Changing the culture of a struggling girls’ basketball program is no easy feat. Doing so at Hewlett, where the team has averaged just two wins per season over the past five years, is nothing short of a monumental task. But, that’s exactly what the Lady Bulldogs and first-year head coach Anthony Scro are trying to do.
So far, so good.
After last Saturday afternoon’s 61-58 victory over visiting Bethpage, the Lady Bulldogs improved to 6-7 overall, 4-4 in Nassau Conference A-III and in playoff contention. Eighth-grade guard Riley Weiss scored a game-high 25 points, and seniors Samantha Panzarella and Mary Pia Sapienza each scored nine to lead Hewlett. Shannon Hughes scored 18 to lead the Golden Eagles.
While there’s a long way to go, Scro is happy with the steps his team has taken toward respectability. “It feels good to be winning more games, but we are far from satisfied,” Scro said. “There are games that we would like to have back, but we’ll get another chance the second time around. One of our goals was to be in competitive battles for four quarters. We’re getting there.”
Hewlett held a comfortable 31-22 lead at the half, only to see Bethpage rally back to tie in the final eight minutes. A timely, traditional three-point play by sophomore Akayla Mack, and clutch free-throw shooting by Sapienza and sophomore Mia Perkell helped put the game on ice.
“I told the girls during a timeout that this is what we want,” Scro said. “We want to be in tight games down the stretch where we have to be calling timeouts, executing plays, and making good decisions. This was a big test. It was a true team effort.”
One of the games the team would like to have back is its first meeting with Roslyn, a 52-47 loss. In a game where one basket or one defensive stop could have been the difference, Hewlett battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit, but couldn’t find a way to knock off an 8-4 Roslyn team. Emily Cohen scored 35 points for Roslyn. Hewlett got 12 points each from Panzarella and Alessandra Borsellino.
The Lady Bulldogs also performed well in giving undefeated Plainedge all it could handle in a 69-60 loss on Jan. 5. Weiss scored 29 points as they fought back from being down 18 after three quarters.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the season that not everything will be measured by wins and losses,” Scro said. “We want to build something here. I consider competing for four quarters against a strong program to be a success.”
With Panzarella and Sapienza providing leadership, and talented underclassmen like Weiss, Mack, and freshman Molly Williams getting better and better, the Lady Bulldogs are on their way.
“It all starts at practice,” Scro said. “How you practice is how you’re going to play in games. Our practices are competitive and played at a fast pace. It makes the transition to games much easier.”
Hewlett travels to Roosevelt on Friday night at 7.