Hand Girls’ Hoops Ready to Tip Off
Senior captain Hadley Houghton (left) and the Tigers heard some good news on Jan. 14, when they learned that girls’ basketball was slated to be played as part of the winter season in 2021. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Brooke Salutari (right) returns for her junior year after garnering All-SCC First Team accolades on behalf of the Hand girls’ basketball squad last season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Hand girls’ basketball Head Coach Tim Tredwell was expecting the worst when the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) announced its decision regarding winter sports on Jan. 14.
The verdict could have gone one of two ways—an outright cancellation of the season or a shortened form of a modified season. Fortunately for Coach Tredwell and his team, the CIAC went with the second option and, as a result, Hand was slated to begin practices on Jan. 19 and potentially play its first game as early as Monday, Feb. 8.
“If you had asked me 36 hours ago, I would have said, ‘No, we’re not having a season,’” said Tredwell. “You’re hoping to just get in the gym. You spend the whole offseason watching film, other games, trying to get ideas for the upcoming season. I’m antsy, because I want to see if this works.”
In a typical offseason, Coach Tredwell spends time watching his players compete at AAU tournaments in order to see where they fit into the game-plan for the upcoming campaign. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Tredwell could do was watch game film from last year, while getting some info from the AAU coaches.
“I haven’t seen them play at all, because everything has been canceled,” Tredwell said. “We were all a little surprised to hear that we are going to have a season. But we’re very excited. It’s fun to have a little bit of optimism for the first time in a while.”
Hand finished with a record of 20-4 on its way to making the SCC Tournament semifinals and the Class L State Tournament quarterfinals last winter. Along the way, the Tigers went 8-0 in the SCC Quinnipiac Division to claim the divisional crown. Hand’s season came to an immediate end when the CIAC canceled all the state tournaments as Coach Tredwell’s club was preparing to play in the semifinal round.
The Tigers said good-bye to superstar Sara Wohlgemuth, who was named the SCC’s Player of the Year while leading the team as a senior captain last season. Senior guard Hadley Houghton and senior center Maddie Thomas will lead Hand as the team’s captains during the 2021 campaign. Houghton scored an average of 6.2 points per game last year, and Thomas averaged 2.9 points per contest.
“Hadley is a great athlete for us. She’s a free spirit. She plays with all her heart and doesn’t get rattled in any big moments,” said Tredwell. “And Maddie is another great player. She’s tall, holds the paint, and blocks shots well. She anchors our defense and is really starting to gain confidence.”
Senior forward Brooke Salutari is also returning for the Tigers after earning All-SCC honors last season. Salutari averaged 11.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in her junior year.
“Brooke is a player that has incredibly high expectations for herself. We expect her to be one of our top scorers again, but I don’t want her to put too much pressure on herself,” Coach Tredwell said. “Teams are going to be keying in on her with Sara now graduated, so we will need other girls to step up.”
One of the players who Tredwell sees having a breakout year is junior guard Sophia Coppola. Tredwell said that Coppola improved her game immensely during the offseason.
“Her AAU coach told me, ‘Wait until you see her,’” Tredwell said of Coppola. “We’re expecting a lot out of Sophia this year, and she’s gained a lot of confidence since last season.”
Coach Tredwell knows that no individual player can possibly replace what Wohlgemuth brought to his squad. As a result, Tredwell believes that Hand will be relying on as much of a team effort as ever in order to produce another solid season.
“Sara worked so hard, she never got tired, and she had such a high IQ. Every team game-planned against her, and she still put up 18 points a night. You can’t replace her,” said Tredwell. “We’re just going to be different. A lot of the film I watched this offseason was 2016. We’re going to be flashing back to this era where everyone is going to be contributing.”