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Follow all the coverage of girls high school basketball throughout the state on their way to Mohegan Sun Arena, the site of this year's championship weekend, March 19-20.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Defense Key For State's No. 1 Team

Northwest Catholic’s goal heading into the season was to hold each of its opponents under 40 points.

At first, it doesn’t seem attainable, especially under the team’s makeup.

The Indians start four guards, so what about going against a team that’s stacked inside? Sure, Northwest Catholic is talented. But what if it gets out to a big lead? Won’t there be lapses? And what about against a team like Berlin, a squad that returned the key pieces to a team that reached the Class M state title game?

Well, the Indians are 11 games into the season. They have 11 wins and are the No. 1 team in the Register Top 10 poll for the third straight week. Oh yes, and an opponent has yet to score 40 points against their stifling defense.

Hall came close with 39, Avon finished with 38, and Simsbury scored 37 in the season opener.

“The first thing, it starts with a defensive mindset,” Northwest Catholic coach Karl Herbert said. “It’s been that way since Day One. Even on off-nights, our consistency on defense can hold teams.”

The key has been perimeter pressure, led by pesky guards Ally Mullings and Jenniqua Bailey. Then if opponents are fortunate enough to break down the pressure, they have to deal with lanky shot-blocking machine Uju Nwankwo in the middle.

Just ask the Redcoats about Northwest Catholic’s defensive scheme. Berlin was held to a season-low 28 points and have the Indians to thank for its only loss.

As for the offense, Northwest Catholic’s set of Division I-bound players are shouldering a sufficient scoring load. Bailey, who is headed to Bryant, is averaging 15 points. Mullings (Siena) is averaging 14, and Nwankwo (New Jersey Institute of Technology) 12 to go with her 6 rebounds and 4 blocks a game.

As expected, it will only get tougher for the Indians, who have the added target of being labeled the state’s top team. It may remain that way when they reach a loaded Class L state tournament field, which will feature teams like Hillhouse, Pomperaug and Bacon Academy.

“Are we No. 1?” Herbert asked. “That’s hard to say. But we work hard, and we should be mentioned in that group.”

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