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Senior captain shooting guard Laura Petrafesa (right) and the North Haven girls’ basketball team are looking for a return trip to the Class L State Tournament in their first season with Head Coach Tom Blake. (File photo by Catherine Avalone/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Colleen Lucey (No. 15) will provide a presence in the paint as a senior captain center for the Indians this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Carly Fresher (left) and the North Haven girls’ basketball squad are hitting the road to face Stratford for their first matchup of the 2019-’20 season. (File photo by Catherine Avalone/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Olivia Stefanik and the Indians’ girls’ basketball team are aiming to play stout defense as they get ready to kick off a new campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The North Haven girls’ basketball team will enter a new era when it tips off the 2019-’20 season this week. The Indians are hitting the floor with first-year Head Coach Tom Blake, who wants his squad to play lockdown defense as North Haven strives to make states for the second-straight campaign.
Blake comes to North Haven with a wealth of coaching experience at the high school and collegiate levels, including stints as an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Quinnipiac University. Now, Blake is looking to take the Indians to the next level, and he believes that a nonstop effort on the defensive end will be North Haven’s calling card in that regard.
“If we’re winning games, that means we’re playing very good defense. We are going to play pressure defense and try to get steals to create easy baskets,” Blake said. “When we walk into a gym and the other team sees us, I want them to know that we are going to play tough defense. I want our opponents to know that, respect that, and be worried by it.”
North Haven is coming off a year that saw the team qualify for the Class L State Tournament for the first time since 2015. The Indians defeated Bullard Havens in the first round of states before taking a second-loss against Hand to finish at 8-14 overall.
Coach Blake said that competing in the postseason is North Haven’s primary goal in his first go-round on the Indians’ bench.
“Our immediate goal for this team is to get into the State Tournament. That is what we want to do. It’s a sign that you’re doing the right thing,” said Blake. “Everyone wants to get in the tournament, and the teams that get in need to do something good to get there. Making states is an honor and recognizes hard work. Then you make some tweaks and adjustments and hopefully knock a team off.”
North Haven features four seniors on its roster this season, including two athletes who will be leading the team as its captains. The Indians’ senior captains are shooting guard Laura Petrafesa and center Colleen Lucey. Coach Blake said that Petrafesa and Lucey are great communicators who will make significant contributions at their respective positions.
“Laura is our best shooter, and we need her to make shots. With Laura being a senior and having experience, we will call on her to make shots for us,” Blake said. “Colleen is a post player, and we will try to get her the ball down low for layups. She’s a good rebounder and runs the floor pretty good. Our kids look up to the captains. If our captains work hard, everyone will work hard.”
Senior Giuliana Ciarleglio returns to North Haven as a guard this winter. Fellow senior Zoi Burns will play the point guard position for the Indians.
“Giuliana is a good defender who rebounds the ball well. Zoi is an excellent passer, a good defender, and is quick enough to get to the basket for a layup,” said Blake. “I will look to our seniors for leadership and to play the game the right way. There is no fifth year for them. This is the end of their high school careers, so I want them to go out on a high note and give everything they got.”
Shooting guard Carly Fresher is one of the key juniors on North Haven’s roster. Fellow junior Olivia Stefanik will see time at both guard and forward for Coach Blake’s club.
“Carly is a very smart player and a good shooter and can drive to get to the basket,” Blake said. “Olivia will be a contributor. We just have to define what her role is. She rebounds well, and we can put her on the inside for rebounding, but we can also put her on the perimeter.”
Eveani Okwuosa is the leader of North Haven’s sophomore corps. Okwuosa is slated to suit up as a small forward, although Blake said that she’s good enough to play all five positions.
“Eveani is very athletic and has a good IQ for the game,” said Blake. “She knows where to be on the court.”
Coach Blake wants North Haven to spread out the floor in order to give its players room to drive to the basket. If opponents try to combat that by packing up the paint, Blake will look for his players to kick the ball out to the perimeter for an open shot.
“We want to drive the ball first and take the shot, but just like anything else, we have to take advantage of what the defense gives us,” he said. “If we get to the basket, that will help us open up free shots for good looks like it did against Foran [in a scrimmage on Dec. 10].”
North Haven will beging its season by playing a road game versus Stratford on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. Coach Blake said that he’s eager to begin the next chapter of his career in a town that’s been nothing but supportive thus far.
“The players have been very receptive. When teammates like each other and work hard together, the chemistry is right around the corner,” said Blake. “It’s been great. We’ve had a lot of support from our booster club and people volunteering to coach in our fall league. They want a winning program, and that is I what want, too. North Haven athletics does a great job and has a lot of teams that are successful. I want our team in that same mode.”
From the Sidelines
Tom Blake is in his first season as head coach of the North Haven girls' basketball team. The Indians' coaching staff includes varsity assistant and JV Head Coach Lindsay Suhr, along with fellow varsity assistants Jodi Rooney and Jen Merck.
North Haven will play home games against Sheehan, Career, West Haven, Lauralton Hall, Shelton, Sacred Heart Academy, Amity, East Haven, and Law this season. The Indians also have road games versus Stratford, Sacred Heart Academy, East Haven, Career, Law, West Haven, Lauralton Hall, Shelton, Amity, and Cheshire.
North Haven is hosting the Fred Kelly Memorial Holiday Tournament this week. The Indians are playing Sheehan in a semifinal game at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 27. The consolation game is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28 with the championship slated for 5 p.m. on that same day.
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