NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Girls Basketball Association coach Jeff Iannazzo led an eighth-grade girls team to a 35-0 record back in 2005-06. His current eighth-grade team won’t match that mark, but the veteran coach believes they’re close to playing at the same level.
“I think this team is better in a lot of respects,’’ Iannazzo said, whose team saw its 18-game winning streak end on Saturday with a 52-41 loss to St. Mary’s of Ridgefield. “That team had two players, Briana Brown and Keylantra Langley, who stepped up in a tight game and said ‘No, we’re not going to lose.’ I’m still looking for that from this team.”
Iannazzo’s team has been successful since they formed in fifth grade. St. Mary’s has been the one team Norwalk has not been able to get past during its run. Norwalk lost twice to the Ridgefield team last year. Norwalk went 26-5 last year, and is 77-17 in its four-year run, according to the Fairfield County Basketball League website.
Prior to Saturday’s setback, Norwalk routed nearly every team it played this season. It won a Martin Luther King Holiday Tournament in Chappaqua, N.Y., in which its average margin of victory was 23.5 points. In nine straight wins in league play, Norwalk’s closest challenge came against Fairfield, which it beat by 17 points.
“This has been a very high-achieving team since fifth grade,’’ Iannazzo said. “They’re basketball players who love the game and work hard all the time. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort they put in, even when they sometimes have a little bit of adversity.”
Norwalk’s roster is Amanda Beckwith, Shyanne Bullock, Areti Filippidis, Whitney Fulton, Aaliyah Grasty, Jackie Harris, Kayla Jordan, Asiah Knight, Denisse Mejia, Shania Osborne and Katie Sciglimpaglia.
Harris, the team’s point guard, missed Saturday’s loss to St. Mary’s. Norwalk trailed 23-17 at halftime, and St. Mary’s took control with an 8-0 run early in the third quarter. Beckwith, an outstanding guard who took over at point, missed the third quarter with a nose bleed. St. Mary’s took control Beckwith on the sidelines.
“Missing Jackie upset our rotation,’’ Iannazzo said. “With her and Amanda out, it was going to be tough. I know we’re better than what we showed. A couple of things just didn’t go our way.”
Norwalk will get another shot at St. Mary’s on Feb. 10 at Ben Franklin School in Norwalk. The teams could also meet in the league tournament in March.
Norwalk might not be able to match the perfect record of its predecessors, but there’s a lot for the girls to play for before they embark on their high school journeys.
“A lot of it is challenging them now,’’ Iannazzo said. “I was looking for an undefeated season. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get that. We could get St. Mary’s a couple more times this season. We’re going to have find a way to get past them.”