Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sports

T-Birds Looking to Believe and Achieve

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Senior captain Braeden LeBeau and the North Branford girls’ basketball team are vying to be one of the top squads in the Shoreline Conference in their second season with Head Coach Sabrina LeMere. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound

Senior captain Braeden LeBeau and the North Branford girls’ basketball team are vying to be one of the top squads in the Shoreline Conference in their second season with Head Coach Sabrina LeMere. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound)

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Senior captain Hanna Senerchia and the T-Birds are sporting a record of 3-3 on the year after winning three of their last four matchups. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound

Senior captain Hanna Senerchia and the T-Birds are sporting a record of 3-3 on the year after winning three of their last four matchups. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound)

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Marissa Ricardo is one of three senior captains on a North Branford girls’ basketball team that enters this season with a boatload of experience on the court. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound

Marissa Ricardo is one of three senior captains on a North Branford girls’ basketball team that enters this season with a boatload of experience on the court. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound)

As Sabrina LeMere entered her second season as head coach of the North Branford girls’ basketball team, the Thunderbirds were returning nearly their entire roster from last year and needed to replace just one starter. With her squad off to a 3-3 start, Coach LeMere believes that as the T-Birds’ confidence goes up, they can become a true contender in the Shoreline Conference this winter.

“It was awesome at the beginning of the year. We actually had most of the team return. It was really good seeing all of their faces again,” LeMere said. “The girls came back ready to go. The first couple weeks of practice were great. They definitely were ready for the season. It was fun. It was good seeing the girls back.”

North Branford started off its season by taking losses to East Haven and Valley Regional. Against Valley, the Thunderbirds lost by the final score of 67-29. Following that contest, Coach LeMere and her team spoke about their goals and how they wanted to go about the rest of the season.

“Valley got us pretty good. After that game, we had a strong chat with the coaching staff and the team about what we want to do and where we can be,” said LeMere. “The conversation that we had stuck with them. The next few games, we ended up on top. The confidence kind of switched. We were working really hard.”

In its next three games, North Branford recorded wins against Morgan (56-52), Haddam-Killingworth (54-48), and Fitch (54-39). In last week’s action, the T-Birds hosted East Hampton on Jan. 6 and took a 47-29 defeat to the Bellringers.

The Thunderbirds found themselves down 11-8 after the first quarter and 25-12 at halftime against East Hampton, which then outscored North Branford 22-17 in the second half to win the game by 18. Senior captain Braeden LeBeau led the T-Birds in scoring with 18 points and added seven rebounds on the night. Sophomore Keana Criscuolo scored seven points and had two steals, while sophomore Callie Holzer scored four points to go with one rebound for North Branford.

Coach LeMere knows that there are things that her team still needs to improve upon. The good news is that everyone understands what those things are, and there is still plenty of season left to get better.

“It wasn’t our game against East Hampton. We didn’t shoot the basketball well,” LeMere said. “After the game, we had another strong conversation that the girls believe in themselves and each other in order to be successful. We’re still building upon that.”

One of North Branford’s best assets thus far has been its team chemistry. With Erica Piercey the only starter having graduated from last season, Coach LeMere feels that this year’s team has a good sense of how to play together. As the T-Birds look to improve going forward, LeMere said that strong camaraderie could be their calling card.

“We have a lot of returners. We lost a couple of seniors and one starter in Erica Piercey. That was the only position that needed to be filled. We already have a year under our belt playing together,” said LeMere. “We have small numbers, but they knew what to expect. We were able to build a foundation pretty quickly.”

Three of the returning starters are North Branford’s senior captains, who are LeBeau, Marissa Ricardo, and Hanna Senerchia. LeMere said that all three athletes are ideal captains who each bring something different to the court.

Coach LeMere described LeBeau, a three-sport athlete, as a versatile basketball player who knows how to get everyone focused. On the court, LeBeau is strong with the ball and a force in the paint. LeMere added that Ricardo has grown tremendously as a basketball player over the past two seasons and is always hustling and diving on the floor. LeMere also credited Senerchia for her calm, cool, and collected demeanor, saying that everyone on the Thunderbirds knows that Senerchia always has their back.

Along with the captains, North Branford returned its starting point guard Criscuolo for this season. Coach LeMere said that Criscuolo has come into her own at the point and does a great job of facilitating the offense.

The T-Birds’ rotation also features seniors Elena Pearson and Delaney Norman, along with sophomores Holzer and Natalia Lucibello. All four players are guards, although Lucibello also seeds some time at forward. LeMere said that all four athletes came into the season ready to play and are putting in solid minutes for the varsity squad.

Even with several returning starters, North Branford only has 13 players on its roster for this season. However, Coach LeMere believes that those numbers can be strength for the Thunderbirds since it’s easier for the coaching staff to provide individualized lessons and for the players to get to know one another with a smaller roster.

“I think it’s great having small numbers. I think the coaching staff is really able to focus on the little things at practice. They can give a lot more individual attention,” said LeMere. “When it comes to team camaraderie, having these small numbers, the girls really get to know each other. Nobody is left in the dust. Everybody has each other’s back. We know we’re a small, close-knit group, but that makes us better.”

Coach LeMere thinks that North Branford has the skills to name a name for itself in the Shoreline Conference as the 2022 season unfolds. In order to get there, LeMere said that the Thunderbirds need to keep building their confidence, while believing in both themselves and their teammates.

“I really think we can have a strong run in the Shoreline Tournament this year. One of the main focuses right now is getting the girls to believe in that and believe in each other,” LeMere said. “We have a strong team. We have a lot of different aspects to each player. If we utilize those aspects, we can be very strong and competitive in that Shoreline. They just have to develop their confidence to do that.”

The North Branford girls’ basketball team’s roster features senior captains Hanna Senerchia, Braeden LeBeau, and Marissa Ricardo; seniors Elena Pearson, Delaney Norman, and Catherine Poulin; junior Tessa Juniver; sophomores Gabrielle Senerchia, Keana Criscuolo, Callie Holzer, Lindsey Onofrio, and Natalia Lucibello; and freshman Adrianna Hills.



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