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2023-24 Woodstock Academy girls basketball season preview

Woodstock Academy senior Reegan Reynolds was pictured alongside Leila MacKinnon and Lennon Favreau last year as captains of the girls basketball program.

This year, she is all by herself.

“It is a responsibility for sure,” Reynolds said of her being the sole captain. “I grew up looking up to (Favreau and MacKinnon) all the way through high school, they were my leaders. I looked up what they did and now, it’s my responsibility to do that. It’s a step in a different direction but I’m ready.”

It’s not a bad thing.

There is only one other senior, Kerry Blais, on the roster.

Behind the two, are only two juniors who saw significant varsity playing time last year.

It means something that any coach would welcome.

“The future is bright,” Centaurs coach Will Fleeton said with a smile. “We will return the bulk again next year and they will be a year older, and hopefully, bigger, stronger and faster, more comfortable and more knowledgeable.”

Despite all the youth, the Centaurs posted 13 wins last season, making it to the Eastern Connecticut Conference quarterfinals where they lost to New London and the Class L state tournament where Masuk ended their season in a first-round game.

“I think we can do better,” Reynolds said. “We all understand how each other plays. We’ve been working a lot in the offseason and a lot of the girls have been playing together so I think we’re ready.”

The top four scorers from a year ago all return led by junior Eva Monahan.

The six-foot forward averaged 9.2 points per game and was named an ECC Division I All-Star.

In addition to Monahan up front, Reynolds, Blais, Sophia Sarkis (6.6 points per game, 19 3-pointers), Vivian Bibeau, Sidney Anderson, Allison Camara, Macy Rawson and Payton Leite will all see time up front.

All are 5-foot-7 or better.

“The team, as a whole, has good size for high school basketball. I think in every position we have some size whether it’s a starter or a reserve. We have a group of five 5-8 or 5-9 players and when you have a group like that, you look even bigger,” Fleeton said.

Starting guards Kaylee Saucier (8.6, 25 3’s) and Isabel D’Alleva-Bochain (7.8, 16) are also back along with Abby Converse and Maddie Bloom.

Those who may play forward roles also rotate in at the guard positions.

The quality of the guard play certainly has Reynolds excited.

“They get us open looks down low and get open shots (of their own). I think we won’t really have a problem with the press break this year. Our guards are great. They can do anything,” Reynolds said.

The spread-out scoring is also a positive according to Fleeton.

“We always strive to score a bit more and with everybody back, maybe we can pick up where we left off as far as the scoring goes,” Fleeton said. “I like to see the eight and nine-point averages spread out among players. It gives us the leeway to have a different high scorer every night and I feel like you have a better team when that happens versus having the go-to player who has the pressure of having to score 15 points a game for their team to win.”

The team, as a whole, will have something new to deal with as will all high school boys and girls basketball teams in the state.

There will be a 35-second shot clock.

“I’m excited. It’s long overdue. I don’t know how things will shake out this year. I’ve been waiting for it and planning around it. I think it will be beneficial for the game all around. I think it will be better for the kids to get acclimated now if they have any hopes to play at the next level – it’s a part of it,” Fleeton said.

The Centaurs have dealt with the shot clock over the past couple of seasons.

They have participated in the Cranston (R.I.) tournament and Rhode Island has used a shot clock for years.

“We’ve never really had any trouble with it in that tournament, but the minute we speak about it, trouble shows itself so I think it’s more mental than physical. It is the style of game that we want to play, some other teams may like the slowdown-type of game, so I don’t think it will hamper us at all,” Fleeton said.

Another rule change takes away the one-and-one free throws and changes everything to two shot foul opportunities to avoid more contact under the basket.

“I think we just all have to stay healthy,” Reynolds said when asked what has to go right for the Centaurs this season. “In the past years, we’ve had some illness and injuries, and I think if we all stay healthy and stay united, we will be good.”

The Centaurs open on Tuesday at home against ECC Division I foe, Norwich Free Academy.

“We want the challenge but I don’t know if it’s a good opener because as the opener, a lot of times for both teams, it could be a little ugly out there. It is what it is. I guess we might as well hit the ground running. Why delay the inevitable?,” Fleeton said.