Having just completed a beefed-up scrimmage schedule and seeking all the speed he can find, second-year Stratford High girls basketball coach Cliff LaRose is ready for the season to begin.
The Red Devils take to the court this Friday night with a home contest against Platt Tech before meeting the Panthers again Tuesday in Milford. They’ll also play Oxford in a home-and-home series before Christmas.
LaRose, with close to 30 years experience in coaching, is looking to improve upon last year where his team managed three wins in 20 games.
Five players graduated off of that squad including Chelsea Sherrod, who is now playing at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.
“What we lack in height we’re certainly going to have to make up for with speed,” LaRose said. “We’re going to play lots of man-to-man defense and pressure teams most of the time. The more we can get teams to turn the ball over, the better we’ll play.”
The Red Devils’ tallest returnee is 5-10 senior center Aimee Sportini. LaRose is hoping that Sportini to get both offensive and defensive rebounds.
The other seniors are Danielle Lapierre, who had limited starting time as a junior and Jamie Russo, who is likely to be the starting point guard.
Margaux Mahoney, a three-year starter, has been moved from the point to the wing and LaRose wants her to shoot more.
Sophomore Destanii Brantley will also be able to fill in at the point, while junior Joanne Pierre-Louis, at 5-8, could play in the middle or she could be a guard.
Pierre-Louis, Sportini and Mahoney will be expected to be the scorers.
LaRose will also rely on Annekka Scott-Gray and Julia Genetti off the bench.
“Genetti’s a ballhawk,” LaRose said. “She’s scrappy and always dives for loose balls. We need that type of player on the floor.”
Stratford held scrimmages against McMahon (Norwalk), Hamden, Prince Tech (Hartford) and Harding (Bridgeport).
“We scheduled teams who like to play an up-tempo type game,” LaRose said. “Hopefully, it has toughened up our kids.”
Two other players who will fit in well are 5-10 Maya Cooper, a transfer student from Platt Tech, and freshman Genesis Torres.
“We’re in a tough conference (South-West),” LaRose said. “So getting wins will be at a premium. Our goal is to get eight and qualify for the state tournament.”
LaRose has coached in many good programs over the years including those at Notre Dame-Fairfield, Kolbe and Milford’s Lauralton Hall.
He’s looking for team unity to be another one of this year’s strengths.
“These kids are working hard every day in practice,” he said. “That’s something I really like. And they’re concerned about how they can help to make this team win. If we can do that, then I’ll be happy.”