinking about the next campaign. But not the Guilford girls’ basketball team. The Indians have rebounded nicely from their slow start by winning six of their last 10 contests since Jan. 20, finishing the regular season with a record of 8-12 to qualify for both the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and the Class L State Tournament.
Guilford needed two wins during the last week of the regular season to assure itself of a spot in the playoffs. The Indians notched a 43-34 victory versus Foran and then punched their tourney tickets with a 59-37 win over West Haven before taking a 42-39 loss to Morgan in their finale.
In his first campaign at the helm, Head Coach Bernie Brennan is impressed with how his team persevered through its difficult schedule to earn a postseason berth.
“We play a really tough schedule. We’ve played Wilbur Cross, Daniel Hand twice, and Sheehan twice. Those are all teams that have been ranked in the top 10 at some point during this season,” Brennan said. “So, the schedule has been tough, but the kids have really improved their work ethic in practice. Every practice, every game, we’re making strides.”
The Indians are a balanced team that features two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman on their varsity roster. Senior captains Elle Petra and Sam Leiby are two of the key catalysts for Guilford’s offense.
Petra, a center, is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game on the season. Coach Brennan said that Petra is one of the most consistent players on his squad’s roster.
“Elle’s been awesome for us all year,” said Brennan. “She does work on both ends of the floor and is a huge reason why we qualified for states.”
A guard, Leiby had to sit out nearly nine months after suffering an injury last year. However, she returned to action as a senior and has been the Indians’ vocal leader throughout the season.
“It’s been great to have Sam back on the floor,” Coach Brennan said. “She leads by example for all of these other girls, and her teammates look up to her.”
Junior guard Moira Kellaher, sophomore center Lauren Cunneen, sophomore guards Faith O’Donnell and Miabella Diaz, and freshman forward Kat Baseggio round out the rotation of players who are seeing minutes for Guilford this year.
“Moira is a smart player. She’s always hustling,” said Brennan. “Lauren, Faith, and Miabella are my three sophomores that really give us depth and good minutes. And then our lone freshman Kat has been a rock for us on defense. I can put her on any team’s best player, and she will shut them down.”
Baseggio’s defensive tenacity exemplifies the identity that Brennan wanted the Indians to adopt when he became their head coach.
“I think we’re a defensive-minded team for sure,” Brennan said. “We’re probably averaging in the mid- to high-30 points per game, so our focus a lot of games is shutting down the opposition and scoring enough points to get a win.”
The Indians showcased their defensive prowess to perfection when they played Law on Feb. 5. After taking a 56-40 loss to Law earlier in the season, Guilford put the clamps on in the rematch and came away with a 41-21 victory.
“A month ago, we lost to Law at Law by 16 points. Then we bounced back and beat them by 20 in our gym and held them to seven points in the first half. So, I thought that was quite a turnaround,” said Brennan. “We’re playing with more poise on offense, and kids are really buying into my defensive philosophy.”
Guilford continued to play stout defense in its three games last week. The Indians started off the week by claiming a 43-34 home win over Foran in an SCC Housatonic Division matchup. Petra scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Indians. Cunneen and Kellaher scored eight points apiece.
On Feb. 14, the Indians bested divisional opponent West Haven by a 59-37 score to secure their place in SCCs and states. Guilford also finished with a record of 4-4 in the Housatonic Division with the win. Kellaher and Leiby both scored 12 points, while Petra was right behind them with 11 points on the night.
The next day, Guilford took a 42-39 road loss versus Morgan in a non-conference contest. Leiby scored 13 points for the Indians, and O’Donnell finished the game with 11 points.
Despite the defeat, Coach Brennan was pleased with the sum total of the week and feels proud of his team for putting the pieces together during the past month.
“Those were two huge wins for us, and it guaranteed us a spot at SCCs and states. I couldn’t be more proud of these girls and the way they’ve battled all season,” Brennan said. “We’re rolling right now, and I know a lot of teams won’t want to face us come playoff time.”
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