Girls basketball preview: Leadership is a strong point

Sarah McAniff, right, is one of four senior players on the 2012-13 Joel Barlow High girls varsity basketball team, giving the Falcons leadership as well as experience.—Rocco Paul Valluzzo photo

If the Joel Barlow High girls varsity basketball team can accomplish two things in particular others will fall into place once the 2012-13 season gets underway.

The Falcons, who started to officially practice last week, hope to keep improving as the season continues. They also want to avoid injury.

In particular they want to work on their defense. Already they showed signs of promise in their first pre-season scrimmage on Monday against Ansonia. The Falcons caused turnovers which soon turned into points of their own.

“We did such a good job scoring points in transition,” said head coach Joe Carollo. “We shared the ball. We made the extra pass.”

This will be Carollo’s fifth season with the team. Assisting him will be Mike Chisholm, who is also the JV coach, and freshman coach Kara Damascus.

Barlow returns a number of players from last season’s team, which finished with an overall record of 15-9 overall. Along the way they qualified for the South-West Conference playoffs, upsetting defending champ Newtown in quarterfinals before losing to Pomperaug. They also made it to the second round of the state Class L tournament.

The Falcons lost only two players to graduation since then but key ones at that. They are missing Taylor Auer and Brittney Dumas.

The team captain last season, Auer played guard and forward. Dumas, an All-South-West Conference selection, also played both and was the team’s scoring leader.

“Those two were very versatile,” said Carollo. “They both did a lot for the team.”

The rest of their starters are back. A mature team, the Falcons will have four seniors: captains Sarah McAniff, Victoria Shea, Drew Bartro and Kelly Gilbert.

McAniff will be at guard, as will be Shea, an All-SWC honorable mention last season. Bartro, an All-Patriot selection, will be at center and Gilbert will be at forward.

“It’s nice to have four girls coming back who all had important roles,” said Carollo. “They all bring leadership to the whole program.”

Several juniors will also be on the varsity. Among them are Kelly Mahoney, Gillian Blackwell and Katie Williges.

“We can get scoring from a bunch of places,” said Carollo. “We have really good guard play. Hopefully, everyone else can do their part to round us out.”

Backing up Bartro at center will be sophomore Maddie Cammarota. Some freshmen could also be in the mix for getting varsity minutes.

“They’re all pretty solid,” said Carollo, who has nine in the program. “They’re all quality freshmen.”

The Falcons have several other scrimmages coming up before their first official game. They host Wilton on Friday and are home to Seymour and Watertown on Sunday.

“You want to get kids game ready,” said Carollo. “You need to scrimmage other schools.”

He expects the SWC to be a tough league again this season. Among the top teams will be Pomperaug, Lauralton Hall and Notre Dame. Newtown and Kolbe-Cathedral should also be good.

“We have to work on defense,” said Carollo. “Everything will develop from there.”

Barlow opens the season on Wednesday at home against Amistad Academy at 7 p.m.

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