Depleted Norwalk Girls Basketball Team Looks To Young Players

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NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk High girls basketball coach Rick Fuller is committed to working with the girls on his team. But the Bears lineup has changed since the end of last season.

The Bears fell to 0-2 on Tuesday night with a 58-35 loss to undefeated Danbury. Emma Oyomba scored 20 points to lead the Bears.

The senior center is the only returning player from last year’s team, which went 16-7 and lost in the second round of the state tournament. Norwalk lost five players who saw significant time to graduation. But three others who were expected back are gone, too, through injury, transfer or suspension. That left Fuller to start two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman point guard against the Hatters.

“These are the players we have, and this is the way it’s going to be,’’ he said. “We’re very young, very inexperienced. I think Emma has more experience on the varsity than all of the other girls combined.”

The biggest loss was senior guard Erica Cohens, who averaged 11.8 points and 3.3 steals per game last year. She has been suspended, Fuller said, and he does not expect her back this year. Sophomore Denisha Gardener, a promising 5-foot, 10-inch forward who had several big games last year, transferred to Kolbe Cathedral in Bridgeport. Junior Shatel Butler is out with an injury.

“I’m not going to make excuses,’’ Fuller said. “I can’t worry about the girls who aren’t here. I have to work with the players who want to be here and want to come to practice.”

Tiasia Brown, a junior, scored four points against the Hatters and provided a boost with her energy on the boards. Freshman Chelsey Cerrato and sophomore Mallory Rochefort also started with juniors Shayna Bowers and Alex Weber. Freshman Mariah Ventrella, a standout at Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton last winter, tossed in a pair of three-pointers. Alex Whalen, another freshman, also saw playing time. It will take time for the underclassmen to adjust their skills to the varsity level — especially against upper-echelon league teams such as Danbury.

Norwalk trailed 19-2 at the end of the first quarter and turned the ball over on its first seven possessions without attempting a shot. The Hatters cruised thereafter.

The Bears play crosstown rival Brien McMahon on Friday, and the Senators are experiencing their own difficulties. “It’s going to be a growing year for us in Norwalk,’’ Fuller said.

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