Defense lifts Red Devils

Joanne Pierre-Louis (12) goes to the basket versus Platt Tech. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

The Stratford High girls basketball team upped its defensive intensity and dominated the second quarter on its way to a 39-27 victory over Platt Tech of Milford in the Ray Needham Gymnasium on Monday night.
“It’s the only way we are going to win,” Stratford coach Cliff LaRose said of his Red Devils’ defensive stance. “We are small and scrappy. It’s defense, defense, defense.”
Platt Tech held a distinct size advantage, with the towering tanden of seniors Aaliyah Bohannon at 6-4 and Tiana Reeves at 6-2.
“They are a handful,” LaRose said of the duo, who combined for 24 points in Tech’s 37-31 win over Stratford in the opener on Friday. “They are great kids, but I’ll be happy when they graduate.”
Tech bolted to a 7-1 lead before Joanne Pierre-Louis scored off an assist from Aimee Sportini, who then tallied off a feed from Julia Genetti.
It was 10-8 early in the second period when Anekka Scott-Gray and Jamie Russo made 3-pointers.
From there, Stratford’s pressure on the ballhandler fueled an 18-2 run the rest of the quarter.
Pierre-Louis went where others may have feared to tread. The 5-8 junior attacked the basket and fed the wings from her post position to help Stratford go on a 9-0 run.
She finished the game with 10 rebounds, seven steals and seven points.
Russo nailed her trey off a kickout pass from Pierre-Louis and Dannie LaPierre turned one of her six steals into a layup.
LaPierre canned one free throw on consecutive possessions after Russo (eight) and Genetti (five) had steals.
Pierre-Louis quick move gave her just enough space to put in a basket over Bohannon for a 17-10 lead.
Tech coach Mike Schyver called for time here, but there was no slowing the Red Devils at this point.
Margaux Mahoney, Destanii Brantley and Amaris Woodson came on and maintained the trap, before Bohannon (10 points) found Thalia Delgado with a backdoor pass to end a scoreless drought that ran 4:30.
Woodson had back-to-back steals here, one leading to a give-and-go sequence that saw her score a bucket in transition on a pass from Russo.
The next time, Woodson gave it up to Brantley for a contested layup and a 21-12 lead.
Mahoney’s outlet pass off a tipped pass saw Stratford miss, but the 5-7 junior followed the play and scored on a putback with 60 seconds left in the first half.
Mahoney (10 points) ended the session with a 3-pointer, with Sportini getting the assist.
“Nine players got a lot of playing time and we need all nine to contribute,” LaRose said. “Joanne is a warror out there, Jamie did a good job running the offense, and Dannie goes at it really hard every play.”
Scott-Gray (nine points) opened the third period with a pair of baskets, and then fed Mahoney for a 3-pointer.
Tech answered with a 7-0 run to close within 33-23 at the five-minute mark of the third, but Russo blocked a jump shooter from behind, and Mahoney found Scott-Gray for a transition bucket.
The score remained at 35-25 after a Bohannon basket to open the final quarter, before LaPierre tallied from the baseline and Mahoney put down a runner.
“This is a good group of players and each brings something special to the team. We won’t be outworked,” LaRose said.
LaPierre, who had five 3-pointers, scored 15 points to lead the Red Devils, which stayed within five points of the Panthers in every quarter of their opener.
Scott-Gray had one trey and finished with six points.
Stratford will host Oxford High on Friday night and Pomperaug of Southbury on Tuesday.

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